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NEWS LITERACY: a model for creating critically literate news readers

First News Education brings news literacy into classrooms, supporting teachers to enable their pupils understand, accurately question and discuss the news they digest; helping transform those pupils into positive, but critical, newspaper readers.

First News’ Head of Education, Nic Smallshaw, and Dr Frances Bodger at UCL Institute of Education have developed the ‘Critically Literate Newspaper Reader’ model. It is a means  by which teachers can introduce critical news reading into weekly learning. It is an adaptation of Hilary Janks’ Four Interrelated Roles of the Critical Reader (2014), which was based on Freebody and Luke’s 2007 model.

A critically literate newspaper reader is …

In a world of posts, likes and shares, misinformation is everywhere. But this doesn’t mean that all news is the enemy; quite the contrary in fact. An understanding of accurate news can aid children in really understanding the world around them and developing skills to question and critique what they read. Being an informed, literate and thoughtful newspaper reader can open up young people to the facts in this world, and the opinions … and the misinformation.

Knowing the news code

News reporting comes with its own rules, terminology and traditions. If children know that news is organised into sections, they will know where to head for the news topics that interest them. Understanding the role of headlines, lead paragraphs, captions and quotes (and so on) in news reporting will give pupils the skills required when they need to write in a journalistic style.

Display resources and activities

  1. What’s on the front page of a newspaper?
  2. What’s in a newspaper report?
  3. News terminology cards
  4. Newspaper section cards
  5. Section sleuths – an activity to help children learn the sections of a newspaper

Building a news reading community

This is far easier than you might think as young people are keen to be in the know.  Start by talking about the news on a weekly basis – each week’s First News will provide an entry point to help you do this. Ask pupils to find stories in the newspaper that interest them or are important to their community and start classroom discussions. Encourage them to voice their opinions on the week’s news poll (found in the newspaper and the iHub)  and your news reading community will grow and grow.

Resource: News Reviewer Speaking Frame

Developing comprehension of news stories

To fully comprehend and unpack a news story, pupils need to use their developing reading strategies, combined with their previous knowledge of, and interest in, the topic being reported. Our weekly, differentiated news comprehension activities support pupils with this process, helping them not just read or digest the news, but ensure they have truly unpacked, unravelled and understood the complexities of the text they are reading. 

Take a look at the News Comprehension Activity Sheets

Understanding and analysing how news works

Where does the news story they’re reading actually come from? Understanding that journalists put ‘The News’ together and make choices on what they report is an important developmental step for pupils and will provide the grounding for them developing their critical news literacy skills. 

Editorial Team Meeting Activity: CHOOSING THE NEWS

In this activity, children have a turn at being the First News Editorial Team. They’ll need to discuss the week’s news stories and decide what they think should make the news and feature on the front cover and in the main headlines page.

  1. Teacher Information
  2. Activity Introduction (for classroom whiteboards)
  3. News stories for the Editorial Team Meeting
  4. Flatplan for the Editorial Team Meeting