Let’s face it - in today’s day and age, information is merely at our fingertips. We live in what's known as the digital age or information age, and everything is so accessible. At the same time, there are so many families who are lacking books in their homes - specifically with informational text. Further, many families nowadays who do not take their children to places where they can build core background knowledge, such as museums or libraries on a regular basis. According to Neuman, Kaefer, and Pinkham, "There is a virtual consensus that background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension. Put simply, the more you know about a topic, the easier it is to read a text, understand it, and retain the information. Previous studies (Alexander, Kulikowich, & Schulze, 1994; Shapiro, 2004) have shown that background knowledge plays an enormous role in reading comprehension (Hirsch, 2003)."
As teachers, we owe it to our students to teach them current events in order to build their background knowledge. However, it is easier said than done. In order for our students to fully grasp the skills and content that they are learning, the content needs to be relevant to them, enabling them to build a connection with the material being taught. What better way to do this than by leveraging technology in the classroom, using an interactive, multi-sensory learning approach? Fortunately, News-O-Matic, an app developed by Press4Kids, can help us reach that goal.
News-O-Matic, the daily newspaper for kids on iOS (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/news-o-matic-edu-nonfiction/id905215549?mt=8) Android (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.press4kids.newsomatic.schoolpro&hl=en), and any web enabled device (https://newsomatic.org), provides an interactive, engaging multi-sensory learning experience as children have the opportunity to learn about what is happening in the world around them. Multi-sensory learning involves the use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways simultaneously to enhance memory and learning of written languages, thereby strengthening comprehension skills. The app includes interactive, hands on activities that are comprised of many visual aids, audio files, and extension activities such as games, drawing, and even sending mail to News-O-Matic's Editor in Chief, Russ. In addition to current events, News-O-Matic has weekly special editorials such as "Real Jobs" and "What do you Think?" which motivates kids to think for themselves, form opinions and share it with the News-O-Matic community of readers.
Because each student learns differently, teachers can customize the articles each day according to each student's reading ability. Students are able use the content independently at their own pace and can interact with the content and extension activities. The students will have the same articles to read, yet they will be written according to their own Lexile level. Therefore, the students will not be able to discriminate between their articles and those of their peers. Every article is bilingual, Spanish/English, with a read to me in both languages, giving ELL students an opportunity for practice and better comprehension. By using News-O-Matic, the student have become engaged and intrinsically motivated to learn about the world around them.
Second, the lessons are very content rich. In general, students have more difficulty comprehending informational texts. According to E.D. Hirsch, keynote speaker at the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Conference in 2008, “In the USA, children are being denied of basic knowledge that allows them to participate in society.” Hirsch explains the importance of a rich content curriculum in the early grades, as specific relevant background knowledge is necessary for language comprehension. We need to teach general core knowledge for general comprehension of material. Rich content yields rich language. Not only does News-O-Matic provide the core background knowledge using rich content, but it also includes a formative assessment component on each day's featured articles. This includes skills such as: summarizing, comparing and contrasting, prediction, sequencing, and making inferences. A child psychologist vets every article to ensure appropriateness.
Each day at 6:30 pm EST, I receive an email from News-O-Matic that includes information about the articles for the following day, a teacher’s guide, and assessment questions on the articles for the students. In addition to the Teacher’s Guide email, there are multiple-choice assessment questions in every article, correlated to the Standards (for those who use it). Teachers can add open-ended custom questions targeted at individual students, groups or the entire class. The students are excited to read the featured articles and participate in the related extension activities whether it is at home or at school. Through their social media channels, News-O-Matic has a strong educator community who shares how they incorporate News-O-Matic in their classrooms. Every Tuesday News-O-Matic posts the "Tuesday Tips." News-O-Matic is being read in 148 countries, which enriches the ‘NewsRoom’ with voices from all over the world. I have never seen students so excited to read about current events.
Here are some testimonials from elementary school students who are using News-O-Matic.
“I think we've got some teachers who can't live without it:)”, J. Wilson, Technology Integrator, MN
“We truly enjoyed reading your amazing news articles!”, D. Vonder-Hoya, 5th grade teacher, TX
“We learned about News-O-Matic in December and it quickly became one of our students favorite ways to spend their time reading. Boys, girls, gifted and talented, special ed, readers, and non-readers all become motivated and engaged to read, and DAILY.”, N. Brucki and V. Ruane, 5th grade teacher, NJ
“I use News-O-Matic all the time in class and my students absolutely LOVE it. I love that it is so kid friendly and a great way for some current events “, T. Schrader, 3rd grade teacher, CT
“I can honestly say that News-O-Matic has been the best “new thing added to my room this year. The kids thoroughly enjoy the App, and love to share back ”, P. Schultz, 3rd grade teacher, CA
“The combination of reading/listening introduces new oral and reading vocabulary.”, Yvonne Lovelock, Resource/Literacy
“I use the highlight tool to reinforce main ideas and supporting details. Using one color for main idea and another provides quick formative assessment!”, Dina Linzer, ELL Teacher
“The opinion articles inspire debates and interest to explore other resources in search of support for arguments.”, Renee Keeler, Elementary School Teacher
So what news are you going to read about in News-O-Matic today?