Newspapers in Science and Math Class?May 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 2 Comments
A large part of literacy is the ability to read everyday things around us and make sense of them, for example the newspaper, a magazine, or a current book. According to the blog 1KnowledgeOnline, most newspapers are written at a high school level. Even what we would consider to be one of the easiest, TV Guide, appears to be written at a ninth grade level!
So, when we get students in our high school content classes that can’t read the textbook, by extension that means they can’t really read a newspaper either. By using newspapers in class, we can get students used to reading in that format and connecting to everyday events, while teaching literacy at the same time. It is not too far of a leap to use a newspaper in a social studies class or an English class, but how to do it for science or math? As I researched this topic, I have come across some great ideas about how to get this to work and make sense in a science or math curriculum.
In an online article the authors, Ruth Jarman and Billy McClune list a number of different ways we can use the newspaper in science class by reading science-interest stories. By doing this, the authors state that newspapers
“… can be used to illustrate the ‘relevance’ of science, particularly in relation to topical and local issues.”
“…can be used to illustrate the ‘nature’ of science, particularly in relation to
“…can be used as a context for developing ‘general literacy’, particularly in
relation to skills and ideas associated with reading, research and communication”
“can be used as a context for developing ‘scientific literacy’, particularly in
relation to skills and ideas associated with critical thinking about science,
‘science for citizenship’ and lifelong learning”
If you add this to the fact that newspapers can be an actual source of scientific information, we have an ideal way to increase literacy, explore real life examples, and learn science at the same time. For example, if you are studying insects in science class, your class could read a recent article in the Democrat and Chronicle about the Emerald Ash Borer and its impact in Rochester. Start a discussion with your students as an introduction to the topic of insects, and easily bring relevance and local issues to the forefront of the class.
But what if your newspaper is not particularly scientific, or you are teaching math? Another website, 100 Ways to Use a Newspaper, lists explicit lessons that can be used in the classroom that can be culled from almost any newspaper at all, regardless of its content. These lessons include things like plotting daily temperatures on a graph, using football scores in math problems, and making pie charts from movie listings. The key here would be to use your imagination and creativity!
How would you use your imagination in math or science class to use a newspaper as a teaching tool? What sorts of articles or sections of the paper could you use to increase literacy in your content classroom?