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How to Run a School Newspaper Project: Part 2

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Yesterday we introduced Ian Vince, who organised a workshop at his daughter's primary school to produce a newspaper. Today we have the second of Ian's three guest blog posts documenting his experience putting together The Longford Examiner with the students.

"In the first part of this series of three blog posts, I told you about how I came to be leading a children’s writing workshop for Key Stage 2 pupils at my daughter’s primary school – workshops that I hoped would help them produce all the words required for an 8-page tabloid newspaper."

"That’s quite a tall order for a class of a dozen or so children aged between 8 and 11 of varying ability, especially when it is important for every pupil to contribute something – no matter how minor – to the finished paper."

"If you’re a teacher reading this, you’ll know all about the educational targets you are charged with getting your class to meet. If, like me, you are not a teacher then remember that it’s not your job to teach – you are there to provide light and shade, a different viewpoint and perspective that will give the teacher new opportunities to do their job. Non-teachers who haven’t observed just what happens in a modern classroom will also be surprised at how dynamic teaching has become, with attention switching from whiteboard, to pupil interaction, to active teaching – a continual rolling back-and-forth that keeps energy and attention at an optimum level for learning."

"Inserting a writer into this mix and taking the lesson two-handed with the class teacher keeps everything on the move, but beware of talking too much as you don’t want the novelty to wear off."

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"Lessons, which stretched across three mornings, started with a short whiteboard presentation of science fiction graphics - book covers, NASA conceptual artwork – and imagination-firing facts. We talked about the constellation Orion and the various supernovae that have occurred in it over millions of years and looked at the star Betelgeuse which will probably be the next to go ker-blooey – tomorrow, next week or in a thousand years’ time. After filling their heads with the explosions of distant stars, it seemed like a good time to set the brief for them to write speculative fiction – what would life be like in 1000 years from now?"

"It turned out that the newspaper itself was inspiring (never under-estimate the promise of getting your name in print) even among the digitally-literate under-11s. Having shown pupils a Newspaper Club sample at the outset, many of them decided that they wanted to copy its various elements. All of a sudden, ads, puzzles, news stories, captions and the like were all mooted and the project took on a life of its own. This proved to be a useful disruption of the original plan to publish a paper full of short stories and poems, as the medium of long-form creative writing wasn’t suited to all."

"At last, I started to be able to leave school with suitable material, but I was aware that there were gaping holes developing and it would take some determined steering to get the paper back on course."

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