Sunday 18 August 2013

Newsboard... or Current Events

Many moons ago I went to a literacy course run by Jill Eggleton.  One of the many things she showed us to improve literacy in our class was the Newsboard, aka, Current Events. 

And this is not the old fashioned getting the kids to bring in a newspaper cutting - although that does have it's place. 

No, this Newsboard not only endeavours to widen children's minds of what is happening in the world, but to develop thinking, visual and oral language skills, as well as cover many specific teaching points of writing and reading literacy.  I also find that the Newsboard gets the children initiating conversations at home on the topics we cover and taking greater interest in the 6 o'clock news or the newspapers that come into their homes.  Ever since I have always used this in my class.

I use this for the following reasons to improve literacy:

Current Events awareness it is important for the children to become aware that there is more to the world than their family and their school.  Through Current Events they can learn about important people in their community, country and the world.  In the example illustrated to the right, I took this opportunity to discuss the passing of one of New Zealand's fore most artist and the kind of art he was involved in.  I normally only reserve colour pictures for really important events, but you can not look at art in black and white... hence the colour.

It is a great way to introduce the children to new vocabulary.  You are teaching them to read new words and the meanings of them.  It is also a great way to reinforce dictionary skills.  Really important stuff like using guide words, identifying which definition (if there is more than one) applies to the sentence, root words, prefixes, suffixes.....
As you can see here I have looked at prefixes (pink) and the differences between English English and American English, as well as the meanings of some new vocabulary.
 My focus on this page was looking at why we can use capital letters - in this case for the names of Awards, authors/names and book titles.  We were also reading as a read-to book My Brother's War so it was quite timely that these awards came out.  By the way I do recommend My Brother's War.  It is set during WWI and tells the story of two brothers, one who volunteered and one who was a conscientious objector, and their expriences of WWI.  I read it to my class of 8-13 year old children (Years 4-8).  One of the great things about this book is how it uses letters and switches between the two brothers stories.  One of the girls in my class even asked her mum to buy her the book so she could read it for herself and another is now reading my copy in her down time.
In the above example, not only have I looked at new vocabulary, but I have also looked at how brackets can be used to give more information.
The Newsbook is a great way to model using thinking tools.  Above you can see how I have used Tony Ryan's Thinkers Keys, in particular the "What if?" key to get the children thinking about what they would save first if their home caught on fire, due to government Minister Paula Bennett saving her cabinet papers when her house caught on fire.
In this example you can see I am using De Bono's Thinking Hats and Gardner's Multiple Intelligences to generate the childrens' thinking.  In this case we looked at the benefits (yellow hat) of having running water in public loos and explored all the names we could think of for a toilet.
In this example I've used De Bono's Thinking Hats again.  I choose this topic for the day as we allow scooters and skateboards at our school, but don't enforce the use of helmets or other protective gear.  We used our judgement (black) hat to say whether or not we should used helmets and protective gear at school and then the children justified the benefits (yellow hat) of having said gear at school or not.  Afterwards we rang my mother who is the Trauma Nurse Co-ordinator at Waikato Hospital to find out what sort of injuries we could get from scooter crashes.  You will note that we all looked at how we use letters to shorten the names of things, i.e. ACC for Accident Compensation Corporation.  By the way, the kids did not come around to my way of thinking for wearing protective gear at school.
As you can see in this example I introduced the idea of Blooms Taxonomy into our thinking about the very contentious topic of Ask.FM.  Ask.FM has been in the media a lot over the last few months due to worries by young people, parents, educators and internet guardians over the way this social media can be used to bully.  My class (hopefully) are too young to be interested in this social media, but I wanted to introduce it to them like this to reinforce some notions on cyber safety and to hopefully get them to start a conversation at home.  In the example above you can see I have used the skills analyse, evaluate and understand from Blooms Taxonomy to get the children thinking about the implications of bullying and social media together.
Where in the world are we?  Where is that place they're talking about - is it in the South Island?  Why do American's think New Zealand is part of Australia and that kangaroos live here?  One of the visual literacy skills I think is really important for children to learn is how to read a map.  I personally love maps, and I think that was instilled in me by the teacher I had from Standard 2-4 (years 4-6).  The example above was from when our Prime Minister John Key went to visit the leaders of several Central and South American countries.  I wanted my class to see and understand where those places were.  There are a few simple map reading skills I think are important:
  • find New Zealand on a world map.
  • find key places in New Zealand on a New Zealand map, e.g. important cities (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin...), identify the main islands (North, South and Stewart), identify major water ways (Pacific Ocean, Tasman Sea, Cooks Strait, Waikato River, Lake Taupo...), find our significant mountains (Mt Ruapehu, Mt Cook...).
  • know where the place they come from is.
  • be able to know where some key countries in the world are that are important to New Zealand, e.g. Australia, USA, Canada, Japan, China, UK, France, South Africa and Argentina (after all the All Blacks play those last three countries fairly regularly).
  • know how to identify the capital city of a country.
Consequently maps of New Zealand, the world and specific parts of the world will feature to help give my students context of the event that has happened.  This example above was quite fun, figuring out how a Chihuahua got from Avondale to Whangarei on her own (De Bono's red hat - using our intuitions) combined with identifying where Auckland and Whangarei are (map reading).
And another combination of map reading skills and De Bono's black thinking hat to make judgements on how a life threatening situation was handled so poorly by a health worker.
One very fun part of visual literacy is cartoons.  I love bringing cartoons into the situations and discussing the humour behind them, how the cartoonist has enhanced specific physical features of individuals involved to give them character, how different objects in the cartoon can be used to illustrate or symbolise other ideas, and how pictures can symbolise some classic language features - such as the foot in mouth in the top cartoon above and the scraping the bottom of the barrel in the bottom cartoon.

And one of the greatest mysteries to us in the weather.  In New Zealand we are obsessed with the weather.  When's it going to rain?  When will this rain stop?  Why is it so cold?  Why is it so windy?  So being able to understand weather symbols and the weather maps are another important visual literacy skill.


  1. Thank you for sharing Mel - this is fantastic. I really like the way you have incorporated the thinking tools. I am impressed and want to use this idea in my classroom tomorrow! How big is your scrapbook and how do you display it the classroom? Do your students pick it up to re-read pages from earlier in the year?

  2. Hi Carolyn, thanks for your comments and questions.
    I purchase the A3 Visual Diary from the Warehouse or Warehouse Stationery. As I use a blue vivid to write with I like pages which won't blot through to the page below. This book can have either 50 or 100 leaves.
    In the past I've also used the art A3 folders, or cut cartridge into A3 (when I wasn't putting pictures with each event) and then I would make a cover page in collaboration with a group of kids waiting for the bus after school and we had a wonderful office lady who would bind it.
    The students love going back through previous events and books. You see them looking through before school and using it at silent reading time. Sometimes an event will come up and they will relate it back to one that we have done earlier in the year.
    And it always astounds me how the book starts conversations at home. Kids come in the next day and tell me about how they've talked about it at home, or parents will tell me bits and pieces of their discussions.
    The book sits on my teachers' station throughout the day unless I am using the teachers' station for another teaching session. If it isn't on the teachers' station it is close by so I don't lose it!!

  3. Thanks for the detailed outline of how you use newsboards. I've been reading Harry Hood over the break, and it's given me some good ideas for teaching my new Y2 class this year. Wayne

  4. Thanks Wayne. Glad to be of help. Harry Hood still stands up as a great source of teacher knowledge on literacy. I remember attending one of his writing courses many moons ago. Those basics I still apply today.

  5. Gosh this is so rich!!! Thank you for sharing this with us. Just a question... where do you get your little"Hats" and "Keys" from?
    Thanks heaps.

    1. Hi Helen. Thanks for your comment and question. The hats I got from clip art in Microsoft Publisher. The key I have saved from a google search. I also save maps for easy access too. I googled them, copied and pasted into a document I keep handy to retrieve things from when I am making up the visuals for my newsboard. It saves your bacon when there is no internet!

  6. Amazing! Just wondering if you pre-write the news before hand, or do you do it together with your students?

    1. I pre-write it and put together the visuals and print it out before school usually. If I am going to be away or know that the next morning will be busy I will prepare it the afternoon before. But I usually do it before school to keep the event fresh.

  7. Looks amazing. I would love to include I my programme but I'm trying to work out when I would fit it into my programme? When/how do you fit it in

    1. I do this straight after the roll, to get their brains engaged in thinking and focused on learning without even realising it.