From the newsroom to the classroom: Lessons from a recovering reporter

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I’m a reporter. Yes, I work at a school, but journalism will always be a part of who I am because it combines my love for learning new things, meeting interesting people, and telling stories. If you’re trying to generate more participation in your classes, these five journalism principles could help inspire and engage your students.

Get moving
I love being in a busy newsroom because of the energy — phones ringing, reporters talking to editors or frantically typing a story to meet a deadline — but great reporting can rarely be accomplished by sitting at a desk. So, the first thing we do in my class is get moving. The old image of a classroom with the teacher at the board while the students sit and take notes is being replaced with active learning. Get your students moving around with small group discussion or activities while you move from student-to-student providing feedback, answering questions, and assessing their progress.

Keep asking questions…and listen up
Foster curiosity in your classrooms by asking lots of questions and encouraging your students to do the same. The best learning usually comes from stimulating class discussions. Educators call this inquiry-based learning while reporters know a great interview is born from a great conversation. I always ended every interview with, “What have I not asked you?” or “Have I left anything out that you wanted to discuss?” Most of the time the interview ended there, but there were several occasions when I learned something completely unexpected because I was willing to ask the right questions. Don’t stop there, though. You also have to listen. Allow your students to have a voice in your classroom. I have a habit of being a chatterbox. This really hurt me when I began my journalism career because in order to write a compelling article, I had to have the information. When I moved from the newsroom to the classroom, I once again found myself talking too much. Listen to your students and let them — and the conversation — guide the learning process.

Collaboration
I never turned in a story to an editor without asking another reporter to read it first. My coworkers always helped me improve my skills by pointing out an error or suggesting a better lead. Allow your students to learn from one another. Set the guidelines and divide them into groups and encourage them to brainstorm together. Every shared byline helped me learn from my coworkers. Have your students quiz each other or evaluate one another’s work for accuracy. You can give them a bonus grade on how well they work together as a group or the creativity of their work.

Quote the experts
Meaningful quotes often decide whether an article will make the front page or be buried inside. As teachers, we have a responsibility to admit that we don’t know everything about the subject we teach. Don’t be afraid to bring in an expert. Have someone in the field guest lecture or take your students on a field trip. Great teachers inspire students to never stop learning by modeling this practice everyday. If you don’t have direct access to an expert, use technology. Integrate the flipped classroom model by having students watch videos online at home and then come to class ready to to discuss what they learned. The most important thing is to be willing to learn alongside your students.

Go live
Have your students become journalists too and regularly produce podcasts, digital newspapers, or radio shows. Every subject has its own news sites, publications, and journals with examples students can recreate or use as a reference. Your students will learn to present the information and write for an audience. This gets gets their creative juices flowing and teaches them the responsibility of providing accurate and succinct information.

Journalism is about exploring curiosity through gathering and processing information. These tips can help transform your classroom into a place where stories come alive and learning is the centerpiece.

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