Using news: ideas to incorporate in class

PULLMAN – The complimentary newspapers found in racks across the Pullman campus are not just student freebies. They also are valuable teaching tools.
Faculty attending a recent WSU workshop with an education representative for the New York Times shared how they have used that newspaper in the classroom.
“When teachers get together and talk about teaching, that itself improves teaching,” said Susan Kilgore, professor of general education, “because it makes us much more intentional about what we’re doing.”
Here are some of the ways the Times has been used by faculty at WSU:
• “The articles add up-to-date developments to the course content and stimulate student discussion,” said Doug Young, professor in the School of Economic Sciences. He has used the Times in teaching farm management and graduate production economics.
Carol Anelli, associate professor of entomology, uses articles when they pertain to class topics.
“For example, I’ll be sharing an article on teaching evolution in public schools in my lower-division honors course for science majors,” she said. “It brings my students up to date on a critical issue for our time. It also makes what we’re doing in our textbook relevant and topical.”
• This aspect of tying learning into students’ day-to-day life is critical for her world civilization classes, said Kilgore. Among the goals for the course is to help students understand today through looking at the past. New York Times assignments help Kilgore foster discussion about how the past is working itself out in today’s headlines.
Kilgore also wants her students to become critical thinkers, proficient writers and speakers, and lifelong learners. Assignments that have them work collaboratively to categorize, evaluate and analyze Times stories — and then make short class presentations — “elicit critical thinking at a number of stages and in a number of ways as we move through the semester,” she said.
• Similarly, Lydia Gerber, senior instructor of history, has had her students apply WSU’s critical thinking rubric to Times articles as part of her course on Chinese civilization. If students can practice using the rubric to take apart and assess a newspaper article, they are sometimes less defensive when asked to analyze their own or another student’s writings, she said.
Gerber also has used Times articles to help her students assess its perspective on countries like India, China and Japan. For example, classes that analyzed news coverage before the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s found Japan cast as a dangerous economic competitor. More recently, Gerber said, “Japan is seen as nicer, with a cute teen culture.”

More newspapers, more ideas

• Students can get free copies of the New York Times, as well as the Spokesman Review and USA Today newspapers, through the Newspapers in Education (NIE) program, a collaboration between the papers and the Associated Students of WSU.
• The New York Times has about 3,600 syllabi on file from professors nationwide who use the paper in their classrooms. These are available by contacting
• Many newspapers host NIE websites full of teaching ideas. Just search “newspapers education” on Google.

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