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The Power of Print: Newspapers


This assignment asks students to review the history and existing information about an ancient, medieval or early modern local civilization that they will explore in class or from the supporting documents provided here. In so doing, students engage the critical reading skills they have gathered and look at the role of context, or the circumstances in which an event occurred, in reading any text. This lesson asks students to create a newspaper using information from local history.

Newspapers and the information they contain are organized and presented in specific ways. Not only did the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johanes Guttenberg in Germany change the development of Christianity and science through the quick communication of information, but the printing press is also linked to the spread of different ideas related to politics, such as democracy and the rights of men (and women). For example, Guttenberg immediately printed a copy of the Bible that allowed everyday people to have a copy of the sacred texts and no longer require a religious figure to interpret it. Guttenberg also printed the “indulgences” of local Catholic priests in order to show corruption in the Church and the need for reform, thus leading to the Protestant Reformation. By 1499, over 15 million texts had been duplicated by printing presses, creating a demand for literacy across Europe. In the United States printed materials assisted in the spread of Christianity and in the military and colonial goals of England, Spain, and Russia. Moreover, this lesson plan asks students to grapple with the concept of context or the circumstances surrounding a subject.




You will need:
Lesson plan length: 3 weeks. Students may complete this assignment independently or in a group.
Presentation tools depending upon class capabilities: low tech: poster board for each group to write out information for display in class room. high tech: computer assisted PowerPoint presentations to post on the classroom website.

Initially, instructors play a directive role in going over the reading, glossary terms and ensuring students understand the role of audience in creating a text. Instructors should reiterate the “5 W’s” in newspaper and academic writing. Instructors should evaluate the enclosed resources and determine the relevancy of the samples to their students. Instructors should integrate local history and sources if they are available.

Lesson Hypothesis:
Newspapers across history have had an explicit goal of relaying information to their readers and through their layouts demonstrate the importance of different types of news—some information is more “important” than other. Which information is more “important” than other information? How do local newspapers organize information throughout the issue and in individual articles? What are the requirements of the audience and creators of the printed text? Apply these factors to a text from local history of the same period. What is different? What is the role of the written word in passing history? How does it differ from the oral traditions that are associated with ancient Native Americans? What has changed over time?

goals & objectives

In completing this lesson, successful students will:

  • Define and understand the glossary terms included.
  • Gain an informed perspective of the Middle Ages, Early Modern, and Modern periods of world history through analytical cultural comparison.
  • Survey the spread and impact of cultural values, tenets, and technology between the Eastern and Western worlds.
  • Trace the origins of modern political thought and discourse.
  • Use a variety of maps and documents to identify physical and cultural features of neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries and to explain the historical migration of people, expansion and disintegration of empires, and the growth of economic systems.
  • Frame questions that can be answered by historical study and research.
  • Distinguish fact from opinion in historical narratives and stories.
  • Distinguish relevant from irrelevant information, essential from incidental information, and verifiable from unverifiable information in historical narratives and stories.
  • Assess the credibility of primary and secondary sources and draw sound conclusions from them.
  • Detect the different historical points of view on historical events and determine the context in which the historical statements were made (the questions asked, sources used, author’s perspectives).
  • Explain the central issues and problems from the past, placing people and events in a matrix of time and place.
  • Explain the sources of historical continuity and how the combination of ideas and events explains the emergence of new patterns.
  • Recognize that interpretations of history are subject to change as new information is uncovered.
  • Consider the role of literacy in passing information from society to society and its differences from an oral tradition.
  • Observe and mark change over time in presenting the “news.”
  • Determine the main parts of a newspaper by examining one in class with instructor guidance.
  • Study history from the explorations of the Americas, including the contact between the European explorers and the place’s existing peoples.
  • Determine the “local news” of pre-determined period to reflect local history.
  • Create a newspaper telling local history. While the format for this follows contemporary definitions for newspaper writing, the content of this newspaper reflects local history from the period under historical investigation.
  • Share the completed newspaper with the class (and possibly the school).
the lesson

Exercise 1: Instructors should begin by introducing the lesson and going over all glossary terms. Instructors will go over the assignment and the integration of local history that has been already covered in the class or will be introduced as part of this lesson. Instructors should gather information sources for the class to assist the students in completing the assignment.

This lesson asks students to create a newspaper using information from local history. The newspaper must be set on a specific date and in a specific place and should reflect what students have learned about critical reading practices over time. After introducing the assignment, instructors should have the class elect the newspaper’s editor. The editor will next assign the different parts of the newspaper to students or student groups. Next, the class, with instructor oversight, should determine what day, week or period the newspaper will represent in history.

Exercise 2: Over the course of the next two weeks, students work independently on their newspaper assignments and should meet regularly with the student editor. The editor will have the final say in what will be included in the newspaper and where it will be placed. The editor determines where each component of the newspaper will be placed in the overall layout and will also include an editorial that explains the position of the paper. The editorial may be about the importance of the news it is reporting, an opinion on a popular issue or feedback on a topic.

Exercise 3: Working with the editor, students should compile the newspaper using a predetermined format. This format may be a cut and pasted newspaper that can be photocopied and shared or a digital project that be disseminated on the class website.

Wrap-Up: Ask the class what they learned about process. Did they enjoy it? What was the most difficult part of putting together a newspaper? What are different ways this assignment may be improved with different sources?

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