Newspapers are wonderful resources for the classroom. I have used them with my students to analyze the articles during current events and reading instruction. I have even used newspapers for papier-mâché when we made our rainforest animals. One of my most memorable activities involved using newspapers to make free-standing doorways as part of a team building activity. Who knew that newspapers could be used as an awesome cooperative group activity!
This idea came from a college course I took for credits beyond my Master’s Degree. In fact, some of the best team building activities that I experienced have come from my post-graduate courses. There was one course where the instructor had us work in groups to make the tallest tower with dry spaghetti, gum balls, and masking tape. As my group worked together to carefully stick our spaghetti into our gum balls and build our architectural masterpiece, my attention was drawn to the progressive group across the way. This group used only a few gum drops and spaghetti for their base. They taped the remainder of their spaghetti end to end with masking tape until it reached the ceiling. My mind was blown! At that moment I was in awe as a student and as a teacher. This group showed me the value of cooperative problem solving. My group was so focused on building the structure that we missed the end goal: build the tallest structure.
The same thing occurred in another class when I was first introduced to the “Freestanding Newspaper Doorway.” The goal was to make a doorway that all of the group members could move through without destroying the door. Group members who were creative thinkers realized that the doorway did not need to represent an actual doorway in height. It just needed to be wide enough to accommodate everyone in the group. Once I experienced this activity, I knew it was a great activity to use in my classroom.
I would spend the summer saving newspapers and gathering them from family members. I have used this activity on the first day of school with my students in grades 2 through 5. Each year I was always surprised by the newspaper doorways my students designed. I introduced the activity by explaining to my students that I wanted to see how they worked together in groups. Some years I organized my students randomly into groups, and during other years, I had them work together based on their table groups. I then explained the task with three very important guidelines:
- The doorway had to stand on its own;
- All group members had to be able to move through the doorway;
- The only materials they could use were newspapers and masking tape.
As you can imagine, my students had many questions about how they should move through the doorway, and if they could use the masking tape on floor. Once I confirmed the tape situation, I explained to my students that it was up to them to figure out how to move through the doorway. It was amazing to see how my students built their newspaper doorways and organized their demonstration.
So if you want to put your students’ creativity to the test, add some freestanding newspaper doorways to your classroom.