Newspaper a learning tool at Marion school

Students and teachers in three third-grade classes at Marion Elementary School are looking forward to reading the newspaper today.

They are anxious to read about themselves in the Free Press.

“We had talked earlier, when we first started reading the Free Press, wouldn’t it be fun for the paper to come and take a picture of the kids reading it,” said teacher Sheila Baldwin.

The children are participating in a new program designed and implemented by third-grade teachers Baldwin, Julie Trapp, and Beth Schobert; teacher’s aide Darla Spencer; and student-teacher Julie Bunch.

The purpose of the program is to use the newspaper as a weekly learning tool in various areas of discipline in their classroom.

The idea to get a newspaper in the hands of about 45 students in the three classrooms originated with Schobert.

“I thought it would be a neat thing to do,” Schobert said.

“And the Free Press usually covers a lot of the things we do here (in Marion) and in Marion County.”

To get the program underway, Spencer called various newspapers asking if they were willing to donate 45 papers a week to the three classrooms.

“And the Free Press was willing to donate enough papers for each child in the third grade,” Baldwin said.

The teachers presented their idea to MES principal Stan Ploutz, and he gave them the green light.

“He said it would be a good idea,” Schobert said.

The Free Press delivers the papers to the school office on each Wednesday-the day the paper is in mailboxes and newsstands-and school staff hand-delivers all 45 copies to the classrooms.

When the program was introduced to the students, the teachers said one of the first lessons was to teach the children how to read a newspaper.

“First of all, they have to understand how it’s folded and how it’s put together,” Trapp said.

And if an article continued on another page, the children learned how to find the remainder of the article.

“We show them how to find the page numbers and the different sections in the paper,” Trapp said.

Their newspaper lesson is scheduled for about 40 minutes on a Wednesday or Thursday every week.

“We each work in our own classroom with the newspaper, and the whole class works on it together,” Trapp said.

After the papers are handed out to each student, the lesson usually begins with independent-reading time.

“And then, after those few minutes have passed, we’ll ask everyone to turn to the front cover and talk about the headlines,” Trapp said.

Following a general discussion, children might ask to have the teacher read an article of particular interest, or they might be assigned tasks to complete within the lesson period.

“Sometimes we give them independent activities, like the word-wall words, which are high-frequency spelling words,” Trapp said.

Word-wall words are posted on a wall in each classroom, and include words such as the following: said, because, have, I and they.

“They don’t follow phonics rules,” she said. “But you can find them everywhere, and that’s why they need to learn to spell them correctly.”

As part of a spelling lesson, students peruse the paper for word-wall words and highlight them with markers.

“Using the newspaper also shows kids we’re teaching them writing for a purpose,” Trapp said. “For instance, there are people that go out and get jobs and write. And there’s a specific purpose for showing them how to write complete sentences.”

The teachers also use the paper for general-reading purposes, Trapp said.

But they are cautious not to turn the lesson into a formal assignment.

“It’s usually more for enjoyment-to teach them that most people don’t have an assignment with everything they read,” Trapp said.

“Teachers so often give them an assignment with every book they read, and we try to get away from that so they can begin to like reading instead.”

The newspaper lessons can even extend into the classroom lessons outside the 40-minute period, Baldwin said.

“If we want to use the newspaper for different lessons, such as math, community or government activities, that might be an extra 30 minutes during the week for enhancement lessons,” she said.

In addition to teaching phonics, grammar and spelling, and enhancing reading and writing, the teachers said they work on the following in their newspaper lessons:

apply math skills and learn to make buying and selling decisions by reading advertisements;

learn consequences for behavior by reading the public records;

become aware of activities in their community and county by reading news articles and the daily-life section.

The lesson for last week was to study an article in the Oct. 2 Free Press about Goessel third-grade students who were studying their community.

“We’ll talk about how they learn about communities and what might be similar to what we’re going to do,” Trapp said.

The favorite section of the newspaper is the sports, Baldwin said. “We look on the front to see where sports are in the paper, and that’s the one they want to flip to first.”

Schobert said the children are anxious to see siblings’ names in the paper.

“I have one boy who has an older brother who plays football in high school,” she said. “And when he opens the paper, he is so excited to read anything about his brother.”

Some of the information in the paper is written at a higher reading level than third grade, but the teachers said they will read the more difficult information aloud and follow with a discussion.

“Because their listening knowledge can be vast, but their reading level may not be up there, those are the articles we’ll read out loud, and they still enjoy them,” Baldwin said.

“And the sections they go to, like the sports, we’ve taught them how important the captions are under pictures, and that’s what they really enjoy reading.”

If there’s a popularity contest, the teachers said one of the favorite writers for the Free Press is David Vogel, a seventh-grade student at Hillsboro Middle School, who writes a weekly column that runs in either the Free Press or the Free Press Extra.

“David Vogel-we always like to read his stories because that’s a kid writing,” Trapp said.

“They’ve asked if they could send in some of their writing, and we’ve talked about that.”

Schobert said she taught David in her classroom when she was a student teacher, and she uses him as a role model for her students.

“I’ve told the students about him, how he was an excellent student, and he wrote a lot.”

Other student favorites in the paper are weddings-if a student has a relative in the wedding party-and birth announcements.

“They like those (announcements) and the baby pictures,” Baldwin said.

To their knowledge, they are the only classrooms locally using a newspaper as part of their lessons on a weekly basis.

“There’s a time when there’s a Newspaper in Education Week once a year,” Baldwin said. “We get papers from the Wichita Eagle brought to the school, and teachers have done lessons for that one week. But it’s not been a continuation lesson like we’re doing.”

Future plans include submitting newspaper articles written by the students, Spencer said.

“It think it would be cool to use a digital camera and submit pictures every so often, and the kids would write the caption,” she said.

The teachers said they hope to continue the newspaper program next year.

“I think the newspaper has been an eye-opener for the kids,” Trapp said. “They’ve learned so much in so many different areas through the Free Press.”

And for those MES third graders reading this, here’s a start on the word-wall word “said.” There were 36 “said” words in this article, including the one just written.

Did you find all of them?

Keep up the good work kids.

More from article archives
LETTERS: Forgiveness is no easy answer to deep hurts
Read More