The New York Times: A Journalistic Institution Since 1851

Newspapers, cartoons, and editorials have a lot to offer your classroom.

By Ann Whittemore



The New York Times is known as one of the most concrete, direct, and informative news sources in the country; covering every historical event from the Lincoln Assasination, to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The paper itself is a historical document full of interviews, politics, commentary, and hard-hitting stories that can be used in the classroom in a variety of great ways.

As a way to celebrate the 162nd birthday of a beloved American newspaper, I thought I’d share some ways to use newspapers in the classroom, as well as some of the amazing 5-star lessons I’ve come across on my journey through educational cyberspace.

Newspapers as Tools

First, I’d like to explain why newspapers are great classroom tools. Newspapers are current and cover a wide variety of topics from social studies to economics to government and politics. They provide a wealth of informational text, can be utilized as a historic document, and encourage critical thinking and reading-comprehension skills. Sports statistics and stock market data can be used to practice math, political cartoons can be broken down for discussion and analysis, and they are great for keeping the class on top of current events.

Main Idea and Supporting Evidence

It is vital for our learners to be able to identify the main idea of an informational composition. They also need to be able to gather evidence that supports their ideas and assertions. Go on a scavenger hunt. The class should be broken into leveled reading pairs; each pair will hunt through an article in attempts to identify the main points. Once they have located their main points, they need to dive back in and find evidence that supports their assertion. I love the idea of a turn-of-the-century parlor discussion. Have the class circulate through several groups and discuss what they gleaned from the reading using their evidence to build strong discussion and verbal communication skills.

Fantastic Funnies                           

The New York Times always includes a sharp-witted and politically-poignant editorial cartoon to indulge its readers. Have upper graders get into groups and analyze a set of related editorial cartoons. The Opper Project and NIE “Newspapers in Education” have both produced really well formulated worksheets and lessons focused on critical thinking, textual analysis, understanding media, and government using nothing more than a solid editorial cartoon and a strong set of discussion questions. Younger students can develop the skill of writing dialogue using proper capitals and punctuation by giving each character in a cartoon a new set of phrases to say.

Write and Report

Newspapers are great because they house many of the skills we teach our learners every day, such as:

  • Punctuation
  • Quotations
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary
  • Dialogue
  • Sentence structure
  • Paragraph structure

People generally tend to have a good idea of how something should sound when it’s written by what they have read. After using newspapers in the classroom for a quarter, have learners start their own class paper. This can be done in a variety of ways and have any number of focuses. I had a colleague who had her class conduct a scientific weather survey every day of the school year. This became part of their class paper’s weather report, which was circulated once a week. Scientific observations were made; data was collected and analyzed, then described scientifically in their class paper. A class paper is also a good way to inform parents about what is happening in the class on a monthly basis. Have the class research, report, and review all the activities that they have experienced in a class, compose their paper and send it home. It’s also a great way to inform parents about upcoming events, class trips, and school activities or accomplishments.

Newspapers are wonderful classroom resources, they can be used to fit any subject, and help learners become knowledgeable readers and writers. The following are links will direct you to a series of resources that employ the paper.


Attack on Iraq

This lesson uses the New York Times to facilitate an understanding of current events involving the Middle East. Learners will create a detailed plan for creating, conducting, and analyzing a survey based on two provided articles. The articles are focused on events which occurred in 1998 but can easily be modified to fit current conflicts.

Let There Be Peace

Learners use New York Times articles to create storyboards for documentaries about individuals who have won the Noble Peace Prize. Links, procedures, discussion questions, and extension activities make this a 5 star resource.

Short and Sweet Science

Readers learn how to summarize scientific text and evaluate the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges in writing summaries. They select science-related articles from The New York Times and, with a partner, generate summaries.

American Imperialism

Critical analysis skills can be built in a variety of ways. Using editorial cartoons (both domestic and foreign) learners will consider how American Imperialism was perceived during the late 19th century. Critical thinking questions, political cartoons, and full procedure are all included.

Taking a Stand

The class considers propiganda as persuasive art. They analyze a political cartoon through a series of smart discussion questions. This worksheet includes two cartoons to discuss and analyze, great guiding questions, and background inforamtoin. A great way to get kids thinking about persuasion, art, and propiganda.