What I really value about USA TODAY is that my students interest level is piqued and their level of self-esteem is increased. I see it raised when they increase their knowledge base and are able to carry on a more intelligent conversation about what is happening in the world. The more we use USA TODAY, the more I notice my students talking about current events and other stories in the news. When students feel knowledgeable, they feel powerful, and therefore more confident in their ability to communicate and to succeed.
We get the paper and start by going over some vocabulary words and discussing the headlines or captions appearing in that days newspaper. I have students scan the paper and pick out an article, read it and then share it with the class. Most of the time each student chooses his/her own article. However, if two students choose the same article, after they have both given their summaries to the class, we evaluate how their analyses differed and ask them why they each felt different points were the important aspects of the article.
Sometimes we have contests where each group of students chooses one particular article, reads it and then compiles a list of 10 questions for the other group. Then we establish a time limit for the other group to search through the opposite groups articles to seek out the answers. This is a very motivating activity that everyone works hard at and enjoys.
We also have scavenger hunts, where I write down 10 items found in the paper and have students search for the items throughout the paper.
I use USA TODAY in my English and reading classes to help students pass the science, social studies, math and English exams. If they pass three of their four exams, students are able to earn an eighth-grade local diploma, rather than staying in an IEP, Individual Education Program. This is very important to my students because a local diploma increases their chances of success in high school and their likelihood of receiving a high school diploma.