Thinking skills will be the focus on March 8 when Utah students forsake traditional textbooks in favor of using the Deseret News as a learning tool in classrooms around the state.

"Newspapers: Exploring the Dimensions of Thinking," is the theme for this year's "No Books Day" program sponsored locally by the Deseret News as part of the International Reading Association's national program. The activity is part of National Newspaper in Education Week.Critical thinking is considered a key element in learning, so important that it is now part of the state's core curriculum requirements.

"Critical thinking is a very important part of our curriculum, far beyond teaching basic memorizations," said State Superintendent James R. Moss. "It's essential that we teach critical thinking."

The "No Books Day" program assists teachers in using the newspaper to teach needed critical thinking skills. A special teaching packet will help teachers lead students through activities and work sheets based on the five dimensions of thinking that serve as the foundation for the broader thinking processes. The work sheets are designed for use with varying age levels and content areas.

Students will learn to form concepts, integrate information, solve problems, make choices, and analyze arguments.

Younger students will use a scavenger hunt game to find such things in the Deseret News as a picture of a person smiling, a cartoon character, a map, a headline with more than six words, and a movie or television star.

They will be challenged to find the entire alphabet and cut out each letter. Math concepts will be reinforced by encouraging students to find three-digit numbers, temperatures, addresses, a number higher than 1000 and a number written as a word.

Older students will participate in activities involving such thinking skills as classifications, comparisons, putting things in order, making evaluations and analyzing relationships. This will be accomplished by looking in the newspapers for examples such as different jobs and careers, comparing stories on different community events and analyzing the different reactions to world events by the U.S. and other countries.

Students will be taught to apply thinking and reasoning skills to problems and situations they may face in their personal lives and community activities. They will also see how these skills are used to address state, national and world problems.

By using the Deseret News, the students will have the most recent information available to locate, consider and apply information.

Last year, more than 39,000 copies of the Deseret News found their way into classrooms as part of the sixth annual "No Books Day." Teachers wanting to participate this year can obtain copies of the March 7 edition for 12-cents each. Specific lesson plans, stickers and work sheets for the students will be provided at no charge. The papers will be delivered to schools the evening of March 7 or the morning of March 8 before school starts.

Those wanting to participate should contact the Deseret News at 237-2140 by March 2.

Schools unable to participate March 8 or that want a follow-up activity, will have until March 9 to contact the Deseret News.

Newspaper in Education manager Carolyn Dickson said rural school districts can arrange their own special program by contacting her office.