Learning with newspapers
A teacher and case manager with Albert Lea School District has found success by using newspapers in her classroom curriculum.
Lori Nelson leads the Transitions Program for the district, which helps students with disabilities learn life skills before graduating high school. She creates a worksheet about once a week that instructs the students to read stories, advertisements and other features found in the Albert Lea Tribune.
“The purpose is to help them find information,” Nelson said. “We want comprehension.”
Nelson said most of the students don’t struggle with reading, but comprehension can be a different matter. She teaches them to find out what a story is about. She also uses it as a chance to teach them new vocabulary words.
Using the newspaper has another side effect — it helps the students learn more about their community and how to be involved. Paraeducator Cindy Jones said it’s also a good habit for the students to be reading the newspaper.
“It helps them find different resources,” Jones said.
Other activities the students complete while reading the paper include finding movie titles and times at Cinema 7, looking at obituaries and reading classified advertisements. Nelson said the students really get into Dear Abby. She often asks them to read the question and write back their own advice as homework.
“They always have an opinion,” Nelson said. “They enjoy it, and they give good advice.”
Nelson said using the newspaper, along with other curriculum, has helped the students become better readers. And that’s one key piece of the Transitions Program. This is the third year the program has been in Albert Lea.
Nelson teaches students ages 18 to 21, and classes are held at Riverland Community College. Legally, students with disabilities can graduate by completing an individual education plan or by reaching the age of 21 if they can’t complete their plan.
Often students don’t want to stay at the high school after turning 18, Nelson said. The program is for students who have completed 12th grade but need to complete their education plan. Having class at the Riverland Community College campus in Albert Lea helps them feel they’ve advanced from high school.
Many of the students have jobs outside of school, at Cedar Valley Services and other local businesses. The class helps them learn finances, using maps, filling out job applications and social skills, among other lessons.
“There’s a lot more to keeping or getting a job,” Nelson said.
Nelson has used the Tribune’s Newspapers in Education program in previous years with the Transitions Program, as well. The program is funded through donations with the goal of increasing literacy, raising community awareness among students and equipping educators with a useful tool.