Sunday, August 7, 2011

A School [We'd] Love To See

Chris Lehmann from Practical Theory recently shared the following idea for a high school:
Every morning, the first thing everyone did was read the New York Times for an hour, [and] using some kind of Kindle-style software they can annotate with ideas, questions, etc... such that at the end of the hour, the school community could see who had similar questions from the day’s paper.

Imagine what it would look like if the kids spent the better part of the day researching those questions and seeing where that took them, with the end of every day being a "share out" where kids shared what they learned across a variety of media.

Wouldn't that be a better high school experience than many of the schools across the country? Wouldn't it be an amazing way to encourage life-long learning, inquiry-based learning, research, collaboration and presentation if kids did something like this every day?

Yes and yes. What Lehmann is really speaking to is the value and relevance of using newspapers in the classroom. As a former journalist and current classroom teacher, newspapers are a great way to expose students to professionally-written prose that is accessible and relevant. For seven years I've used various newspapers (The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, USA Today) in my journalism classroom. This coming school year, I'd like to extend this use to my other English classes.

One good thing to come out of the Common Core Craziness is a renewed focus on using non-fiction texts in the classroom. While I haven't figured out exactly how I'd like to structure it, I would like to begin most of my classes with a 10-minute newspaper reading session to catch up on the day's events. After the 10 minutes, we might have a discussion, respond to a prompt, or simply segue into the next activity.

I'm a big fan of meaningful routines, and it's hard to think of one more valuable than starting each day by reading about the world we live in.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing me to Lehmann's post. I'd love to see this, too. I'd love to teach this way.

I posted a comment over there, too, but in reaction to yours. I'm interested in to what degree your mini-version experiment will work out. I did something similar years ago and didn't find it satisfying at all (needed a time investment that I didn't feel I could give it), but maybe you'll have a better approach.

Mr. B-G said...

Thanks for chiming in clarkbeast. You're welcome. As far as the time thing, you could really spend an entire 55 minute class period reading, discussing, and writing about the newspaper and its stories du jour.

While in Journalism I'm able to do that periodically, it's harder in my English classes due to X number of books that need to be read, writing types that need to be taught, vocabulary and literary terms that need to be covered, etc.

However, it is possible to successfully integrate an abbreviated version of Lehmann's vision. I know because one of my old high school teachers did this in his classroom with The Boston Herald.

On some days you can have the kids read what they want. On others you can decide the focus. On some days students might write a reflection. On others there could be a discussion. Others still could feature a current events quiz.

There are a lot of ways it could go. I could come in with a structured routine (Mondays, we write a reflection, Tuesdays, we discuss, Wednesdays, we share out in groups, Thursdays, we do mini-presentations, Fridays, there's a current events quiz), or I could let it develop organically.

I also like idea of giving the students a variety of choices and letting them decide.

Each choice has its own benefits and its own pitfalls. The key, I think, is having a willingness to be flexible and adapt as the situation dictates.

Ah, life in the classroom!