Motivating readers and developing reading comprehension with news
News reading in KS2 and KS3 classrooms will engage all students, including reluctant readers, and build essential reading comprehension skills. Equally important, introducing weekly news in the classroom creates a news reading community where pupils want to be ‘in the know’ and develop their understanding of the world outside the classroom.
Newspapers and news reports are unique forms of non-fiction that tell the stories of our local, national and global communities. It includes serious world issues and debates, fascinating technological and scientific discoveries, entertainment and sport as well as the daft and silly oddities of everyday life. All KS2 and KS3 pupils benefit from regularly discussing and debating news, and developing their knowledge and understanding of global issues and the wider world outside the classroom.
Developing pupils’ critical literacy skills is a necessity in an era of social media, misinformation and ‘fake news’. It has never been more important for children to understand the world around them and to develop skills to question and critique what they read.
What does the research say?
The National Literacy Trust (NLT) ran an independent eight-week research project to investigate the impact of introducing First News and the reading activities into weekly reading provision at KS2, for 500 pupils in 15 primary schools across the UK.
In the first part of the research project, teachers introduced news to pupils and this was the main focus in reading sessions. In the second part, the teacher’s reading focus changed, but pupils continued to be news readers – reading the newspaper, taking part in the news activities and discussing the news in one reading session each week.
The research found that in classes reading and discussing news regularly in this way:
- Pupils made significantly more progress with their reading comprehension than expected, and developed more complex inference and deduction skills
- Pupils developed more confidence in their own reading, and were motivated to read more widely in their own time
More details of the research can be found in the summary report.
So why does reading news engage pupils?
1) It’s fact not fiction
The stories being reported in the newspaper every week are real and engage children in what’s happening in the world outside of school.
2) Pupils make personal choices
There are so many reasons why news reading fits the Reading for Pleasure agenda, for example:
- You don’t have to start reading a newspaper at the beginning –you choose where you start.
- You don’t have to read the whole newspaper – just the news stories that you find interesting.
- As a newspaper reader, on every page you make the choices about what you read. You scan the photos, headlines and lead paragraphs to decide which news stories you want to read and which you don’t.
3) There’s a real reason to discuss what you’ve read
Reading even a two-sentence news story can be the start of an in-depth discussion about an important real-life issue. This conversation could be with teachers and peers in class, or friends and family outside school. People might have come across the story from another news source, or not yet have heard about it. Children are then informing others about what is going on in the world and seeking their thoughts.
This discussion and feedback helps children appreciate and enjoy the point of reading – even though it may have started with such a simple beginning!
By reading news in this way, pupils are developing their reading skills and – at the same time – building their understanding of the rapidly changing world they are growing up in.
4) You can have an opinion – and have it heard
Children love forming opinions on news topics and having their thoughts heard.
Who agrees with you? Who disagrees and why? Do you form an opinion before or after you’ve talked to your friends? Pupils taking part in the weekly First News poll, either in the newspaper or voting in the iHub poll think about these things!
One simple question in the news is enough to start a fascinating discussion that is often carried on in the playground.