Getting the Facts
- Teaching students how to gather accurate information lays the foundation for good reporting skills. Organize an information scavenger hunt to help them learn how to find facts. Give each student a list of questions that will require varying amounts of research and will require them to use different types of resources.
For example, one item might be to find the name of the manager of a grocery store in the community. Another would require them to pull a specific public record from a courthouse. You could have them find out what year the Berlin Wall went up and when it came down. How many Smiths are in the phone book? What was the high temperature on a specific day last year? What does "30" mean to journalists? Construct questions that use online resources, local phone books, almanacs and interviews.
Writing About People
- Personality profiles are a staple of student newspapers. To show the newspaper staff what it takes to write a feature and how it feels to be written about, have them write about each other.
Start by showing them how it's done. Put all the kids' names in a hat and choose one to interview yourself. Conduct your interview in front of the class so students get an idea of what they should do.
Then have the students draw names and interview each other. Tell the interview subjects to feed a piece of false information to their interviewer. It's the reporter's job to figure out the false information by verifying the facts in the interview with friends, the person's parents or the adviser.
For homework, have the students write their feature stories and prepare to read them to the class the next day. Have the writers tell what they think the false fact was and how they came to that conclusion.
Importance of News
- To give students a sense of the impact of news, have them think about stories on different scales. First, have them research and brainstorm the biggest news stories of all time. The Newseum, a media museum in Washington, D.C., has the results of a poll on biggest stories of the 20th century on its website. How do these compare with your students' lists?
Next, ask the class to reflect on the biggest stories in their lifetimes. Where do they think these stories would stack up if the Newseum poll included events since they were born?
For homework, assign the students an essay about the biggest news in their own lives. Topics to explore: Why was the event significant? How did it change things? What did it teach them?