Newspapers in Science and Math Class?

May 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 2 Comments

(Rita Gupta)

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

‘science-in-the-making”

“…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?

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2 Comments »

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  1. I agree that there are a lot of ways to use newspapers and current publications in a math or science class. Newspapers sometimes have articles on new technology and environmental issues that could be studied and discussed in a science class. I see the world is full of numbers and people are always using polls and statistics to try and make convincing arguments. A math class could pick apart these numbers and their sources to see if they make sense. That basic type of math and science literacy is very important to understanding quite a few issues that are currently in the news. The reading comprehension becomes very important in being able to make informed decisions on a variety of subjects.

    • I’m adding on to my comment above. Our world has become more complex for quite a few people. Most organizations now provide information on their websites. Older people who do not have computers do not now have access to this information. Students will not to be comfortable with interacting in new ways and we can’t predict how things will change when they are adults so we need to prepare them to be as flexible as possible. They will need the best skills that we can provide them with. Even if they do not plan on going on to college many jobs require skills that they never thought they would need. My auto mechanic never thought he would need to use a computer and he has to use one everyday. He also has to go to workshops to learn about the new technology in cars. If he had at one point decided he didn’t need to have good literacy skills he would shortly be left behind. People also need to understand their retirement paperwork because very few jobs are offering pensions anymore and they will have to plan and stay informed for their future. They will also have to make economic decisions about job changes because the reality is they people not longer keep one job for their working life.
      There are many resources that could be used in a science or math class. There are many wonderful magazines for students. There are also some websites that offer interesting articles for all age groups. http://www.nationalgeographic.com http://www.smithsonianmag.com http://discovermagazine.com Most of these publications also offer kids versions.


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