In the Media

Sara Johnson (M.Ed. '00) describes using newspapers in reading instruction

Sara Johnson (M.Ed. ’00), a reading specialist at Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill, writes in a column for The Chapel Hill News about how she incorporates newspapers in her instruction.

Johnson, who is in her 14th year of teaching, says she is able to use newspaper articles to accomplish teaching goals outlined in the Common Core State Standards.

“I love the newspaper as a source of reading material to use with my sixth and seventh graders,” she writes. “The shiny new Common Core guidelines in language arts dictate that fourth graders should be reading 50 percent nonfiction during the course of a school year. Seniors in high school, 70 percent. Debate over the shift to more informational reading is raging among teachers and parents and professors and business leaders but my research-based belief is that students need to be reading one or the other in school each day at least 90 minutes.”

Articles she has recently used in her classes included headlines such as

  • “Northeast reels from blow,” from The News & Observer.
  • “T.J. Johnson finds himself on the field,” a student profile in The Chapel Hill News.
  • “Photo of officer giving away boots warms heart,” from The New York Times.

“And, I couldn’t wait until the following Monday one weekend when my students would get to read “Great white Mary Lee finds N.C. coast hangout” (N&O),” she wrote. “This article, like many, had maps, a timeline, statistics, a tracking website and a topic: Carchardon carcharias, which middle-schoolers would devour.”

She said her approach allows students to read and understand the same content that grown-ups are reading.

“Choosing engaging topics like a New York City police officer spontaneously buying all-weather boots for a barefoot homeless man motivates even my most reluctant readers, some of whom have brushed up to homelessness themselves,” Johnson wrote.

Commentary: Newspapers and the new Common Core
Jan. 29, 2013