Teaching with Newspapers

Teaching with Newspapers


(Jessica Ellison) Hello and welcome to the online learning segment on Teaching With Newspapers. My name is Jessica Ellison and I am a teacher educator in K-12 Programs and Services at the Minnesota Historical Society. You can reach me at [email protected] All of the links and activities that you’ll see in this segment will be included in a Google doc that will be linked at the end of this presentation, so you don’t need to feel like you have to copy down all the URLs during this segment. Let’s get started. So, why should we teach with newspapers? Where do we find them? And above all, how do we use them in our classrooms? This is what we’re going to talk about in this 10-minute segment. What are newspapers? Well, they are a printed news source. They are general, or can be specific news if they’re printed by a particular group or a particular ethnic group or religion. They were the major form of news communication for 200 years in the United States. They’re not as popular today, but they are still printed, so students will certainly recognize the format. Why should we use newspapers? They reflect the events and products and opinions and the people of their time and they’re timely reports of historic events. A lot of times when students are doing research papers on a particular topic they’ll go to the newspapers of the time because they are reporting at the time the event occurred. They also tend to demonstrate the priorities of a particular community or a particular interest group. They also teach literacy skills in a number of different ways. You can teach vocabulary, you can teach inference, you can teach summarizing. They are sometimes difficult to read because of the tiny print, because of some of the words that are used, but there are so many great lessons that you can pull out of newspapers. They’re also a really excellent method of teaching bias and credibility because many newspapers are not unbiased sources of news. You can see this newspaper that’s pictured on the screen, it says, “Most formidable struggle Minnesota ever witnessed.” Well, this is about an Iron Range strike in 1907. But then you can see the title of the newspaper, it’s “The Labor World.” So the labor newspaper would have been very, very concerned about a strike on the Iron Range. So why do they need you? They know how to read, they know how to look at a newspaper. Well, it’s not always that simple because some of the information can be kind of cloaked in the words that are used and some of the information might not make very much sense. So if you look at this paper, this is from April 15, 1912, and if you just look at the headline: “Giant Vessel Damaged on Her Maiden Trip,” and you look at the date, you might think: huh, I recognize that; I wonder if it’s the Titanic. And you begin to read a little bit more and you see that it is, in fact, a story about the Titanic. But then as you keep going you see these other smaller headlines at the bottom of the story: “Titanic Not Sunk,” and “Titanic Making for Halifax.” The very last line of the story there says, “It is reported no one was hurt in any manner.” So what this is, these are the different reports that were coming over the wire as news became available. So this isn’t what really happened, we know, but this is the news that was available at the time and it’s up to you to teach your students how to ask the right kinds of questions. Primary source analysis like we just did is a skill that needs to be modeled and rehearsed. You need to do it as often as possible in your classroom. Make sure you’re providing adequate content and context and lead off with warm-up activities or do whole class practice where the whole class is looking at the same source. Most importantly, it just needs to be a regular activity in your classroom. So where do we find them? The resources on this list include a couple of different things, some large archives, some local repositories and some clearinghouse sites. The best place to start if you want to look for newspapers is Chronicling America, which is through the Library of Congress. It is a digital collection of newspapers from 1836-1922, and you can search by word or phrase. The image that you see on the screen, you can see a couple of spaces that are highlighted in red; those are the words that I searched. So when you search, the words that you wanted come up in red so you can immediately zoom in to that part of the screen and don’t have to spend a lot of time searching all of the columns for the particular article that you’re looking for. There are hundreds of newspapers that have been digitized including several from Minnesota. Another large archive is the Google News archive. This one doesn’t have a search engine that’s quite as friendly as Chronicling America, but there are many, many newspapers to look through as well. Check local newspapers. The Minnesota Historical Society has a digital newspaper hub where you can search newspapers and you can search for search words like we talked about for Chronicling America; you can search by place, by date, etc. “The Chicago Tribune” and “The New York Times” are just two examples of other local newspapers that have digital archives, but there are many, many more that you can find online. And then there’s a couple of clearinghouse sites that are really helpful. These are mostly links to other organizations that have newspapers that have been digitized. So the International Coalition on Newspapers is a list of dozens of links where you can find digitized newspapers from around the world. Elephind is another one that has a consortium of newspaper digital collections that are all together in one place, so you can search for newspapers from the United States, Australia and New Zealand through this one search engine. Okay, so what do we do with them in the classroom? Getting started, just get them used to seeing newspapers. Have some new newspapers and old newspapers on hand. Sometimes you can order copies of famous newspapers or big headlines from the past online. Familiarize them with the elements such as headline, masthead, caption, things like that. When you’re researching newspapers, have a date in mind. It’s really important to go in looking for a particular date because otherwise you can end up searching years and years of newspapers if you don’t know the specific date you’re looking for. Scan the entire paper and not just the one story you’re looking for. The image you see in the screen here, I found by accident when I was looking for a story about the Women’s Suffrage Amendment. This one was from a Minnesota newspaper that talked about a potential bill in the Minnesota Legislature to cut the state of Minnesota in half, north and south, to make two different states. I’d never heard of this before. It was this little piece on the newspaper page that was really interesting that I wouldn’t have found if I had just looked for my one story. And always beware of bias. Newspapers are all about choices. What is printed says a lot about the content of what the people really were concerned about, the community that they served. What images are printed? What words are used? How does a different place cover a story? How has a newspaper changed over time? And what’s really kind of difficult to wrap your brain around, but so important: what is noticeably absent from a newspaper? So here’s a way to teach perspective: this is two different newspapers from two different times on the same subject. The first one that’s titled, “Female Suffrage,” is from an 1868 newspaper. This is from “The Legislative News” and this was the first time that women tried to introduce a suffrage bill into the Minnesota Legislature and as you can see, the very bottom, “laughter.” They were laughed off the
floor. But the editor made sure to put that word in there so it was memorialized that these women were laughed off the floor for trying to get the right to vote. Now the next article is from a black newspaper called “The Appeal” that was based in Minnesota. This was after women won the national right to vote, and this is a letter from black women saying: we’re so glad that you won this victory, but make sure that you don’t leave the cause of equal suffrage for all, including white, black, American Indian, and everyone else in mind. So this is the same topic; two different perspectives. Have students analyze newspapers for time, place and content. You can have them write their own headlines or analyze advertisements; maybe write an op-ed in reaction to some kind of article or find hometown newspapers from the past. You can teach about global perspectives so you can see how a story was covered from a different place. So for example, these are two stories about a tornado that took place in Sauk Rapids in Minnesota in 1886. The tall, skinny one where it says “gloom,” and all the different little headlines, that’s from St. Paul. We expect that. But then I also found a story about it in the Port Walleroo, South Australia, newspaper. Why was it printed there? It was very small. It just said, “Cyclone in Minnesota,” but why was a newspaper in Australia printing a story about a cyclone in central Minnesota? It’s really interesting to think about. You can also do a compare and contrast. Find articles from two different newspapers on the same subject, but different perspectives. These are two articles from the same day from Minnesota, two different cities, about the Duluth lynching. The one from Mankato supports the lynching; the one from Minneapolis does not. It’s really fascinating to look at these two articles printed the same day, in the same state, and how they handle the subject very differently. Headline hunting: find a bunch of articles from the same era, cut off the headlines, and have students match the headline to the article, because then the students have to read and summarize the article and see how they would match that to the words of the very short headline. For an extra bit of fun you can cut out the subheads as well and have them match those to the articles. Advertisements: oh, those are one of my favorites about newspapers. You can talk about different propaganda methods which are still used today. That’s a critical consumer skill for students to know how to analyze advertisements. You can also analyze the time and the place, based on the advertisements that are featured in the newspaper. The news and technology: how did newspapers change based on technology? How did transportation affect news; railroads, ships, planes? How did industrialization impact papers? Or telegraph, radio, television, internet? How did all of these things affect newspapers? This is an image from a newspaper from White Earth, Minnesota, in January, 1919, just a few months after the end of World War I. This is an image of an end-of-war celebration in a city in Russia near the Chinese and North Korean border. How did they get this photograph in 1919? They certainly didn’t have the internet. It’s a really interesting discussion for students to learn about technology of
the past. The URL that you see in the top bullet point there is the link to the Google doc that includes all the links and activities from this segment. So you can write that down and download the Google doc and access all this information. Newspapers teach students to be critical consumers, as we talked about, as they’re looking at making inferences, summaries, and looking at advertisements. They reveal so much about perspective and bias. But most importantly, they make history real. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at [email protected] Thank you.

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