In Erica Ellison’s classroom, no page of the newspaper gets wasted.
Ellison, a fourth-grade teacher at Sterling Elementary, has found a way to use nearly every section of The News to teach her students a wide range of subjects, including math, science, social studies and grammar.
“There’s not a subject that you can’t touch with the newspapers,” Ellison said.
Ellison participates in the Newspapers in Education program offered by The News, through which she receives free copies of The News each week, to be used as supplemental educational tools in her classroom.
During a recent math lesson, Ellison asked her students to take the sales pages of the newspaper and create their own word problems.
“That seems to be one of our weak areas with math, solving the word problems and being able to read and understand it,” she said.
Robert Rowell, a student in Ellison’s class, said using the newspaper to learn math felt more like solving real-world problems than when he used a textbook.
“We can make up our own problems, and it helps because we’re adding up money,” he said.
Ellison has also encouraged her students to use this skill outside the classroom, by helping their parents scope out deals at the grocery store.
“The students and I talked about how ‘now when I go to the grocery store, I better be able to help my mom, because this is real-world,’” Ellison said. “This is what I would normally do with the sales paper.”
David Silva said he recently went on a trip to Wal-Mart with his mom and brought a sales paper along to help her save money.
“We used it to find the discounts, and I felt very helpful,” he said.
Maya Ozell most enjoys when the class opens up the paper to the weather section, which they use to learn science vocabulary.
“We go to the newspaper and we go to the weather part, and then we look for key words,” she said.
Ellison said she teaches her students about the phases of the moon and the local tide patterns, using The News.
“Every seven days, the moon is in a different phase. When they saw that in the newspaper, as well as the tides, they see that there’s a reason for (The News) to publish that weekly in the newspaper,” Ellison said. “So we can get this current information. And (they see that) it’s really important — not just because the teacher said so.”
As the school year goes on, the students will be using newspapers to study and discuss current events.
“In social studies, the real world relevance of what’s going on within our world, they have to know about that,” Ellison said. “Usually, a textbook today is out of date. And the information isn’t relevant.”
And sometimes, Ellison said, current events fall right into her students’ backyards.
“One of the articles this week featured what was going on with the storm clean-up, and some of these students have personal connections to (Hurricane) Matthew, or what was just going on at their homes, so we talk about that,” Ellison said.
Ellison uses articles to teach her students not only about writing, but also about being informed consumers of the news.
“If the article is informational, was it trying to persuade them? Was the purpose to entertain them? And who was it really written to? Was this article written to children?” she said.
The newspaper can also be a place to showcase her students’ writing, and in December a few of Ellison’s students had writing published in The News.
“They were very excited to be in the newspaper and have their writing be featured,” she said.
Iyana Nobles, whose writing was published, said she never expected to see her words printed on the pages of The News.
“It felt good,” she said.
The good news for teachers is that there is always an opportunity to begin using newspapers in the classroom.
All it takes is a phone call to The News at 265-8320 ext. 356. Summer Whitten would be happy to sign up teachers to get their newspapers twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.