The activities highlighted in this piece draw upon the work and creativity of many Tide~ working groups and workshop sessions.  There are countless possibilities for using newspapers as a source for enquiry and investigation.  I hope that this selection of initial ideas will serve as a useful starting point to support planning and further discussion.

Why newspapers ~ what makes them a useful stimulus?

  • They are real … not a ‘teacher-created’ resource
  • They are topical and relevant
  • They deal with ‘important’ issues and events
  • They share viewpoints … different papers share very different perspectives
  • Language use varies according to context and purpose … a rich resource for literacy
  • Images and headlines are designed to grab attention so often use stereotypical material … this can be useful to analyse
  • They provoke discussion and debate
  • Generic activities to enable discussion and debate at KS3:

Newspapers contain a wealth of material for discussion and debate about issues.  Encourage students to look not just at articles and headlines.  Photographs, letters, cartoons and advertisements can also provide a useful source of material for discussion.

Selection activity

Sudents, [either individually or in pairs] are given a newspaper and asked to make a choice according to a given criteria.  For example they may be asked to choose an article/headline/image that they find particularly interesting, that surprises them, or that they have a connection with or a view about.

Students are then asked to share their choice with others in the group and to discuss some of the reasons for their choices.  The aim of this activity is to highlight the fact that we each interpret and respond to information in different ways and that our own experiences and interests influence the way that we engage with newspaper content.

This activity is also a useful way of introducing work on a particular theme.  For example students are asked to choose an article that they feel raises an important Citizenship issue.  In feedback from this activity, students' different choices and reasons will reveal a spectrum of issues - a useful way of sharing perceptions and ideas about 'citizenship' or any other theme.

Issue collage

Students working in groups are given a selection of newspapers.  Their task is to produce a collage or poster linked to a particular issue using selected cuttings of headlines, images, articles, cartoons etc.  They might be briefed to reflect a range of opinion about the issue in the collage or to deliberately focus on a particular perspective [another student group might work on a different perspective].  Students then present their completed work to the class explaining their decision-making process.

Questioning an article

Students working in groups choose or are given an article to investigate which is placed in the centre of a large sheet of paper.  Their task is to brainstorm questions that they want to ask about the article, and to write these around the edge of the paper.  These might include:

  • questions about the issue itself and what else they personally would like to know;
  • questions about the journalist’s coverage of this issue and how fair or accurate this is;
  • questions about the wider impact of this issue … environmentally, socially, politically, economically [Development Compass Rose would support this]
  • Groups then share three key questions with the whole class for further debate.

Getting local

Local newspapers provide a distinctive resource as students will be able to bring their own ideas and personal experiences to the discussion.  Activities to investigate possible bias in media coverage are useful [for example sorting activities to group cuttings according to positive or negative imagery].

How are we connected?  In this activity students might focus on an article from a local paper and brainstorm the connections from this to the wider world eg via people, places, technology etc.  This type of activity helps students to explore ideas of interdependence.

Some localities produce free newspapers.  If you are interested in getting a class set of the same newspaper local newsagents/suppliers may be able to let you have multiple copies.

Around the world

A useful activity to explore and discuss different perspectives is to look at front pages for the same day from different newspapers around the world [see web links for on-line newspaper sources].  A task for students might be to choose three that they are particularly interested in or two that strongly contrast and to share these with the wider group.


Activities to explore media bias:

One story two takes

Students could work in pairs or groups.  They are given a selection of different newspapers from the same day.  Their task is to choose two articles that cover the same story in very different ways.  They are to discuss the articles sharing views about the extent to which they agree or disagree with the coverage of each and to present their key ideas to the wider group.

Writing headlines

Students working in groups are given a copy of the same article.  Their task is to come up with a number of alternative headlines for the article that illustrate contrasting interpretations.

Which headline would they choose if they were editor of a] the Sun b] the Guardian c] a local newspaper.

Re-writing a headline or article from a different perspective

Students can either choose or be allocated a particular perspective [government minister, campaign group etc].  They would need to consider the key issues from their perspective and also think about appropriate language and vocabulary to suit their purpose.

Letter to the editor

As preparation for this activity students should read and discuss a selection of letters written in response to previous editions.  Their task is to choose an article that they feel warrants a response to the editor, either because they strongly agree or disagree with the coverage and to write a letter setting out their three main points.

Running order

This activity puts students into the role of the newspaper editor.  They are given a short list of eg nine possible stories for that day’s newspaper.  They also have a large sheet divided into sections as a guide for layout.  They need to produce a front page plan for their paper.  This will involve deciding:

Main headline

The three stories to be covered on the front page ie a lead, a second and a third with space reflecting order of priority.  Groups then share and discuss their ideas.
Producing a front page or a mini paper.

The context for this task could be a school or community newspaper with story choices being relevant to students at the school/ in the locality. [The benefit of this context would enable a more real sense of reporting as they could identify key issues, seek interviews and collect their own photographs etc].

Web links for web newspaper sources:

For links to UK national newspapers and others: www.newspaperwebsites.co.uk

For newspapers worldwide:  www.onlinenewspapers.com; www.newseum.org

See further support for link to additional resources and websites to support approaches for ‘Critically engaging with the media and internet’.