When was the last time your fifth-grader talked politics at the dinner table? Or asked your opinion on warming U.S.-Soviet relations? Or pondered aloud the implications of inflation on that new pair of jeans she wants?

If your child attends Marlene Woolley's class at Taylorsville Elementary, you may very well have been party to such a discussion. Now in her 12th year of teaching, Woolley says she couldn't have made it through the 1987-88 school year without using the Deseret News as an integral part of the curriculum in her classroom.Woolley plans to share her enthusiasm with teachers from around the state on Jan. 28 during a "Newspaper Magic" teacher workshop, sponsored by the Deseret News.

"Lots of times at parent-teacher conferences, parents say the dinner conversation at their homes has changed considerably because we have been using the newspapers at school, and the kids are very familiar with current events. Parents see that as a real strength, and it's really exciting to them," Woolley said.

But the excitement doesn't end with the parents. Woolley said once children have been exposed to the newspaper's wealth of information, they see more in it than the TV schedule or the comic page. "Even if that's all they've ever opened the paper for, that's OK." she said. "We do a lot of activities with those two sections. But the kids also learn that there are other things in there that have value to them."

For example:

When the students read about the recent airline crash in Scotland, "it was a springboard to using their social studies textbook to find out more about the country - how the terrain in the area affected the search and what might have happened if the plane had gone down in the ocean around Scotland," Woolley said.

"If the paper only inspires them to look for more information in their textbooks, then it's served as a valuable tool," she said. Classified ads and the weekly food section also provide ample material to pull math exercises from.

Woolley has used the newspaper as a supplement to available texts ever since her student-teaching days. "In all the years I've been teaching, I've only had a new social studies text once. And even that book was five or six years old by the time it was printed and in the students' hands." Such a gap may not have been a problem decades ago, "but today, things are changing so fast that if you don't have something current, you've lost a lot in the educational process."

The newspaper fills that gap for Woolley, who said she has found she can meet many of the state's core curriculum requirements in math, social studies and science by creating teaching units from it. As with any worthwhile endeavor, she said using the newspaper in her classroom takes careful planning.

"I've got 39 kids in my class (of gifted fifth- and sixth-graders). Things can be very chaotic under normal conditions, and you can imagine what could happen if we turned every kid loose with a newspaper," she said. So firm limits are established from the beginning on how the newspaper is to be handled - even how it is to be placed on the desk and opened for study.

"You have to decide whether the benefits outweigh some of those organizational tasks." For students and parents alike, Woolley is sure they do.

A $15 registration fee for the Jan. 28 workshop covers four 45-minute sessions, lunch, handouts and orders for 90 classroom newspapers. Recertification or in-service credit is available for participants, and one hour of Weber State College credit is also available for an additional fee. To register, call 237-2140 or 237-2112.