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Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Writing Workbooks  >  Middle School
Newspapers in Education -- Middle School Writing
By Tom Janz

In the last two years, Tom Janz has traveled hundreds of miles across the Kenai Peninsula, showing teachers how to use the newspaper as an educational tool in their classrooms. Janz works for the Peninsula Clarion, a small paper for the Kenai Peninsula. His title is Marketing and Circulation Manager, but he wears many hats. One of them is the administrator of the Clarion's Newspapers in Education (N.I.E.) program. (For more information about N.I.E., see The newspaper: A living textbook in Related Articles.)

He has written three workbooks that contain hundreds of lessons to get students involved with the newspaper. "Middle schools take the most amount of papers," Janz says. "The kids are beginning to take more interest in the world around them, in things like fashion and sports." That's why the workbook he created for middle schools contains lessons like finding examples of figurative language in the sports section.

If you would like to have Tom Janz visit your school with ideas about Newspapers in Education, call (907) 283-7551.

Writing Exercises

1. List as many persuasive words as you can find on one page of the classified ads on a chart under the headings of favorable or unfavorable. Using a synonym - antonym dictionary or thesaurus list the opposite persuasive words.

Example: Favorable Unfavorable
  beautiful ugly
  clean dirty
  adequate inadequate
  exceptional average

2. Copy a paragraph from a news story omitting all punctuation. Correctly punctuate the story. Check your punctuation against the punctuation from the original news story.

3. Locate a picture in the newspaper and write a short paragraph stating what you think may have happened before the picture. Repeat this activity predicting the outcome.

4. Become a neighborhood reporter. Look for interesting events. Write down the facts and develop a newspaper article explaining an event.

5. The newspaper offers many opportunities for letter writing. The most obvious are "Letters to the Editor" and the advice columnists. Letter writing can also center around the want ads and job listings. Select a job you would be interested in and are qualified for. Develop a resume and cover letter for the job you have selected.

6. List on a piece of paper the words - Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Select an ad from the lost and found and create the 5 W's. Are the 5 W's based on fact or opinion? Develop a story based on the information you gathered. Be creative, write in any style you would like (i.e. fairy tale, poem, feature story, etc.).

7. Create a character from the classified ads. Select a telephone number from an ad. Using that number's first digit, count down to that number in the Help Wanted ads. Your character will have whatever job is mentioned in the ad. For the second digit, go to the pets section to see what pet your character owns. Use the third digit with the apartments for rent or houses for sale ads to see where your character lives. The fourth digit is used with the auto ads to determine what kind of car the character drives. Put the fifth and sixth digits side-by-side to create the character's age. If the seventh digit is even, the character is the same sex as you. If the number is odd, the character is the opposite sex to you. Now, write a story about this character using the details mentioned here.

8. Pick a comic strip from today's comics. Take a sheet of paper and fold it so that you have four boxes. Continue that comic strip by drawing four pictures and writing dialogue.

9. Write a letter to your favorite comic strip. Be sure to use the proper friendly letter form. Make sure you include what you thought about the comic strip today.

10. Use the classifieds to find a lost pet. Write a story from the pet's point of view, explaining how it got lost and how it is looking for its owner. What is happening to the pet as it is seeking its owner?

11. Choose a headline and replace it with words that mean the same thing. For example, instead of "big" use "mammoth." How does your new headline compare to the original?

Vocabulary of Newspaper Terms You May Find in These Exercises:

  • Advertisement - a message printed in the newspaper in space paid for by the advertiser.
  • Banner - a headline in large type running across the entire width of the page.
  • Box - a small article or headline enclosed by lines to give it visual emphasis.
  • Byline - the name of the writer of the article, usually appearing above the news of feature story.
  • Caption - title or explanatory note above a picture.
  • Credit Line - acknowledging the source of a picture.
  • Cutline - information below a picture which describes it.
  • Dateline - line that tells where the story originated.
  • Ears - space at the top of the front page on each side of the newspaper's nameplate. Usually boxed in with weather news, index to pages or an announcement of special features.
  • Edition - in a single day, a newspaper may publish several editions, each one going to a different part of its circulation area.
  • Editorial - an article stating an opinion of a newspaper editorial board, usually written in essay form.
  • Editorial Cartoon - cartoon which expresses opinions; appears on the editorial page.
  • Feature - a story in which the interest lies in some factor other than news value.
  • Filler - copy with little news value; used to fill space.
  • Flag - a stylized signature of a newspaper which appears at the top of page one.
  • Headline - display type placed over a story summarizing the story for the reader.
  • Index - table of contents of each paper, usually placed on page one.
  • Issue - all the editions of a newspaper published for a single day.
  • Journalism - process of collection, writing, editing, and publishing news.
  • Jump - the continuation of an article from one page to another.
  • Kicker - a short, catchy word or phrase over a major headline.
  • Lead - the first few sentences of opening paragraphs of a news story containing the answers to who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • Mass Media - any of various methods of transmitting news to a large number of people (e.g. radio, television, newspaper).
  • Masthead - the matter printed in every issue of a newspaper stating the title, ownership, management, rates, etc.
  • Newsprint - a grade of paper made of wood pulp used for printing newspapers.
  • News Services - news gathering agencies such as Associated Press (AP). They gather and distribute news to subscribing newspapers.
  • Obit - an obituary; a story of a deceased person's life.
  • Review - an account of an artistic event such as a play or concert which offers a critical evaluation by the writer.
  • Sidebar - a short story related to a major story and run nearby.
  • Typo - short for typographical error.

Related Articles
Newspapers in Education -- High School Writing
Newspapers in Education -- Middle School Reading
Newspapers in Education -- Writing About News Photos
Newspapers in Education -- High School Reading
The Newspaper: A Living Textbook

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