Introductory Lesson: The parts of a newspaper

Time for lesson: 20 to 25 minutes

Materials: One copy of any national or local newspaper for the teacher; a copy of the same newspaper for each group of four students.  (Note: It does not have to be the exact same edition of the newspaper, so you can have the same newspaper but over four or five different days, for example, the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday editions of the previous week’s New York Times or your local newspaper.)   “Scavenger Hunt” items on board or copied for each group.

Purpose: To understand the different sections of a newspaper, the different types of news reporting and how to read a newspaper.

Introduction, (8 to 10 minutes): “Today, we are going to learn about the different sections of a newspaper.  How many of you have ever read a newspaper? How many get a newspaper delivered to your house? We are going to be getting the newspaper delivered to our classroom. Today, we are going to start learning how to read it.”

Show students the front page of your newspaper.  Point to each of the following items as you explain them:

  • Starting at the top: The name of the newspaper is in the masthead.  Here, you can also find the date that particular issue was published and other information.
  • The front page consists of the most important and sometimes the catchiest stories of the day.  Each story has a headline, that sums up the story in about eight to ten words.  The byline, or the name of the reporter who wrote the story, comes at the top.  And the story itself will usually be preceded by a dateline, or the name of the city and state where the story took place (if the reporter traveled to that place to write the story).
  • The story the editors consider the most important will usually be in the upper-left hand corner of the front page because that’s the place your eye will naturally go first.  -Briefly point out and discuss the story in that spot of your newspaper.
  • Any story that’s “above the fold” (or literally on the top half of the newspaper, above where it folds in half) is important and one the editors want you to see.  This is because newspapers used to be sold mainly in newspaper boxes along the street, so people walking by would catch the headline and hopefully decide to buy that day’s newspaper to know what’s going on. -Point out the stories above the fold.
  • Usually, a story that’s not as “newsy” but is appealing and readable will be somewhere on the lower-half of the page.  -Find a story below the fold and point it out.-
  • Flip through the section, noticing and pointing out any page headers to your class indicating if it’s a national news, international news, or city news. (Later, you’ll find and discuss the business news section, sports news section, etc.)  -Point out and read aloud a few headlines, datelines, bylines.-
  • Often toward the end of this section, you will find obituaries of people who died recently.  Some of these are paid obituaries, placed by funeral homes. Others are news articles about people who made important contributions in arts, business, sports, or within their community.  If there is a good obituary in your newspaper, point it out specifically. Otherwise, just note the section.
  • When you get to the back of the newspaper, point out and discuss: Usually the very two last inside pages will be the newspaper’s editorial pages. The editorial pages are NOT news stories.  They’re not reported and written objectively by reporters.  The editorial pages are where the newspaper’s editorial board gets to write their opinions about what’s going on in the world.  These are called editorials, and they’re usually along the left-hand column of the left-hand page, with headlines but without bylines.  *Everything* on the editorial page is an opinion, but only these opinions are the “official” opinion of the newspaper.
  • Still on the editorial pages: anything with a byline is the opinion of that particular writer, as opposed to the newspaper’s editorial board.  If it’s accompanied by a picture, often that person is a columnist, someone writing opinion with a unique voice, usually someone the community gets to know and appreciate (or despise).   The editorial pages also include letters to the editor. These, too, express opinions, but they’re written by readers of the newspaper who sent them in hoping they’d be published. So: editorial pages are opinion.
  • Point out  the sections next: These may include a business section, a sports section, sometimes a lifestyle section.  (The New York Times also has special weekly sections including Science, Food, Fashion and Style, and Arts.)

Activity (10 to 15 minutes), Scavenger Hunt:

“Now, working in groups, we’re going to do a newspaper scavenger hunt.  Use your newspapers to quickly find and write down the following items.

  • a byline on the front page;
  • a headline on a sports story;
  • the name of someone who died recently and something they did while alive;
  • the score of a sporting event;
  • today’s weather in another city;
  • the opinion of someone who wrote a letter to the editor;
  • something important that happened in another country.

Allow the students a few minutes to discuss what they found and if they had trouble finding any of the items in the scavenger hunt.





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