In today’s context, teaching journalism is critical, but many teachers are forced into it without training or guidance. Even though teaching journalism was why I wanted to teach (I was a journalist before becoming a teacher), I found it extremely difficult. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned pro, I hope these suggestions will make your job easier.
I was fine enough to have one of the great writers in our area as my professor in college. “What are the three most important terms in journalism?” she asked our Newswriting class initially. “ACCURACY, ACCURACY, ACCURACY!” she said after answering multiple incorrect responses. She said that there is no tale without accuracy. In the early 1990s, this was before the “fake news” era. It’s just as critical – if not more so – to teach this to pupils now. Those three phrases were always put on a sign in our writing lab to constantly remind students to aim for 100 per cent correctness.
• Provide information of all students and staff members, and require students to triple-check all names for spelling.
• Require pupils to gather knowledge from primary sources.
• Require students to examine facts and figures three times.
• Instruct pupils to double-check quotes from their sources.
2. Share a newspaper reading session
The newspaper is the best textbook you can provide your students. It never ceases to astonish me how many students enter journalism classes having never read a newspaper. Schools can gain online access to digital editions of newspapers through the fantastic Newspapers in Education program. Some newspapers will still provide free print editions of their papers to schools. If your school has an online subscription, inquire with your librarian.
Read tales with your students when you have access to the paper. I would read the headlines of major news items aloud and ask students to identify who, what, when, where, why, and how each incident occurred (we had to go deeper into the story, normally, to answer the last two). Your pupils will grow more skilled at identifying these vital parts of a news article as they practise identifying them on their own.
I provide a step-by-step presentation and lesson with handouts and activities for students to practice news writing. It’s an excellent technique to prepare pupils for this type of writing.
3. Create a guidebook that is unique to you.
A personalised handbook, in my opinion, is the most important tool in any journalism class. It will save you time (and your sanity), enhance writing consistency, and educate pupils on finding solutions to their queries.
The right manner of writing the date, time, and titles, as well as whether the publication should use “said” or “said” in attributions, should all be covered in handbooks. It will also tell you which fonts (and sizes) to use and where and how to save your work.
I can assist you in creating your manual from the beginning, and it appears to be a big undertaking. You may get a ready-made guide that is customizable in InDesign by downloading it (and it also includes a PDF version).
4. Hold regular meetings with your team
Make it a habit to meet with your team regularly. If your school publishes a newspaper every other week, hold a staff meeting the day after publication. Schedule a staff meeting at least once a month if you have monthly writing responsibilities. It’s critical to address any issues before they turn into harmful habits and commend pupils’ efforts. Staff meetings are also an excellent opportunity to organize and allocate responsibilities for each deadline period.
Begin your staff meetings by asking students what they appreciated about the most recent issue of the paper or the most recent batch of stories the class wrote. (Start sharing student work immediately if you don’t already have one! Kids must read one other’s work, even if it’s simply on a private or school website.) Allow a student to write all of the positives on the board to see what worked well and use the same approach for the next issue or round of writing.
When discussing what has to be improved, keep a pleasant attitude and avoid being nitpicky with individuals. Allowing the staff to attack or single out others is not good. Instead, invite each person to share how their own story/assignment could be improved. What could they do to improve it?
Staff meetings can be an excellent way to boost morale and teamwork. Bring treats to give or enable students to bring their own. Food and drinks are powerful motivators for teenagers and can drastically alter the atmosphere.
5. Make a strategy.
When it comes to creating a school newspaper or yearbook, the organisation is crucial. Everything must be arranged ahead of time. Staff meetings are an excellent opportunity to design your publication and delegate responsibilities to students. A yearbook will require a ladder, which should be visible in the classroom or office at all times. The contents of every page in the yearbook should be included in the ladder.
When creating a newspaper, you should set aside some space for regular features. The top page, for example, will always feature the most recent late-breaking or breaking news, while the second page will usually have the staff box (which lists the staff members, positions, contact names/numbers or emails, and a brief staff policy or aim). It will almost always contain continuations of stories from the first page. Designate a page or section for features, opinions (such as movie and restaurant reviews), and sports on the remaining pages. You might also set aside a space for images taken at school (this is always easy to include on the last page). It is considerably easier for the designers to layout the paper when everything has a dedicated position.
When students are preparing to write their tale, they should have a clear notion of what they want to write about. They can use this FREE Reporter’s Checklist to keep track of the important details of their article, and it offers an example so that students may see how to use it.
6. Allow students to take ownership of their work
Finally, you want your pupils to feel invested in their work, as though they are a vital component of the outcome. Being an advisor and being a micro-managing editor are two different things. Allowing pupils to make mistakes might be difficult, but they must learn and take responsibility for their work. Your responsibility is to supply the tools; it is your responsibility to use and create with them.
Allowing children to produce tale ideas is one way to inspire ownership.
• Give pupils the option of choosing their yearbook theme.
• Allow pupils to choose the fonts they want to use (within reason).
• Give pupils the option of selecting their tasks.
• Require students to peer edit: select student editors (take volunteers and pick the most capable) and assign them to edit all stories, photo captions, and the publication’s layout.
• Allow kids to make mistakes rather than edit or rewrite their work. It’s fine to inform kids that their story contains some faults that they should remedy, but don’t make the modifications for them if they don’t.