Though we've found faster, more efficient ways of consuming information, teens may not know that people used to read the newspaper several times a day in order to stay up-to-date on the news. Reading, watching, or listening to the news is how our society learns about what is going on now, and how we eventually remember, learn, and teach our history. Show your teen the connection between making history and writing it by editing a newspaper from the past! This activity is written for groups, so your child can be part of an “editorial staff” rather than do all the work himself!
What You Do:
- Have the “staff” decide on a time and place. This can be from any time in history, and even from another country if they wish.
- Have the group divide into teams: one team can work on the arts and entertainment section, another science and technology, world news, business, etc.
- Have them choose section editors if they wish, or they can peer edit when the time comes.
- Next, have each team member research the time period. Many major newspapers have online archives – some date back a hundred years or more. If the group has chosen a very early date, a trip to the local library may be in order. Libraries often have digital copies of pre-newspaper documents or hard copies of old papers. Plus, they'll have plenty of resource books on the time period itself.
- Encourage each writer to take notes on what was happening in the world at the time, paying special attention to things that relate to their team's focus. Make sure they know to take notes, not to copy stories down word for word – that's plagiarism!
- Now it's time to write! Have each member of the staff write a short news story. These can be on real events that they learned about in their research, or hypothetical events based on what they learned about the culture of the time. For instance, if your newspaper is from the the 1920s, a world news writer could write an accurate account of Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic. If they're reporting from the Renaissance, an entertainment writer could write about a sold-out art show from an emerging talent named Da Vinci that was held at a hip downtown gallery, and all the major players on the Florence art scene attended (hey, it's hypothetical!) Make sure they use key details learned in their research, especially if they're going a funny or satirical route.
- Have each staffer create a headline for their story and find an image to accompany it. They can either track down a relevant photo on the Internet, or provide an illustration.
- Next, edit! Have your staff trade articles with another member of their team, or turn them in to an editor. Encourage them to focus on factual and grammatical corrections, and discuss changes in content with the writer.
- Arrange the stories on a page in a layout program like InDesign or Quark, or do it the old-fashioned way by pasting them onto the page by hand.
- Print out several copies or make photocopies and distribute! Read all about it!
This activity isn't just an exercise in history, it also teaches kids about real issues that come up in newspaper and magazine publishing: how differences of opinions, cultures and ideas among a staff can influence the overall tone of a publication, and influence the information that we eventually understand as history.
Jody Amable is an Assistant Editor at Education.com. She has previously worked as a camp counselor, and spent her college years hosting birthday parties for kids at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. She has a degree in Journalism from San Francisco State University and writes for local blogs, magazines and weeklies in her spare time.