Did you hear about the taxi that exploded at Buona Vista station? How about President Trump’s supposed visit to North Korea? Which of these are facts? And which are, to use a now oft-quoted term by a certain administration, “alternative facts”? In the world we live in today, the processing of information is not always so straightforward because of how, with the help of social media, almost anybody can be the one to break the latest news on a subject of interest. This is where critical thinking becomes so important and is a skill many English examinations seek to test, especially in the upper levels. Read on to find out how we can use the humble newspaper (or news app) to hone that skill and many more.
Activity #1: Fact v Opinion
The visual text segment of the PSLE often tests a child’s ability to pick up information and use it accurately for the purpose of answering the given question. Get your child to practise that process of discerning which pieces of information are facts and which are opinions - usually of advertisers - by playing a game of Fact v Opinion.
Simply flip open the papers and read through the headlines together. First person to say ‘Fact’ or ‘Opinion’ after the headline is read aloud (you can take turns to read it so it’s fair for everyone), wins the round. As a rule, advertorials which are paid articles meant to look like newspaper articles are typically opinions, while facts simply report the state of the world - which should dominate most of the newspaper.
As you play the game, not only will you and your child get a healthy dose of current affairs for the day, you’re actually also exercising your critical thinking skills and giving your child an opportunity to hone her reading skills for the oral examination!
Activity #2: Photo Match!
In a bid to capture the attention of its readers, most newspapers offer not just exciting headlines, but accompanying pictures. How can we take advantage of this great feature?
For this activity, you need to match the picture to the correct headline! Cut out the pictures and their corresponding headlines and then scramble them. This activity would illustrate that a tangible link to the picture must be seen in the headline either by a word or phrase or event.
Bearing in mind that the composition segment essentially requires this ability to draw links between the helping pictures and the given topic in order for your child to score, why not let your child practise this skill in a fun way, with a resource that you regularly have at your fingertips? Ask your child why he or she chose that headline for that picture? What was the link? Which parts of the picture and heading linked to each other?
This activity is a powerful lesson in coherence, which is yet another concept and skill often needed in the upper levels of education, and in life of course!
What would match this headline?
Certainly not this picture of a Monster Truck!
More likely this picture showing ships! (Maritime = connected with the sea)
As headlines are very often the essence of the full length article, learning how to construct them can be a helpful lesson in summary skills.
This time, instead of having your child match the headlines to the picture, you can up the ante by having your child match the headline to the article itself. Now go easy on this one. Bear in mind the reading level of your child and start off by picking shorter articles at the beginning before slowly working your way up to the more mid-length pieces. The content of the article matters too! Picking something more relatable in topic would allow your child to understand the issue at hand better and therefore be better able to match the headlines to the correct write-up.
Short of time or want to change things up a little? You could pick just one article and separate the headline from it. Then, cut up the headline into its constituent words, mix it up, and get your child to string the words together until they put together a headline that matches what they have read from the article.
We hope these suggested activities have helped give you more ideas on how an everyday resource like the newspaper can be a great place to start in helping your child master important thinking skills to do with not just the English examinations, but the world around them. Leave us a comment to let us know how these go with you and your child or share with us some ideas of your own!
About the author: Karina is a stay-at-home-mum to her two babies, with a keen interest in the stuff of languages, ignited no less by her studies as a linguistics major in university and her prior experience teaching at the secondary level.