Middle school students work on their comprehension skills so they can develop the critical and analytical skills they'll need at the high school level. Activities that incorporate newspaper articles are effective for building comprehension skills because they are informative texts that follow a basic format for developing singular points. Newspaper articles are also practical for reading activities because they are produced in abundance and cover a wide variety of subjects.
Before class, cut out newspaper articles and then cut off the headlines as well. Split the class into groups of three, and give each student an article. Explain that students should spend five minutes reading the article they have been given, and then -- on a separate sheet of paper -- assign new headlines for them based on each article's content. After every student has finished assigning a new headline, have each student exchange articles with another student in the group. Repeat the process until each student in each group has read and re-headlined three different articles. Afterward, each group can discuss the headlines they created and what information informed their decisions.
The Five Ws
Explain the five Ws of journalism to the class: who, what, when, where and why. Then, give each student a newspaper article to read, along with a worksheet with columns labeled for each of the five Ws. Instruct students to read their articles, then raise their hands as soon as they're finished. As students raise their hands, go around and take their articles. At this point they should begin filling out the worksheet, recalling as much information from their articles as they can while writing the information in the appropriate columns.
Show and Tell
Assigning a show-and-tell activity will help to sharpen your students' reading comprehension skills and also help them to establish a habit of regularly reading the newspaper. Split the class into five groups, and assign each group a particular day of the week in which students will have to bring in an article they've read and share it with the class. For example, each student in the Monday group will have to bring in a different article every Monday and tell the class about it. Furthermore, do not allow students to read from their articles while they present. This rule will require them to put forth effort to retain what they have read.
Headline Matching Race
Cut out articles from the newspaper and then cut the headlines from the articles. Split the class into small groups. Then, spread some articles and their corresponding headlines at each group's area. Have students read the articles and then match headlines to the articles. The first team to match all the headlines with the correct articles wins the first round. You can then have the groups switch areas, and repeat the game at their new areas and with new articles.
Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."