Teacher Feature: Four Year Old Classroom Explores Newspapers

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Emma Cowan-Young and Amy Schoolcraft  in the Cinnamon Bear classroom. This class of four year olds began the year with a unit on stories and the different ways they can be communicated. I was able to join them during their lesson on true and factual stories. Emma and Amy decided to explore this topic through newspapers and a visit to the National Gallery. Below you will find a reflection from the team and images from their lesson.

CB Cover


What were your topics of exploration? Why did you choose them? Where did they come from?

Currently we are exploring stories and all the different ways they can be told (books, storytelling, plays, movies, etc.).  I chose the topic of newspapers for this lesson so we could learn about how not all stories are pretend; some stories are about true events. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to expose the class to newspapers, because unfortunately, they are becoming more scarcely used as people switch to receiving their news digitally.

Why and how did you choose the visit?

I chose to visit Cezanne’s portrait of his father reading the newspaper, because it illustrates the topic of study and offers the opportunity for the children to interpret what he is reading about. I also knew the painting was large and easy to see, which is always a deciding factor in my visits. If the object is difficult to view the kids will be preoccupied with craning their necks rather than listening to what you have to say about the object.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)

My learning objectives for this lesson were to introduce my class to newspapers and the true stories found within. I wanted the class to be able to distinguish between real and pretend stories and the different mediums they can be written. An additional objective I had for this lesson was to communicate that you can learn a lot about the topic being written about through visual literacy. Since the vast majority of the class is not reading yet, I wanted to empower them to “read” the newspaper through the images.

What was most successful about your lesson?  How did the lesson reach your objectives to expand the topic? What was successful in terms of your preparation and logistics?

I thought overall the lesson was a success. I think the most successful part of the lesson was the follow-up activity where the class sorted through actual newspapers to cut out headlines and pictures they found compelling to make a collage. Because newspapers are not a format they are usually exposed to, I think looking through the pages of the newspapers made them feel a like “adults.” As I watched my class sort through the newspapers, they were conversing with each other about what they thought the articles were about based on the pictures, and saying things such as, “that really happened!” I feel as though they truly grasped the objectives I was trying to communicate for this lesson. My hope going forward is that they will be interested in newspapers outside the classroom (on the Metro, on the weekends with mom and dad, etc.), and they will not be intimidated by them because they are usually a format used by adults.

What could you have done differently to better achieve your objectives and expand the topic? What was challenging regarding logistics? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

An afterthought I had for this lesson was that I could have taken my class to see archived newspapers stored in the Smithsonian. I feel like this would have offered up an opportunity to compare a decades old newspaper to its contemporary and see what stories were included then versus now.

A recommendation I have for a teacher trying out this lesson is to take a quick peek through the newspapers before unleashing them to your class. As much as I am for exposing children to the newsprint format, there are some news stories that they do not need exposure to just yet.


Here are a few images from their unit on newspapers:


Their lesson began at the National Gallery of Art. Emma gathered the group in front of The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement”  by Cézanne, Paul. She asked the group to start by looking at the painting and talking about what they noticed. The group immediately identified the newspaper and Emma passed around a newspaper she brought along for the visit. She asked the group what type of stories could be found in a newspaper. The children had lots of great thoughts including “stories from around the world.” Emma explained that stories in newspapers are true. She also explained that there are often pictures that go with the stories to help people get a more complete idea about the what the author is trying to explain. Emma had the group look at an image in the newspaper and try to speculate what they thought the story was about. They then tried to hypothesize what the man in the painting was reading about in his newspaper. To conclude the museum experience she read the group The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka. The children loved the story and had a lengthy conversation about which version of the story was really true.

DSCN3796When they returned to the classroom, Emma brought out stacks of newspapers for the children to cut up and create a collage.

DSCN3800The children had a great time practicing their cutting skills and describing the different shapes, letters, and images they found during the process. 
Some children were very careful to cut out individual articles and boxes of text.

Emma spent time talking with each child about their collage. She asked them why they selected certain items and what someone could “read” from their selection of images.

This class had a wonderful time learning about newspapers. Check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more ideas from their unit on stories! See you next week!