Why newspapers?

Newspapers are a really useful resource for English teachers - they're cheap, disposable, constantly renewed, always topical, are mainly a written medium, have features which fit perfectly into several National Curriculum targets

Reading: show understanding of the ways in which meaning and information are conveyed ... select and synthesise a range of information from a variety of sources ...
ICT: organise, refine and present information in different forms and styles for specific purposes and audiences ... select information needed for different purposes ...
Writing: appropriate choices of style in a variety of forms ... paragraphing and correct punctuation are used to make the sequence of events or ideas coherent and clear ...
All of these can be easily worked on using newspapers either online or on paper and the following structured exercises can either stand alone or be a first stage towards examining real newspapers and ultimately writing your own.
Linguistic change (3) is a topic which can be addressed while studying the Shakespeare and the pre-twentieth century texts at GCSE, but here is an example of non-literary change over 100 years.
The language possibilities are endless - looking at form and structure, identifying fact and opinion, news and sensationalism, personalities and issues. Which papers appeal to which readers - how do they do so, what linguistic, persuasive and design tricks do they use. Comparing the treatment of the same story in different papers (1) is a classic task which can be made easier by choosing a suitable simple example at the first stage before trying it hot off the press.
Writing in a variety of styles (2) is addressed in an exercise of reporting an incident (4), giving an eye-witness account (5) and also describing people appropriately (6).
Writing to a word or time limit (7) is useful practice and a challenge which many students rise to.
Proof reading (8) is both a competitive exercise and a necessary skill, not yet made redundant by modern spell checkers.
Try the following lessons suitable for Years 7-11 and ideal for mixed ability Year 9.
1. Sacked! Two newspaper reports compared. 5. Eye-witness Accounts
2. Newspaper Styles 6. Describing People
3. Change in the Cambridge Chronicle 7. Writing to a Word or Time limit
4. Report It! 8. Proof reading
Online newspaper resources:  
BBC News Excellent news service, searchable, many related articles.
Direct Gov  UK public services all in one place
The White House (go to What's New for up to date news and archives of past news; go to Publications for Presidential Addresses and Press Releases)
Ananova News service which can also be available on your mobile
Electronic Telegraph  
The Times  
The Guardian  
The Paper Boy (6173 newspapers from 150 countries)
British Media Online All national and regional UK newspapers publishing online, plus news portals, magazines and TV / Radio news sites.

Teachers with appropriate access to ICT resources might encourage students to produce either a desk-top published newspaper, taking part in one of several News Day activities arranged by national newspapers, or even produce an online multi-media newspaper - see the BBC news pages as an example.

These lessons are written by Duncan Grey