Newspapers – Living Textbooks for the Classroom

Smart Edition

One of the biggest challenges for an adult learner is finding the time to read. Many of my GED students have full time jobs and families, so making time to come to class can be challenging enough. Also, a number of them are non-native speakers who find reading in English stressful, so when the need arises, they will often turn to websites and texts in their native languages. However, reading comprehension in English is critical for success in High School Equivalency (HSE) tests. So, how can we help our students find the time to read? We can use newspapers in our classrooms. 

From sentence structure to graphics to understanding content, newspapers can provide a wealth of relevant material that can be used in a classroom to support all HSE topics. Newspapers are more reasonably priced than books; in fact, many publishers provide area schools with the newspapers and teaching materials at no cost through their Newspapers in Education programs. These programs promote literacy, global awareness, and a sense of civic responsibility. The articles are current, so the newspaper actually becomes a “living textbook.” 

To support language arts reading and writing, newspapers provide a valuable source for lessons in vocabulary, sentence structure, identifying the main topic, and determining fact and opinion. They also provide good models for essay writing. Since many students struggle with the writing process, you can ease them into it by having them keep a journal on articles of interest to them. With the upcoming changes to the HSE tests, evidenced based writing will replace the current expository essay. Giving students the opportunity to read and write daily will help remove the fear of “not knowing what to write.”

The social studies and science HSE tests contain a great deal of graphic information, such as maps, charts, graphs, photographs, and political cartoons. Newspapers are a treasure trove of graphics that can appeal to the students’ individual interests. I especially like to use political cartoons because they launch a discussion of opinions on the topic as well as learning how to get information from a graphic. U.S. civics, government and economics are topics with which many students are unfamiliar. If you can get them engaged in reading and discussing things that are relevant to their everyday life, you have a chance to help them become lifelong readers as well.

As for my favorite topic, math, the sports page is chock full of data that can be used for math problems. Advertisements are perfect for use in percent calculations, and recipes are a great source for fraction problems. It can be fun to let students come up with their own math problems using information they find in the daily paper and challenge one another to solve them. 

Finally, I think newspapers can provide an abundance of material to help students develop their critical thinking skills. Challenge your students to take the paper home and read it in more depth. Give them a chance to bring up and discuss articles of interest with their peers. Help students develop a curiosity about the way the world works that goes beyond what a textbook can provide by exposing students to news and information that is relevant to their daily lives. Explain to students that understanding is part of learning … there is always more to know. What better place to discover what’s new and interesting than your local newspaper!

Read Karen Miller’s other recent blog post Mass. Selects HiSET to Replace GED as New High School Equivalency Test.