I have two classes one of 5th-7th graders and one of 8th-12th graders in which I use USA TODAY to strengthen the speaking and reading skills of my students. We do a shared reading activity where each student chooses an article of interest, summarizes it for the entire class and then shares his or her opinion on it. The other students give their input and add their opinions. This is a great exercise in strengthening their speaking and listening skills.
To strengthen their writing skills, I give them the opportunity to write creatively. They select an article to read, and then they write a ledger, a short story or an essay about it. Other times I cut out appropriate headlines from the paper and give them to my students, challenging them to write a short story based only on the headline.
We have designated DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read) for the last 10-15 minutes of class. I have a collection of USA TODAY articles for the students who find reading a book too intimidating. They are free to read as many articles as they can in the time allotted.