I was previously asked to put into writing how I used USA Today in my classroom and whether it worked well. I used it as a textbook supplement for all my RDG courses last semester. Students were asked to pick up a copy to bring to class, where they read self-selected articles independently for the first 10 minutes of each class. After reading they filled out a Reading Journal for which they received a daily participation grade.

We then held a short class discussion about a few of the articles volunteers gave a brief summary of their article followed by their take on the ramifications of a news event and how it applied to their own lives, plus discussion of unknown vocabulary. During Midterm Focus Groups, when students were asked to evaluate class content and teaching methods, students overwhelmingly approved of using newspapers in place of a standard textbook.

I heartily recommend continuing funding for this or a similar program for the following reasons:

1. Increased student motivation to read daily. High student approval ratings of newspaper format. Students usually took paper home and read more.
2. Lively classroom discussions.
3. Decreased cost to students for textbook purchases.
4. Hands-on application of reading skills (especially critical thinking and vocabulary development using context clues) as opposed to a more theoretical textbook-based approach.
5. Vocabulary appropriate for developmental students. Many graphics used.
6. Most importantly, students were exposed to national and international news and expected to synthesize information and relate it to the “big picture”.

I should also note that this type of more informal reading was complemented by an online curriculum that focused on the Reading Competencies (My Reading Lab) and a reading workbook that dealt with the academic-style writing found in college textbooks (Longman Textbook Reader). I also know other reading faculty? used USA Today extensively in their classes.

Gene Gardner
Professor of Developmental Reading
St. Louis Community College

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