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Get Your Students to Love the News, #4: There’s nothing like the real thing.

favicon If you’ve been reading this series, “Get Your Students to Love the News,” you’ll notice that I’m trying to suggest simple and easy and free ways that teachers can entice students to become avid readers of the news.

That’s my primary goal.

Journalism is changing, and the way that we find out about current events (Facebook, our phones, news aggregators, RSS feeds, Twitter) now is different from the way things worked last generation.

For that reason, it’s important to offer students digital and mobile options. As teachers, we don’t want to be fuddy-duddies.

But in my opinion, it’s still important to teach students the different ways that news is generated, and where news comes from, and that traditional news sources (like newspapers! wow, yes, they still exist!) play a crucial role in shaping how we understand the world.

The other day, I was reading a physical version of the New York Times, and a stranger stopped me and asked, “Hey, what’s that?” It was partly in jest, of course, but I saw his point. Print newspapers are, or might be, on their way out. This picture of a former student reading an actual newspaper (which Jenni from Berkeley, CA and and Denise from Alpharetta, GA donated) is rare.

Dezmond NYT - 2012

(Photo credit: Dezmond Oriola)

But I argue that we shouldn’t give up on the oldies-but-goodies. No matter what the studies say — they say that young people prefer reading on screens — there’s nothing like the real thing.

Here are a few ideas to keep print alive with your students.

1. Bring your newspaper or magazine to school.
If you subscribe to a print newspaper or magazine, bring it to school. Show it to your students. Talk about the different parts and terms of a newspaper (e.g., nameplate, headline, byline, above-the-fold, second deck, copy, photograph, cutline, article placement, newspaper sections, editorials, op-eds, and more).

Then ask your students: “How do you think these articles got into the newspaper? Who decides? Based on what criteria? Why this piece instead of another one?”

2. Have students compare publications.
Collect several publications (dailies, weeklies, monthlies) from friends and family and bring them all in. Let your students touch them and compare them. How are they similar and different? Which ones have better design? Which are easier to read? What topics does each emphasize?

Have students look at how different news sources handle the same current event. What’s the headline from the New York Times, and how is it different from the Wall Street Journal? Why?

3. Slowly introduce mobile apps.
Don’t skip to this step, and don’t go too fast. Remember, we want students to understand that news doesn’t come from thin air. Real people go out and report the news. They ask questions, do legwork, and write articles, which their editors read and revise before the piece goes to press.

Sidebar: Does my trust in old-fashioned journalism sound fuddy-duddyish to you? Do I put too much faith in today’s journalism?

Only after students have a sense that the Los Angeles Times is different from TMZ should you proceed. Have the class choose one news source that they all agree to download together. My vote: the New York Times (of course).

Then, let them choose one more for themselves. But don’t let them download a news aggregator. The rule is that it must be a real newspaper or magazine. (If you’re nice, I guess it’s OK to download the NPR app.)

4. Make sure they understand how to use the mobile app.
We assume that students, because they’re “digital natives” (a term I don’t like), know their way around mobile apps. That’s not always true. It’s always a good idea to do a little demo of the app for your students.

For instance, here are a few things that I’d show my students about the New York Times app. Here’s a screenshot to show you what an article looks like:

2014-05-09 03.40.30

You’ll see that the top is where the choices are. On the Android version, you can swipe left or right to go to the next article. Students will like that. Also, you can share an article (which I doubt your students ever do). It’s good to encourage sharing.

But then the real fun comes if you press on the “more” icon in the very top right corner. Sorry that I can’t take a screenshot of this menu, but your students will be very happy. They can:

  • Save the article on the app. This might come in handy if your students don’t use Pocket, Evernote, or a social bookmarking service (which is likely 100% true).
  • Add annotation. Digital annotation is all the rage these days (even though Diigo started the trend five years ago). The app lets students click on a paragraph and add (albeit rudimentary and clunky) notes and highlights, just in case they want to note something they’ve read.
  • Play the article or add it to a playlist. A robotic woman’s voice will read the article. This might be helpful for students who have trouble with challenging text. They can keep reading as they listen.
  • Change the font size. This is maybe the most important feature. I’ve found that cranking up the font size is one of the best ways for students to make reading more manageable.

All right, please let me know what you think. Do you think it’s important to familiarize your students with traditional news sources, or do you think that’s just a thing from the past? Please share your thoughts by leaving a brilliant insight. Thank you so much for reading this post! favicon

One comment

  1. micheleg

    I know adults who cite Huffington Post and Salon as news sources. I find that troubling. Just like you said, I think young people need to learn that news doesn’t just come out of the air, and that sites like Huffington Post and Salon are repeating stories from another source (if they’re even reporting news!) More than anything, young people need to know the difference between opinion pieces and investigative journalism. Reading newspapers, talking about how they’re put together, and comparing them to other sources seems like a great way to teach critical thinking (and, of course, talking about why the Times’ take on a story might be different than, say, the Post’s.)
    That’s what I think.

Please share your brilliant insights!