Read All About It! A Daily Newspaper Unfolds in East AM
By Todd Erickson, Head Teacher
Newspapers have informed, entertained and inspired people for over 400 years. East AM’s daily classroom newspaper, the East AM News, provided a yearlong platform for East AM children to share their experiences, ideas, questions and creativity. The East AM teachers launched the East AM News during the autumn quarter and continued the new tradition through the winter break, when children added their news to a take-home newspaper. As the newspaper became a part of our classroom culture, it thrived in the winter and spring quarters. Our daily newspaper welcomed participation from a wide range of children, including some of our more reserved, and bolstered our sense of community and connectedness through the daily sharing of the newspaper during our session-ending story time. It has also motivated children to explore and hone their communication skills, not only through letters and words but also through art, numbers and other symbols.
Bing classrooms often inspire and inform one another, with the East AM News serving as a recent example. Many East AM teachers knew the potency of newspapers from their paper-making experiences in other classrooms. After experimenting with newspapers during the summer of 2021, the East AM teachers committed to a daily newspaper as the new school year began. The physical production of the East AM News was a decidedly low-tech affair: a piece of white easel paper (24 inches tall by 18 inches wide) turned horizontally and folded in half, with the newspaper’s name and date written atop the first page. When children arrived in the classroom each day, they usually walked past a teacher sitting at the language table (the spot for exploration of letters, words and stories), which was the information-gathering center for the East AM News. The teacher’s question, “Do you have any news for the newspaper?” invited children to share whatever was on their minds at that moment. As children dictated their ideas to the teacher, they observed the teacher’s use of letters to represent their words. Those letters were assembled into words and sentences, which were then read back to the child as a thought or a series of thoughts. Even if a child was not yet interested in reading, there was great meaning in watching verbal ideas take shape on a piece of paper.
Of course, our classroom consisted of children whose development spanned the wide range of what we call emergent literacy, or the reading and writing experiences of children before they learn conventional reading and writing. Children could dictate a short sentence to the teacher about after-school plans, draw a picture that illustrates their news or write down some or even all of the words in their news. Teachers supported the process by sounding out the words, writing words down for children to copy or encouraging children to take guesses at writing the words. Teachers met children at their individual developmental level, allowing them to find the optimal means for sharing ideas and questions.
While the written word was an important feature of our newspaper, the spoken word was equally significant. Even before children delivered news to us, they first had to consider what it was that they wanted to communicate. It was common for parents to tell us that their child made plans to share a specific news item from home in the next day’s newspaper. As children then attempted to apply appropriate vocabulary and syntax while sharing their news, they further boosted their overall literacy. Similarly, listening to and making sense of the news from other children not only bolstered emergent literacy skills but also sharpened critical thinking and reflection abilities.
As is true of most young children with burgeoning literacy, the East AM children also employed visual means for sharing information and creativity in the newspaper. Kimia added her visual representation of a planet when she reported, “I saw Jupiter in a telescope. The red dots are the storms.” Meanwhile, Maddie Jo mixed colors together in the East AM News and told us, “Red and blue makes purple.” Near the end of the spring quarter, Olivia traveled to Atlanta and drew a picture of the city as a part of her news. In this way, the East AM News served as an opportunity for children whose expression stretched beyond words and moved into representational and even abstract art.
A regular feature of the East AM News was the weather. A child might head outside to gauge the weather and come back to share her new information, and sometimes she would go beyond words to convey the information. One fall morning, Eloise returned from an outdoor check of the weather to report, “It’s cold outside! It’s windy!” and then drew swirling blue lines to represent the wind. In the winter quarter, Aiden checked the weather on a teacher’s phone then wrote the number 68 followed by a capital “F” to tell his classmates that the temperature was 68 degrees Fahrenheit. We would also occasionally check the temperature throughout the morning to gauge any changes. At 8:30 one winter morning, William reported that it was “freezing cold” while Adam added that it was “shady.” An hour later, Beatrice added that it was “52 degrees right now. It will go to 60 degrees around like 2:00 pm-ish. On Friday, it will be, like, 68 degrees, a great time for summer.”
The East AM News not only profoundly bolstered emergent literacy but also the children’s sense of competence. Children knew they had a place that was ready and waiting for them to share their important knowledge or questions. By dutifully recording the children’s ideas, regardless of how they sounded to our adult ears, we validated them as individuals. And through the sharing of their news during story time, we allowed both the boisterous and the reserved children to be seen and heard.
In addition to bringing news from home, the children were also encouraged to offer news directly from the morning session. We asked them to record news from the “field” as they worked with teachers in different areas of the classroom to share the events that transpired that morning. Several children were also inspired to make their own newspapers. Some made papers during session, essentially becoming beat reporters, while others created their newspapers at home and brought in information from their families. To further strengthen the home/school connection, the teachers sent smaller newspapers (18 inches tall by 12 inches wide white easel paper turned horizontally and folded in half) home during the winter break, inviting children and their families to record anything children thought important—through words, drawings, photos or artifacts. We shared these newspapers with each other after the children returned to school in January.
Our classroom newspaper was also an excellent avenue for fostering connection between children. When a child shared that she was traveling to Lake Tahoe, some of her peers instantly related. Young children often bond through shared experiences and pursuits, which include trips taken, after-school adventures and favorite Bing activities—so the newspaper served as an excellent connection point for our cohort. Of course, as we learned more about each child, our classroom-wide interest in and support of that child also strengthened. When Kaiya shared in the spring quarter, “I went poop in the potty five times,” all of her classmates not only could relate but also became invested in Kaiya’s growing toileting triumphs. The children bravely and openly shared themselves and showed themselves through our newspaper, which in turn made us a tighter classroom community.
When the East AM teachers made the decision to commit to a year’s worth of daily newspapers, we had no idea how substantial an impact the East AM News would have on every member of our classroom. Our newspapers helped us to learn, think, express and grow as we chronicled a year in the life of our class.
News Quotes from Children
“I went outside and did ninja stuff eight times. Then I got tired and ate a taco.”
“I got a new dog named Pepper Darling. She’s cute and she really likes boys. She’s almost the size of an ant.” — George
“I had three birthdays! And then I’m gonna have four birthdays! The Halloween decorations are here. My mom and dad got married at the same time, at the same place.” — Adam
“I went to the zoo after lunch yesterday! I saw a lion and a construction site for a bigger place for lions.” — Emmeline
“I went to Tahoe. It was so fun! But we didn’t have our new car then.” — Rishi
“I love my mom and dad. When I grow up I’m going to be a dragon. When I get a lot taller I will get wings and a tail and claws.” — Leo
“I played tackle football, real soccer and real football. They call me Notre Dame and I did basketball and the construction work is done in 100 weeks.” — Will
“I’m going to visit my grandma. And then I’m going to visit my grandma AGAIN!” — Bowman
“My mommy gave me the best hot chocolate ever! It had no marshmallows, but it had whipped cream.” — Beatrice