Classroom Magazines: More Than Just Shared Reading
Classroom Magazines are often overlooked and under-utilized as a valuable resource in an effective reading program. Here's how to make the best use of this source of high-interest non-fiction text across the curriculum!
by Mandy Yates
April 1, 2008
“Boys and girls, put your finger on the title. Who would like to read it? Billy?”
“Surviving in the Desert.”
“Great! Now who would like to read the first paragraph? Amy?”
I sat in the back of the room, observing one of the first classrooms I would be in as a young wide-eyed pre-service teacher. The teacher I was observing was reading through the latest issue of a glossy weekly classroom magazine.
Being so excited to simply be in a real classroom, I soaked up everything I could, including her approach to using the weekly magazine. At that time, I knew nothing about best practices or effective instruction. I thought the most important thing about teaching was the smell of a stack of fresh new worksheets still warm from the copy machine and creating “cutesy” bulletin boards.
Luckily, that all changed as I started teaching my own class, taking graduate classes, and reading professional literature. As I began to understand what mattered most about teaching reading, I slowly realized how great of a resource those weekly classroom magazines are.
Most teachers, including myself, have simply used the magazines as a shared reading and concluded with the activity that follows on the back. While shared reading is a component of a balanced literacy program, it is not the only piece. These wonderful resources can be utilized throughout many of the components of an effective reading program.
Usually, these magazines are a one-time read-through, and then they are sent home. You can get more “bang for your buck” if they are used multiple times for different reasons. In my classroom, my students keep their individual copy in a folder. This way they are easily accessible to the children when needed. I also keep laminated copies (of current and past issues) in a browsing box that is located in my classroom library. Students can read and reread their magazines during independent reading or they can be used during a guided reading session to demonstrate a strategy.
Using Snippets and Lifting the Text
Classroom magazines are a great piece of high-interest nonfiction text that is written on a level accessible to your students. Often I used to find myself searching for this type of short text to share with my students on the overhead to quickly and effectively demonstrate a strategy or a skill, without getting lost in the length of the text. I also found it difficult to find well-written nonfiction that wasn’t too far above my students. By “lifting” the text from the classroom magazines, I no longer waste time searching for pieces of such text.
Comprehension Strategies Lessons
The lessons that follow are examples of comprehension strategies and writing lessons. The lessons are numbered for organizational purposes only. They are not meant to be taught one directly after another. In Debbie Miller’s book Reading With Meaning, she cites an article written by David Pearson (and researchers Dole, Duffy, and Roehler.) From that article, "Developing Expertise in Reading Comprehension: What Should be Taught and How Should It Be Taught?" Debbie summarizes that “Teachers need to teach strategies explicitly and for surprisingly long periods of time, using well-written literature and nonfiction.” Teaching this way works well when using the Reader’s Workshop Approach. More information about Reader’s Workshop and explicit strategy instruction can be found in two wonderful books: Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis and Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller.
Lesson 1: Activating-Building-Revising Schema
Classroom magazines are a wonderful way to supplement your science and social studies curriculum with current up-to-date information. It also helps students understand how to activate, build, and revise their schema. Schema is what you already know. Before reading an article, have students “activate” their schema by talking about what they already know about the subject. Record this information on a chart. Tell the students that they are going to build their schema by reading the article. After reading, record new information that they have now built into their schema. Then tell the students that they are going to “revise” their schema, by going back and crossing off any information that was incorrectly activated at the beginning.
Lesson 2: Questioning
Explain to students that we naturally have many questions that we ask because we want to better understand topics. Using a classroom magazine article, model first how you would read and ask many questions. Choose another article to be read with the students. Plan for several stopping points throughout the article for students to stop and tell a partner or group questions that they are wondering so far. Lastly, have the students read an article independently and record their questions on sticky notes. You may want to have the students come together as a group to share their questions.
Lesson 3: Visualizing
When reading nonfiction texts, students will encounter the text feature of comparisons or similes. Explain to your students that nonfiction writers use these to help you get a better understanding or visual of what they are trying to convey. For example, instead of saying that the Goliath spider is 7 inches in diameter, students would be able to picture how big they are if they were being compared with something they are familiar with, such as a dinner plate. Give students examples of comparisons and have them illustrate by visualizing. Then, use your Time For Kids magazine to search for examples of comparisons.
Lesson 4: Inferring
Inference is a strategy that naturally goes hand in hand with science and social studies. When teaching inference the important thing for students to understand is that we take what we already know (our background knowledge and schema) and put it with clues from the text to make a good inference. To practice inferring, it’s good to start simple with riddles. Give the students short Who Am I? or What Am I? riddles to solve. After they solve the riddle, have them highlight the clues that helped them figure it out. Once they become comfortable with inferring, choose a classroom magazine article to read. Model how you can take the information that you gained to create your own riddle for someone else to solve. Then read a new article together and have your students try to write their own.
Students can also apply the strategy during independent reading. As they read an article they can make inferences and record them on sticky notes. During a sharing time, students can then share their inferences.
Determining Importance/summarizing with Poetry
Use Time for Kids to create a poem that actually hones in on the skills of summarizing and determining importance. The article, Animals on the Move, was used to model how to create a poem by using the most important details. Read the article with the students. After each section ask them to use a few words or a sentence to tell mainly what each section was about or what was most important about the section. Record the words on a chart. The following words were recorded:
Migration; Going South; Flock of Geese; Turtles Swimming to the Atlantic; Gray whales on their long journey to Mexico.
Show students how to arrange words to create a poem. Also, some repetitive words could be added to make it sound more like a poem.
Migration Going south Flock of Geese Moving, Flying, Moving Turtles swimming to the Atlantic Moving, Swimming, Moving Gray whales On their long Journey to Mexico Moving, Moving, Moving
Classroom magazines are more than a source of enjoyable shared reading. Enjoy employing them multiple times for strategies such as inferring, questioning, connections, visualizing, and summarizing with poetry, and more!
Editor's note: Please use the Discussion feature below to discuss this article and add your ideas and innovative techniques for making the most of classroom magazines as an effective instructional tool.
Mandy Yates is a first grade teacher at John B. Dey Elementary School in Virginia Beach VA. She has a Masters in Reading and is currently working on an MFA in Writing for Children from Spalding University. She also teaches part time reading classes at Old Dominion University. In her spare time she loves to read, write, and create resources to help other teachers. You can find free teacher resources at her website www.firstgraders.org.