Saturday, June 15, 2013

Creating a Classroom Newspaper: Part 1 of 3

After our onslaught of state-mandated testing was over, I wanted to start a classroom project the students could really take ownership of. As a former newspaper journalist, my thoughts naturally went to writing and a classroom newspaper. Additionally, I thought it could be a perfect way to publish student writing and also reflect on the school year. It was decided... a classroom newspaper it was. I will detail my process in a series of three blog posts: the planning, the writing, and printing/delivery.

To get things started, I started looking around doing some research and remembered a resource I had found when I was student teaching. I also did a classroom newspaper in my second grade student teaching classroom as a part of our nonfiction writing unit. I came across this fabulous resource from Read Write Think, the website of the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English. By the way, if you have not discovered Read Write Think, you need to spend some time exploring this invaluable resource. I have found so many amazing lesson plans, units, online activities, and others, complete with printables and everything! Seriously, it's the bom diggity!

I combined the Read Write Think unit with my own knowledge of journalism and started the project in the classroom. I began with getting my students familiar with newspapers. For homework, I had each student bring in a newspaper article of their choice. To make things easier, I told them it could be from any newspaper source, including online papers. I showed a few examples of what I was looking for to make sure they understood the assignment. I also brought in my own stack of whole newspaper examples. I happened to still have many of my own papers with my bylines that the students got a big kick out of, but you could bring in any example.

Day 1: Parts and Vocabulary of a Newspaper. Using the articles brought in be the students and my examples papers, I had the students look through the papers. I recorded their observations on a bubble map on the board. This gave me the opportunity to introduce vocabulary like headlines, bylines, captions, etc. as well as point out the different parts like news, sports, opinion, comics, ads, etc. We then discussed what parts we thought our newspaper should have. I made a list of those things on an anchor chart and hung that up when we were done.

Day 2: Naming the Newspaper. Every paper has to have a name, so I let the students decide the name of ours. I brought out the example papers again and pointed out the different words commonly used in newspaper names, like times, news, journal, today, dispatch, etc. I gave the students some time to brainstorm their suggestions, and then made a list of all of them on the board. We ended up with about 10 suggestions. I let the students vote on their favorite to narrow the list to the top three. Then we voted again and settled on Friedrich's Fabulous Times.

Day 3: How to Write a Newspaper Story. This is where I used the Read Write Think unit the most. Basically I used Session 2 nearly word for word. I explained how newspapers stories are written in an inverted pyramid style with the most important information first and include all 5 W's. Then we looked at Jack and Jill. We identified the 5 W's in the nursery rhyme, and then did a shared writing activity to create a newspaper-style story telling the saga of Jack and Jill.

Day 4: Story Ideas. This day I ran much like an actual meeting is held at a real newspaper. I began a list of suggested stories that the students wanted to see in the paper. The important part here was to include every idea the students suggest. We ended this day with my telling the students to be thinking of the top three stories they would like to write. We also began discussing which section of the newspaper the different stories would go in.

Day 5: Story Assignments and Final Planning. I told the students that each of them was responsible for at least one story. Then they could choose one other thing to submit, such as an ad, picture, comic, or game. Here is where I let students choose what stories they were most interested in writing. If there were two or more students wanting the same story, we discussed who we thought would be better. For example, someone who was in choir was probably better equipped to write the story on choir. Eventually, I had to call on some students who hadn't volunteered and have them choose from the remaining stories. Then we made our final section list of all the stories to be included and who the writer was for each. In this part of the process, some of the stories did not get chosen. I opened that up to the students if we were OK that those stories were not in, or if someone wanted to write a second story. All of this was recorded on another anchor chart, and also hung so everyone would know their responsibilities and where their story belonged.

Basically, at the end of the first week of this class project, we had the name of our newspaper and a plan for who was going to write what story in what section. Stay tuned for Creating a Classroom Newspaper: Part 2 of 3 where I explain how I walked the students through the actual writing of the stories.


  1. Do you have a template for the newsletter you have pictures at the top of your site? Its the perfect template I would love to use with my special ed kiddos.