The students in Karen Brinkmann’s fifth-grade class at Beaufort Elementary cheer for a lot of things. Monday it was the newspaper.
“What day is it today?” Brinkmann asked.
“Newspaper!” they shouted, throwing their arms in the air with excitement.
Brinkmann seemed even more enthusiastic than they were as she watched them get to work on their English assignments. That meant paging through the newspaper, talking with each other, discussing their ideas, sharing what they found . . .
Some teachers might consider the newspaper disruptive. Not Brinkmann.
“This is what I love,” she remarked with a broad smile. “This is the way I want my classroom to be.
“You hear them talking? This is what the newspaper does. You hear talking and laughter, communication, and that’s so important.
“They retain a lot this way.”
Brinkmann’s enthusiasm for the newspaper as a learning tool is one of the reasons why she was selected as this year’s Missourian In Education Teacher of the Year. Nominated by her principal, Monica Assareh, Brinkmann is “dedicated” to her students and giving them the best opportunities to learn.
“Student engagement is very high in her classroom,” Assareh noted in her nomination letter. “Karen also makes learning fun and truly cares about each of her students.”
Brinkmann, who has been teaching at Beaufort Elementary for 15 years, is a born-again user of The Missourian’s Newspaper In Education program. She had previously used the newspaper as a learning tool, but let it fall by the wayside as her class size grew steadily each year.
“And I wasn’t sure how to use it,” Brinkmann admits.
Then this past summer she attended a free workshop that The Missourian held to show teachers how the newspaper is a perfect fit with the new Common Core Standards.
“That inspired me to come back to it,” said Brinkmann, noting she learned about the workshop though a story in the newspaper.
“They reminded me how to use the newspaper correctly and how the newspaper covers every single subject that we cover at school.
“It made me question why I ever stopped using the paper.”
And despite having a large class this year — 28 students — Brinkmann said using the newspaper is actually making her job easier.
For starters, “they love it,” she said. But also . . . “there are so many things you can do with the newspaper, and with the big push for nonfiction (as part of the new Common Core Standards) this is a beautiful tool that they can use.”
The switch to Common Core Standards “is definitely a challenge,” said Brinkmann, “but it’s one all teachers can conquer. That’s what we do. We dig in.”
English, Math, More
Brinkmann uses the newspaper to teach several subjects. She likes using the newspaper’s ads and inserts, for example, to teach math lessons.
The day The Missourian visited, they were using the newspaper for an English lesson. The students were divided into groups and each assigned a different task.
One group was looking for nouns — common and proper — to cut out and paste on two pages of paper. In the end, they would make a game of their pages by showing them to the class and having the rest of the students figure out which page had common nouns and which had proper.
Another was looking for nouns and circling them in markers — red for people, blue for places, green for things and purple for ideas.
“Are you circling a lot of stuff?” Brinkmann asked as she moved around the room. “This is what I want to see.”
“Where are your circles?”
Two groups were finding an article in the paper, reading it to themselves, summarizing it to a fellow group member and then writing out their summary on paper.
And the last group was cutting out photos from the paper and writing their own captions.
For the rest of the story, which appeared in the December 7-8 Weekend Missourian, subscribe to The Missourian.
“You can summarize so many things just by looking at the picture,” said Brinkmann. “Pictures give so much detail, and often we skip the captions, but that gives some of the most important details.
“It’s one of their favorite things to do.”
Along with subject lessons, Brinkmann also encourages her students to play the Kid Scoop games featured every week in the paper. They can begin those once their assignment is finished, or if they run out of time, they can take it home.
“We have done the Kid Scoop online, too,” she noted.
“I want to use it more and more, and I really want to use Book Buzz,” she said.
“I would like for them to be creating their own newspaper based off of this newspaper, but that’s down the road. I think that would be a lot of fun.”
Once the students are finished using their newspapers for the week, they are able to take them home or Brinkmann makes sure they are recycled. Occasionally she passes them on to another classroom for their use in a lesson.
Brinkmann’s advice to other teachers who may shy away from the using the newspaper is to plan ahead.
“Look at it ahead of time. That’s the big thing. Always know what’s in the paper. I think that scared me a little bit too. You have to be careful of the articles sometimes . . . car accidents or things like that, if the kids might know the person.
“So we mainly focus on the People and Sports sections, but I always look through the lead section, like this Mike Matheny story (from the Nov. 23-24 issue) is really important. So I always look through it ahead of time.”
Recognizing Good Teachers
As the 2013 Missourian In Education Teacher of the Year, Brinkmann will receive a $100 award, a one-year home subscription to The Missourian, and a framed copy of this feature story.
The Missourian has been recognizing a Missourian In Education Teacher of the Year since 2003. Dawn Kitchell, The Missourian’s educational services director, said it’s just another way to recognize good teaching.
“Our Missourian In Education award recognizes teachers who use the newspaper in great ways, but I believe you won’t find a teacher who uses the newspaper who isn’t a great teacher,” Kitchell said. “So we’re recognizing some of the most outstanding teachers in our area communities.”
This year, more than 125 teachers in 42 area schools are participating in the Missourian In Education program. With help from community partners, The Missourian is delivering thousands of student newspapers every week.
Inside the newspaper so far this year students have learned about the Constitution, science, technology, engineering and math, famous Missouri journalists, the Emancipation Proclamation, flag etiquette, the history of Veterans Day, geography, good books through the monthly Book Buzz column, and in today’s issue, the Supreme Court ruling on the right to an attorney. They also have access to the weekly Kid Scoop feature and Kid Scoop Online.
This January, The Missourian will participate in the annual statewide reading project, Reading Across Missouri, by publishing an eight-chapter serial, “Lily’s Story,” about a search and rescue dog from Joplin who helped in the aftermath of the 2010 Joplin tornado.
In March, The Missourian will feature a series about America’s first ladies.
Past Missourian In Education Teachers of the Year are:
2003 — Lauri Link, Gerald Elementary.
2004 — Jennifer Hawkins, Edgar Murray School, St. Clair.
2005 — Sister Pat Gloriod, St. Vincent de Paul, Dutzow.
2006 — Jennifer Wirthwein, Washington Middle School.
2007 — Wynn Scheer, Fifth Street Elementary, Washington.
2008 — Ann Joyce, Our Lady of Lourdes, Washington.
2009 — Maria Kerr, Franklin County Special Education Cooperative, St. Clair.
2010 — Joan Obermark, Clearview Elementary, Washington.
2011 — Sheila Grgurich, St. John the Baptist-Gildehaus, Villa Ridge.
2012 — Linda Sentivany, Washington Middle School.