For the classroom


100 Ways to use the newspaper

Cartoon Kit extras

(A Week with Polly)



100 ways to use the newspaper


1. Begin a vocabulary list of science words found in the Mercury.
Record the spelling, meaning and the use of each word. Some examples might be: exploration, narcotics, energy, pollution, preventative, analysis, comet, weather, antibiotic, invention, alcoholism, theory, artificial, transplant, medicine etc.

2. Using the Mercury, collect advertisements for products that were not available
20 years ago. Can you identify the scientific advances that have made this product possible?

3. Find newspaper articles, advertisements, etc., about equipment that will help conserve energy such as storm windows or home insulation. What claims are made about saving?

4. Find a picture of an animal that you would like to be! Identify the animal by its genus and species then write an article pretending you are that animal.

5. Make a "first" notebook. Use newspaper articles about science "firsts" or discoveries.

6. Make a scrapbook of pictures and news stories about conservation. Look for articles

about hunting and fishing seasons, tree planting, energy crisis, etc.

7. Make a poster from pictures, advertisements and articles showing how machines help people do different things.

8. Check today's weather map. Find the longitude and latitude of the regional city with the highest temperature and the capital city with the lowest temperature. Make a graph that illustrates how many cities have a clear, cloudy or rainy forecast.

9. Find articles in your newspaper about areas that have experienced severe weather. Discuss how stories such as these can help us prepare for weather emergencies.

10. Using the movie listings in the film section, count the number of movies advertised in one theatre according to ratings G, PG, M, M 15+ and R. Make a pie graph that represents the number of movies in each ratings group expressed as a percentage.

Newspaper Knowledge

11. According to the index, what pages are the following found on: classified ads, sports, editorials, local news, weather, the crossword puzzle?

12. Find the following information: the telephone number you would call and the starting weekly cost for a home delivered subscription to your newspaper. The name of the editor and publisher of the Mercury. A comic strip showing a working woman. The score from a local sporting event. The names of three wire services used by your newspaper.

13. Clip and label an example of each of the following: index, byline, cutline, dateline and headline.

14. Find a newspaper article that is about each of the following: a meeting of a government agency, a press conference, a disaster or unexpected happening, the schools.

15. Find five stories from different suburbs in Hobart. Then find five stories from
different states in Australia and five stories from different countries. Locate each of these cities, states and countries on a map.

16. Project yourself into societies in which there are no newspapers. Make a list of all the functions provided by the newspaper, including such things as providing news, serving as an advertising medium, social announcements, upcoming events, critical reviews, etc. How would each of these functions be met in a society without newspapers?

17. Scan the Mercury and name some of the rounds covered by reporters. If you were a reporter, what round would you like to cover and why?

18. Make a chart showing examples of the vocabulary variations that appear in different sections of the Mercury. For instance, the jargon used by the food editor and sports editor would probably be quite different.

19. In the Mercury, find examples of editorials that are written to: inform the reader, interpret the news for the reader, entertain the reader, and influence the reader.

20. Use the classified section to buy materials or hire services to help you cross the following barriers: a snake pit, a barbed wire fence, a 3m wall, a 9m deep moat with snapping crocodiles, an angry giant. Compare your selected products and services with your classmates.

Language Arts

21. Use the front page of the Mercury to draw a circle around every blend. Make a list of all the blends you find.

22. List all the different punctuation marks used in a news article. Read the articles aloud and notice the influence of your voice in determining the place of punctuation.

23. Is a photo really worth 1000 words? Cut a photo out of the Mercury. Write a new caption and article about the action going on in the photo.

24. Find newspaper examples of paragraphs written in present, past and future tenses.

25. Circle all the singular nouns and pronouns in a news article in red and all plural nouns and pronouns in blue.

26. Identify as many sets of antonyms, homonyms and synonyms as you can by scanning the headlines in the Mercury.

27. Collect pictures from the Mercury that show different facial expressions. Label each picture with descriptive words.

28. Select three headlines from the Mercuryand rewrite them as complete sentences.

29. Find examples of 10 plural words in the Mercury. Write the base word next to each of the plural words you find.

30. Look at a photo in the sports section. Without reading the story, write down what is happening in the photo, what happened during the game, and who won the game. Read the story. Were your predictions correct?


31. Race through the Mercury! You have five minutes. See how many numbers from 1-25 you can find. Circle each number as you find it.

32. Circle the largest and smallest numbers on a page. Subtract the two numbers you have found. Add the two numbers.

33. Use recipes from the Mercuryto practice using fractions. Double the recipe;
halve the recipe and triple the recipe.

34. Cut words from the Mercury that relate to quantity. For example: all, none,
many, few, fewer, more, less, most etc.

35. Write a word problem that uses an advertisement as its basis. Let a friend try to solve the equation.

36. Look at the movie ads in the Classifieds section. Assuming a 15-minute break between shows, determine the duration of three movies.

37. Choose any three digit number and any two digit number from the Mercury.
Do the following:

    • Find the product of the two numbers
    • Find the sum of the two numbers
    • Find the difference between the two numbers
    • Find the quotient of the two numbers to the nearest hundredth
    • Now, find the sum of all the answers above

38. Read a page in the Mercury and underline words and phrases that refer to time such as: annual, bicentennial, 90-day warranty, next week, etc.

39. Refer to the Pulse and Bravo sections (Thursday) and choose the kind of entertainment you would enjoy most and the place you would most like to eat. Refer to the Food and Wine section (Tuesday) and determine the total cost of your outing for one person, for two and for your family.

40. Add up the total points scored by Tasmanian teams in the AFL on the weekend or determine the total elapsed time between the first and last place race car drivers.

Critical Thinking

41. Choose one story from the front page of today's Mercury. Find the answers to
these questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Note the organization of details in this story. Which is the most important? Where is it found in the story? Does the headline highlight the most important fact? If not, where did the information for the headline appear in the story?

42. Choose an editorial from the editorial page in the Mercury and underline each fact and circle each opinion. Discuss the logic of the ideas and the organization and development of the arguments.

43. Look at a feature article closely to see what words and sentences help to make you have certain feelings about the article. Make a list of these words and sentences.

44. Imagine that you are in charge of preparing a time capsule that will be opened in 200 years. Cut items that you think would tell the most about our lives today from the Mercury.

45. Compile a list of words that you are not familiar with in your newspaper reading. Make a crossword puzzle using these words with your definitions.

Life Skills

46. Draw a rough floor plan of a home. Collect newspaper pictures of furniture and appliances to fill the home and make it comfortable. Determine the approximate cost of furnishing a home by using classified ads.

47. Make a chart that is divided into four parts: summer, autumn, winter and spring. Cut out pictures of clothing you would wear during each season. Paste the pictures under each word.

48. Prepare menus using food advertisements in the Mercury. Example: Christmas dinner, Italian dinner, etc. Make sure that you include something from all food groups.

49. Collect articles of accidents that have happened in the home. Tell how the accidents could have been prevented.

50. Select a job in the classified section of the Mercury. Write a letter to the Human Resources manager of your chosen job stating what qualities make you perfect for that job.

51. Check the salary levels for unskilled workers in the jobs section of the classified ads. Compare the salaries to those for skilled labourers or professional positions. What are the differences and why?

52. Find a recipe in the Food and Wine section of the Mercury. Examine the recipes ingredients to see if it includes enough of the nutrients necessary for a balanced diet. What other foods or recipes could you add to make a balanced meal?

53. Go on a scavenger hunt in the Mercury. Find and circle the following items:
the price of a used Ford 4WD, the name of the Prime Minister of Australia, a TV show that starts at 8pm, the high temperature of a city in Australia , a sports score, an index.

54. Look at the grocery ads in the Mercury and find an example of multiple products sold for one price (example: 3 ears of corn for $2.00). What is the cost of each item? Is a larger quantity of an item always the better value?

55. Find an example of a comic strip in the Mercury that shows two co-workers or an employee and manager having a conflict. Rewrite the comic strip depicting a better way for the characters to handle the disputed situation.

Character Education

56. Make a Hall of Fame, Hall of Shame poster on a bulletin board. Clip articles and cartoons of people who are exhibiting good character traits. Place these under the Hall of Fame heading. Place examples of people not using good character traits under the Hall of Shame heading.

57. Go through the Mercury and make a "survival vocabulary list" of words that a person would need to know to be a good responsible citizen in today's world. Be sure to list the legal terms you find that we assume all people understand.

58. Read an article in the Mercury about an individual who is honest. What has the honest act? What were the consequences of the act? Would you have made the same decision?

59. Make a family crest that shows examples of what is good about yourself and your family. Look through today's paper and cut out words or pictures that remind you of what you like about your family. Paste them on a sheet of paper.

60. Look through the Mercury for an article that shows individuals, groups or nations involved in a conflict. Write down the different sides, and what seems to be the reason or reasons for the conflict. Think of as many different ways as you can that they might resolve this conflict. Write a letter to the editor that explains how the groups or nations can resolve their conflict. Would these groups need courage, kindness, forgiveness, and patience? What other character traits would they need to exhibit to solve their conflict?


61. Place news items or pictures about each state on a large outline map of Australia. See how many states you can find in the news in two weeks.

62. Chart community crimes for one-week using reports and articles in your newspaper. Chart the type of crime, age of the criminal, location, etc.

63. Travel by means of the Mercury and Sunday Tasmanian. Clip pictures of a country. Find articles and check the weather page for weather conditions in your chosen country. Then write a story about the things you might do and see if you visited that country.

64. Write an editorial on a topic of controversy for the period of history you are studying. Study some of the editorials in today's Mercury before doing this activity.

65. Research good and bad relationships between Australia and other countries. Try to categorize the reason these relationships may exist.

66. Using the Mercury, give some names and titles of international and political
leaders. Describe their roles, as you understand them from articles you have read.

67. Read an article or editorial in the Mercury. Draw a political cartoon that represents the article.

68. Find and read newspaper articles concerning pollution, overpopulation or major social problems. Make a list of the various items or the social problem you have selected. List some reasons that these articles are carried in the Mercury . Prepare a poster or write an essay telling how you would deal with solving this social problem.

69. Use news stories to teach new words related to geography, such as delta, monsoon, panhandle, harbour and terrain. Discuss the way the words are used in newspaper stories.

70. Find examples of freedom of speech in action as expressed in articles in the Mercury. What articles would not be in the newspaper if we didn't have freedom of speech or the right to a fair trial?

Primary School

71. Find as many synonyms for "Win" and "Lose" as you can.

72. Circle five verbs located in the Sports section of the Mercury. Take turns acting these words out to see if your classmates can guess the words you chose.

73. Using the television show listings in the features section, graph the number of comedies, news shows, dramas and documentaries airing between 8pm and 11pm.

74. Using the classified ads, find prices of cars that are equal to, greater than,
or less than $9999.00

75. Locate the statistics from games in the Sports section. Graph the total number of metres run, runs scored, passes thrown, etc. in a single game of your choice.

76. Read articles in the Mercury about court cases. Compare the structure of our
court system with the judicial system created by the Ancient Romans.

77. Skim the articles and photographs on the front page of the Mercury. Rank each news items in order of importance. Why did the news stories get the news placement that they did?

78. Scan the Mercury for articles about someone what has broken a law. How would you feel if you were the lawbreaker, the victim, the lawyer or the judge? How would you rewrite the article from the point of view of one of those people?

79. Select six headlines from the pages of the Mercury. Cut apart the words from
those headlines. Using your words, create new sentences. Identify the noun,
verb and adjective in each. How many complete sentences can you create?

80. Look through the pages of the Mercury to locate something you can see,
something you can smell, something you can taste, something you can hear,
and something you can touch.

Middle School

81. Using a ruler, figure out the percentage of space on a given page for ads, pictures, stories and headlines.

82. On the front page of the Mercury, circle all the numbers you can find and give
the range. Determine also the mean, median and mode.

83. Over a period of several weeks, clip articles that deal with problems and/or issues facing your local government. Discuss the reason for these problems, and how the government hopes to solve them.

84. Find a news article written in past tense. Clip it out of the paper and rewrite it in present tense.

85. Research the area of drugs, tobacco or alcohol, and write an article that informs the local readers of the dangers of one of the substances.

86. Look in the classified ads to find job listings for the medical/health professions. What is the median pay range? Job requirements? Educational requirements? Benefits? Opportunities for advancement?

87. Look for slogans used by businesses in their advertisements. What is the reason for these slogans? Are they believable to you? To whom do they appeal, and what propaganda device is used? Make up five businesses and write slogans for them.

88. What are the qualifications a person should have to hold public office? Make a list, and then see how the current office holders of candidates stack up. Use articles from your newspaper and other sources to find out about previous jobs, experiences, and other factors that make each candidate or office holder prepared to serve as an elected official.

89. Select three apartments listed in the classified ads for rent section. For each of the following, compute the total rent for a year. Determine the average monthly rent based on the apartments you have chosen. Which of the three apartments you have chosen appears to be the best choice for the money and why?

90. Scan through the Mercury and list 10 occupations which are discussed.
Don't use the classified advertisements for this activity!

High School

91. Look for a grocery ad with a soft drink advertisement. Figure out what fluid measurements are in the eight bottle carton or six packs, and break it down into millilitres and litres.

92. Every week, check through the job listings and put a red X through those jobs that could not be filled by a high school dropout. Put a black X through those that could not be filled by a person with a technical school or university training. Discuss your findings.

93. Choose an editorial and read it carefully. Decide which statements or parts of the statements are facts, which are opinion, and whether or not the tone of the editorial is conservative or liberal. Watch for upcoming issues to see if there is any reaction to the editorial on the letters to the editor page.

94. To improve map skills and stimulate interest in current events, follow the route of a government official as he travels around the country or around the world. Show the route he or she takes on a map with a marker or pushpins.

95. Find the area of the floor in your classroom or library. Using a carpet or tile ad from the Mercury, calculate the cost to carpet or tile the room. If the carpet was offered at a 20% discount, what would the cost of the carpeting be?

96. After skimming the Mercuryhe Advertiser each day, select the important news story of the day and post it on a bulletin board. At the end of the week, have the class vote on the most important story of the week.

97 Look in the Mercury for articles about countries at war. Use newspaper archives and reference books to look for the same topic 3 or 5 years ago - what has changed, been resolved or worsened over the past 3 to 5 years?

98. Have a discussion of employment trends and demands in your community,
based on the jobs section of the classified ads and any related articles.

99. Study the periodic chart of the elements, and then take a red magic marker and mark the appropriate chemical symbols found in scientific articles in the Mercury.

100. Select a sports story that is of interest to you, and rewrite passive voice sentences into active voice.




Cartoons- A Week with Polly

Additional activity - Meet Jon Kudelka


Congratulations to all the Tasmanian students and teachers using the Mercury education resource - Cartoons: A Week with Polly.

Your classroom kit and daily newspaper supply have everything you need in order to study cartoons as a visual literacy tool.

We hope you get much enjoyment from this resource.



Let's meet Jon Kudelka

The Mercury's chief cartoonist, John "Polly" Farmer is the focus of our new education kit, and you can read all about him in your Student Handbook. Another of our popular cartoonists goes by the name "Kudelka".


Jon, when did you start drawing cartoons? I started drawing cartoons in Grade 3 when my teacher Mrs Pearce praised my friend "Egg" (not the name on his birth certificate, but to all intents and purposes his real name) for being a good drawer. Naturally, I couldn't have Egg being better than me at something, so I took up cartooning. Egg and I spent a lot of time out in the corridor drawing enormous Mister Men posters over the next few years. I'm not sure if this was just an excuse for the teacher to get us out of the classroom, but I learnt a lot about drawing and composition.




Did you always think of cartooning as a career? My first published cartoon was when I was nine in the Education Department's Parent magazine. It was a somewhat cryptic effort, and its publication may have had something to do with the fact that my mum was editor at the time. 

I started getting fairly low-paid cartooning and illustration work with whoever would take me during high school and Uni (I completed a BSc which didn't have a lot of direct career benefits, but was a good grounding in thinking clearly).

I always treated it like a business, but never really expected to end up a cartoonist full-time. I was either going to be a mad scientist or an international cricketer or possibly a spy.


What do you like about drawing cartoons? I like the immediacy of drawing cartoons. I always treat the drawing as a vehicle for and enhancement of the idea behind it, though it's important to enjoy the actual process of drawing and make it visually intersting as well. It's fun to be able to really exaggerate something and have it being instantly recognisable.

How long does it take you to draw a cartoon? Are there times when you are pressed for time to think of an idea? It can take anywhere from five minutes to a few hours to complete a drawing. The hard part for me is coming up with an idea I really like. Sometimes this means I'm right up against the deadline, so the drawing has to be broken down into its most basic elements.


Do you seek to influence public opinion? What impact can cartoons have? I certainly attempt to express my opinion, but I don't set out to attempt to influence public opinion. Any attempt to be worthy and influence people usually dooms a cartoon from the start. Cartoons can help people see an issue in a different light, sometimes enrage and hopefully occasionally make people laugh. A cartoon can occasionally reduce the powerful and the mighty to figures of fun. This is always a good thing.


Where do you get your ideas? Do you focus on the positives? Negatives? There's very little scope for satire in positives. I have to say that I am always looking for a hole in the argument that I can exploit.  


Do you try to appeal to people's intellect? Feelings? I would say either, depending on the subject. At best, both.

What process do you use to create your cartoons? The first thing is to focus on a topic that is most relevant for the day and also has so good satire value. Next, I will have a good think about the issue and come up with many many bad ideas before hopefully cracking a good one. This involves much scribbling, though I try to be nice to trees by doing a few different ideas per piece of paper. Eventually when I've settled on an idea, I'll scribble it out on its very own piece of non-scribbled-on paper and run it past the editor, threaten him with something sharp until he laughs and then draw it up. This involves looking at the clock, going "AAAAGH!" and drawing it up as quickly as possible before deadline. Luckily, I like a loose, spontaneous look to the cartoons, though this is not always a deliberate choice.




How do you describe your style? Loose, spontaneous, autographic. I find a less studied look allows more scope for humour and exaggeration.

Do you use caricatures? Irony? Symbols? I use all of those when required. I never leave home without them.

How do you go about developing a caricature? I will draw the subject quite realistically at first. Doing this usually tells me which features would be best to exaggerate. I try to hone the caricature until it consists of as few lines as possible. How I feel about the subject also influences the final look of the caricature.


What is the place of humour in your cartoons? Humour is the most important element. I believe that if something is funny, then there's at least a kernel of truth somewhere inside.

Humour is also an excellent delivery mechanism for ideas. It can slide past a person's prejudices without them noticing sometimes.

This doesn't mean that there's only one type of humour. It can range from light and cheery to the deepest black.


Do you self censor? Do you see this as important? Do you think you have more freedom than other journalists? I try to present a cartoon that's appropriate for the audience that reads the paper. There is a somewhat flexible boundary of taste that's a bit dependent on the importance of the point the cartoon's making. I suppose that's a form of self-censorship, but then I also censor ideas that I don't think are funny or only a few readers will "get", so I suppose that's self-censorship as well. I have more and less freedom than other journalists - I can say things they can't, but then they have the freedom to explain themselves with a lot of words, whereas cartoons are more open to interpretation which requires extra care.

What are some of your favourite Tasmanian issues to feature? At the risk of sounding like an AFL footballer, I take each day as it comes. I like any issue that arouses a lot of passion in people.



Thanks Jon,

it's been great

getting to

know you!

Jon Kudelka has his own website at  






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If you don’t already have access to today’s newspaper, the Mercury Newspapers in Education office can organise a daily copy for your classroom or library. These are available at half price through our schools program. This could be either:

  • Daily newspaper, delivered on any or all days of the week, or collected from a nominated newsagent. School holiday copies are normally automatically excluded, unless advised otherwise.
  • Daily Class Sets of the newspaper for a specific study period or program. These are usually in sets of 10, 15 or 30, are charged at half the retail price and can be made available on a nominated day or days.

To order class newspapers or request an order form, contact Damian Bester at the Mercury by calling 6230 0736, fax 6230 0776 or email

Alternatively you can click HERE to download the school subscription order form.


Half-price copies of the Mercury for your classroom

or school library are available throughout the school year.

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