Newspapers in education a growing trend locally

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Every Wednesday during the school year, 3,537 issues of The Vicksburg Post are delivered to schools in Warren County, free of charge, as part of Newspapers in Education, a partnership between The Post and area schools.

The number spiked dramatically this year, having risen by approximately 3,000, and teachers are getting creative with their use of newspapers in the classroom.

Bowmar Elementary second-grade teacher Rebecca Flanagan said she uses newspapers in her classroom for her students to practice identifying parts of speech.

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“We used it the first time to do past tense verbs,” she said. “It’s really good for them to see it somewhere other than a language book or an article we’re reading. Using the newspapers makes it real life.”

Flanagan said her students begin to realize they need to use the parts of speech correctly in order to get jobs like working for a newspaper.

“It kind of just gets them away from a standard test,” she said. “We try to use it once every two weeks. Once we have mastered a skill and they can identify a part of speech, then we’ll pull out the newspapers.”

Flanagan said she loves watching how excited her students get when it’s time to work the newspapers.

“Especially when they see the sports section, the boys get really excited, and some of the girls may see someone they know on the front page and things like that,” she said. “I don’t know what it is about the newspaper, but they just love to use it.”

One of Flanagan’s students, second-grader Jacob Byrd, 8, said he enjoys the activities his teacher comes up with for working with newspapers.

“It is pretty fun working on working on newspapers because you find a lot of stuff,” he said. “You can do a lot of things with the newspaper like find words or read about stuff that’s happening today or yesterday or some days ago. It’s fun because you can look at a lot of stuff and do a lot of stuff with the newspaper.”

Byrd said he enjoys that he can write on the newspapers.

“We’ve been looking for words like nouns and other words,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of stuff with the newspaper because we’ve been looking for a lot of words.”

Porters Chapel Academy teacher Melissa Whitehead said she uses newspapers in her life science, local cultures, career education and career discovery classes.

“With the career classes we use these to look at what types of jobs might be available in the Vicksburg-Warren community,” she said. “I will have students fill out sample job applications for the jobs and write sample letters of application to potential employers.”

Whitehead said her students also use newspapers to study job trends and economic trends and look at technological trends in the job market.

“In science we use to look for any type of science materials,” she said. “Anything from NASA’s latest mission to doctors working in various parts of the world.”

In Whitehead’s local cultures class students browse the newspapers to find out about current events, historical facts and other community activities that might be going on.

“The students typically like when we take a break from the routine,” she said. “The newspaper gives them a break from what I like to call the standard textbook type of work. If you put a newspaper in the kids’ hands they want to read and learn, and it helps that The Vicksburg Post really tries to put a focus on what happens locally and what pertains to us locally.”

Whitehead said being in education, the importance of reading is constantly being underscored, and the Newspapers in Education program helps to encourage reading.

“I think The Post does a great job of helping to provide this program to the local teachers,” she said. “When you put reading materials in students hands, and having access to a community newspaper with a real focus on community makes it that much better.”

St. Aloysius seventh, eighth and 10th-grade English teacher Jordan Amborn said a lot of her students aren’t as familiar with getting their news from print sources, and when she first gave them newspapers, she had to explain how the stories jumped to the inside pages. Since getting over the basics of using a newspaper, students have used the text to practice summarization, organizational structure and other English objectives.

“We have been working on a unit of nonfiction, and one thing we’ve really been working on is the organizational structure,” she said. “What I had my students do the other day was to take an article and identify the organizational structure used and recommend another organizational structure that could give the same information in another way.”

Amborn said using newspapers in her classroom has also brought up some interesting questions.

“We talk about the Oxford comma or the serial comma, and AP style does not use that,” she said. “I’m a huge fan of the Oxford comma. They start reading an article and they’ll say, ‘they didn’t use a comma here!,’ and we’ll get into a discussion about AP style versus standard English grammar.”

Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy called the program incredible.

“We are so thankful for the support of The Vicksburg Post,” he said. “Not only has the paper been a huge voice of support for education, but also immersed our students in written text.”

Shealy said students having access to a local newspaper gives additional benefits in the classroom.

“All reading is good, but it’s even better for our students to come to understand their community by having access to a paper that is truly committed to the Red Carpet City and the surrounding county,” he said. “We greatly appreciate this partnership.”

Vicksburg Post Publisher Tim Reeves said The Vicksburg Post is happy to continue its partnership with area schools.

“This program is nothing new for The Vicksburg Post, but this level of support, this number of students reached is astounding,” he said. “Over the years, we have been blessed with the support of our readers, who have helped fund this program, and it is a joy to see this many students impacted.”

Community involvement is a prime focus at The Vicksburg Post, Reeves said.

“The Vicksburg Post has been part of the Vicksburg and Warren County community since 1883, and it is important to us that we do more than just write about our community,” he said. “It is important that we participate in our community. The huge development and investment in this NIE is just part of our overall effort to be involved and to have a positive, long-term impact on Vicksburg and Warren County.”

Schools participating in NIE include all VWSD schools, Vicksburg Catholic School, Porters Chapel Academy, Jacob’s Ladder Learning Center, Blessing Learning Center and Agape Montessori Christian Academy.