Magazines in the Classroom

I recently was contacted by someone wanting to donate to my classroom their entire collection of National Geographic magazines from 1964 to 2014. That's 600 issues spanning 50 years of history. I was super excited about the prospect. I could think of plenty of ways to use them in my own classroom. I asked if I could break up the collection and if he minded if I asked other teachers I knew if they wanted some of the set. I am always happy to make another teacher's day.

I drove down to get them, and I felt like a kid at Christmas when I brought the boxes into my office and finally got them open. Of course I kept a few that I thought the girls would be interested in, mainly anything with dinosaurs. And of course the Apollo 11 one from 1969, because how could I miss that opportunity. 

Special delivery! The man even donated a new class pet for one of our newcomers classes. And quite a few laughs in the office as I might have screamed a bit. 

(Yep, that's a southern devil scorpion, probably about full-grown)

There was a bookstore in Houston that used to donated boxes of old magazines to teachers that I used to get all sorts of magazines from. I used them for a variety of activities. I had a handful of Life magazines from the 1960s and 1970s that my students always enjoyed looking at. When they were born in the 1990s and even in the last few years I started having students born after 2000. These time periods just seem so foreign to them. I know in this digital age it is easy to pull up images on a computer screen, but I feel there is something to be said for the usefulness of magazines in the classroom.

So I thought I'd quickly share some ways I used them in my room.
  1. For Visuals - I talk over and over about the importance of visuals. Magazines provide tons of visuals to support building background knowledge for content and vocabulary learning.

  2. As part of your classroom library - magazines like National Geographic make great additions to a classroom library. Even younger students and students with lower language proficiency levels can appreciate the pictures.

  3. As part of a Science/Social Studies learning center - magazines like National Geographic provide plenty of visuals and and maps to support student learning. 

  4. As mentor texts - there are a variety of non-fiction articles to read, and use as a guide for non-fiction writing

  5. As a reading text - Magazine articles provide short texts that can be used to practice a variety of skills, especially summarizing, which can be a big task for English language learners. I used to laminate interesting articles and organize them into a reading crate for students if they finished work early. 

  6.  For visual writing prompts - This could look different ways. First, if there is a really interesting picture students could make inferences about it and use it as a visual writing prompt. Second, if it is a magazine that you don't mind students cutting, they could create collages to make their own picture of whatever the topic is and then use that as a spring board for writing. For lower proficiency levels labeling parts of a picture with words or phrases is writing. (this can also be used for speaking practice too.)

  7. For looking for rhetorical devices - the non-fiction writing in magazines offers a variety of examples of different rhetorical devices for students to identify and practice with.

  8. For discussion/debate - magazine articles can provide great practice for English language learners to discuss what they read and maybe even have a debate. Current events can be great ways to spark discussion and debate.

  9. For language practice - I had a stack of pictures cut out from magazines that I used with my newcomers and I would ask things like: what is he doing? to practice present continuous verbs. Or I'd ask them to describe the picture depending on vocabulary we were practicing. For example when we learned about family vocabulary with my newcomers I would ask them to imagine the people in pictures were a family and have them describe their relationships.

  10. Comparisons - magazines can be useful for comparing two people, two pictures, two situations, or even two sides of the same story. No matter whether this is used with inferences with pictures, or by sharing two articles the skill of comparing and contrasting is another important skill for students.

  11. To practice questioning - magazines can be a great tool to discuss questioning, because we naturally ask questions to learn more about topics we don't understand.
I'd love to hear how others use still use them.

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