This assignment asks students to become critical readers of all texts but particularly news publications. After completing different reading exercises, students will become familiar with the layout and standard features of a newspaper by regularly reading and dissecting a contemporary, local or regional paper.
You will need:
In completing this lesson, successful students will:
Lesson: Part A: Becoming a Critical Reader: Getting to Know the Newspaper
Instructors should give students 10 – 15 minutes at the beginning of each class to pick up a newspaper and read it. If a newspaper is to be shared with another class, stress the need to put the sections back in order. After reading for the required amount of time, students should complete the “Newspaper Activity Sheet” as a group.
Students should share their findings with the class. Students should then select a spokesperson for each group to present the information the group has learned for the day. Instructors should have students rotate as spokesperson each day.
The 3-Pass Guide to Critical Reading. Based on Irene L. Clark's The Genre of Argument. (1998).
The First Pass: Reflection and Quick Overview
What do I already know about this topic? Have I been brought up to have an opinion on this topic? Have I heard discussions on this topic or read anything about it? Is there a controversy associated with this topic?
What is the context of the controversy about this topic? Is there some action or policy associated with it? Was it written in response to another piece of writing? For whom is this work being written? Do I know anything about any groups associated with this controversy?
What do I know about the writer of the book or article? Does the text provide information about the writer? Does the author have a title or position that would indicate his or her qualifications on a particular agenda? Can I speculate on what the motive of the author might be?
Can I gain additional insight from any immediately available clues, such as publishing information (title, type of publication, copyright date, other works cited in the bibliography) and organizational clues (section headings, boldfaced subtitles, chapter headings, and table of contents )?
The Second Pass: Reading for Meaning and Structure
In reading a text for meaning, it is a good idea to focus on its purpose and structure—that is: Is it a response to another point of view? Can you situate it in a conversation? Is there a controversy associated with it? Does the article or book compare and contrast two or more ideas or recommendations? Does it make a point about cause and effect? Does it pose a question and then answer it? Does it trace the history of something, structuring its information chronologically? Is it developed through the use of many examples?
Is the argument consistent with what you believe is true or possible about the world and human behavior? Does the main point make sense to you according to your own experience and what you believe is likely to be true? (If it is not, you would then attempt to view the issue from the author’s point of view, trying to understand why the author espouses these beliefs.)
Is the argument supported with appropriate and believable subpoints, examples, and facts? Are opinions presented here as if they were facts? Are main points supported with specific, appropriate details and subpoints, or do they consist simply of observations that the author thinks are true? (Remember, unless a writer is an acknowledged expert, you have no reason to accept his or her point of view, and even experts must provide supporting evidence.) What assumptions lie behind the author’s position—i.e., what underlying values or statements about the world provide the foundation for the main idea?
Is the evidence reliable? Are the arguments logical? Are there fallacies in the reasoning? Can the authorities referred to be trusted? Do the statements from an authority really substantiate what the author is arguing? Is the authority quoted out of context? (Remember, don’t believe everything you read just because an alleged “expert” affirms something. Maintain a skeptical attitude and look for other perspectives on the topic before completely accepting a point of view, especially if it does not seem sensible to you.) Do statistics used as evidence clarify the argument? Do they seem realistic or reliable?
Is the text stylistically trustworthy? Can it assess the quality of the argument based on tone, language, and evidence? Be on the lookout for interpretive words (e.g., ugly, elegant, best, etc.); words used for emotional effect (democracy, freedom, family); excessive use of abstract rather than concrete language (inadequately defined terms such as “family values” or “work ethic.”); ambiguity and distortion.
Exercise 2: What are the 5 W’s of Writing?
Instructors write the 5 W’s on the blackboard, leaving space beside each one to record a fact from the news story. Instructors ask students to identify the most important W in the story you have selected ( a sample is included). Instructors write the fact or facts beside the correct W and continue until all of the W’s have been identified. Students should answer the following questions: What information has not yet been covered? This information is often background or historical information that adds color or detail to the story.
Instructors next distribute copies of a different story. Following the example presented on the board, ask students to highlight the 5 W’s and write the 5 W’s on a piece of paper. Instructors ask students to share their findings. Students should select a spokesperson for each group to present the information the group has learned for the day. Have students rotate as spokesperson each day.
Identifying the parts of a newspaper
Newspaper Activity Sheet: In groups of 2 – 3 students should go through a current newspaper and find examples of the items below. They should keep track of all answers on a separate sheet of paper and record the page number of where the information was found. Next, students write a brief description of the item. When each group has completed the items, instructors have a spokesperson from each group share the answers with the class. After presentations, recapitulate the different parts of the article.
Exercise 4: Applying the 5 W’s to Multimedia News
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