• Putting the daily newspaper to work


    Putting the daily newspaper to work


    Peter Pienaar

    Formerly of the Faculty of Education, University to Durban-Westville


    This article was originally published in CRUX, October 1981. It has been slightly adapted.  It is interesting to note that the concerns about children not reading is not new. The suggestion given at that time is also equally relevant today.


    What can we do about the incidence of reading retardation and reluctance to read in so many of our classes? How can we quickly redress the balance and pull some of our chestnuts out of the fire? How can those of us who have not actually been trained to teach beginning reading teach children the basic reading skills – how to decode running words, as opposed to words in isolation?

    Firstly, all reading (lessons) in school should motivate children to read out of school, omnivorously and voraciously.

    Secondly, we must ascertain where children are at, and accept where they are at; and thereafter we should give them what they need rather than what we need to give them!

    Fourthly, if there is a dearth of suitable reading material in your classroom, material that children both want and are able to read, why not contrive your own reading material, starting with the daily newspaper?  Many parents buy a daily newspaper – or children can get them from their neighbours, or English teachers can ask other teachers to bring newspapers to school.

    Here is a report taken from The Natal Mercury:


    CAPE TOWN – An 18-year-old girl who hired a taxi from Durban to Cape was sentenced by Mr H.A.J. Swart to three months’ gaol suspended for three years in the Magistrate’s Court here yesterday for not paying the taxi fare of R1 000.

    Jennifer Coetzee, no address given, pleaded gui8lty to the charge of failing to pay the cost of the trip and further expenses to ‘Flash Taxis’ in August this year.

    Coetzee said in evidence that she thought she was pregnant and wanted to tell her boyfriend, who was a sailor on a Greek ship that was docked in Cape Town.  She hired a taxi and said that she would pay on arrival in Cape Town. After arriving she then told the taxi driver that the captain of the ship had the money for the fare.

    The taxi driver waited for two days before he realised that the fare was not going to be paid. Coetzee was arrested soon afterwards. – S.A.P.A.

    This is how I would handle it in a 30-minute period with a ‘diminished group’ of 10-year-olds:

    1. Put the following words on the board:

    t_x_;  _a_e;  g_l_y;  p_eg_t;  _al_o_;  m_ny_;  a_es_d;  bu_l_r;  l_x_ry; _s_ap_; st_ng_r;  c_a_lty.

    1. Read the article aloud to the children, simplifying if/where necessary, and omitting the headline.  Before you begin, tell the pupils:  ‘Listen to this report and see if you can pick out the words which I’ve put down on part of the board.’
    2. ‘Now, who can complete one of the words on the board? Good, Sam, that’s the word, and you’ve spelled it right (Sam has come up to the board to complete it himself, of course).  Now, who can complete another word? Fine, Jane, the word is “guilty”.  Say it to the class. (You can get them to chorus it, too, if you want to reinforce the word.) ‘Can you use “guilty” in a sentence, Mike?’  And so on until all 12 words are completed orally in a variety of contexts.
    3. ‘Now, which of these words were used in the story?’ Underline and discuss with the class.
    4. ‘Who can use three (or more) of these words in a little story for us? Let’s all try to write out a little story in rough (in pairs or individually)’: You work with the children for about five minutes.
    5. Five or six stories are read out at random round the class. Pupils vote for the best story. The winner, Jenny, writes out her story on the board, underlining the three (or more) words she has used.
    6. Jenny’s story is immediately posted on the Daily News board.
    7. ‘Now, what headline should we give the original story?’ Write two or three headlines on the board, plus the headline used in the paper. ‘Which is the best? Why?’
    8. ‘Now tomorrow I want you, Muriel, to bring a story from the newspaper.  You will read it to the class …’.
    9. At the end of the month, take down, collate and bind the stories on the Daily News board and ‘publish’ in a monthly magazine format, any non-readers in the group doing the illustrations.

    Who knows, you might even end up by getting the children voluntarily to read interesting news items to their parents!

    Categories: Volume 3