Reading Doors

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

College and Career Ready at Keene: Journalism

Currently, there is a large focus in education on getting students "college and career ready." The standards all push students towards increased deduction skills, problem solving abilities, and critical thinking in order to help them along in the 21st century. As teachers, we are expected to expose the students to every opportunity, and to show them the diversity of options available to them, as well as prepare them for every possible path they may choose. 

But what does this really mean? What is it to make our students "college and career ready"? There are a lot of sources that can be found on what these mean and the importance they have in our education system, especially in this ever changing technological world. I spent a good bit of professional development time, when Common Core and Ohio's New Learning Standards were first introduced, collaborating and learning with colleagues about getting students college and career ready. 

Yet, none of these books or studies is the same as seeing it within someone's classroom. I, and my district, strive to engage the students in real-world activities and to expose our students to many different college options and potential careers. As part of this, we often have guests come in or use tools, such as Google Hangouts, to bring professionals into the school to talk with the students. These experiences will become a recurring blog strand that I call "College and Career Ready at Keene." 

College and Career Ready at Keene: Journalism
In January, the 4th-6th graders at Keene Elementary were visited for the day by Mr. H, a journalist at the local newspaper. He spent a little over an hour with each class, sharing with them what he does each day, the places his job has taken him and the people he has gotten to meet or talk to. He also presented a lesson on how to write the first five paragraphs of a news article, what he called the "First 5 Graphs."  He had prepared several hand outs that outlined each paragraph, what normally is included, and why that information is important to a news article. He talked about the value of "hooking" a reader so that they will want to read it and will continue to purchase the newspaper. An example article was provided, as well as several copies of the newspaper from the previous week. 

Then the students got to write their own article for an imaginary Keene Elementary newspaper. The students wrote their own first five graphs and had Mr. H and myself available to help. One of the most important ideas that Mr. H stressed throughout this process was the importance of editing, editing, editing. Making your work better takes time and requires you to look at what you have done critically and self-reflectively. Perfection is never achieved the first time around, but comes after much practice, refinement, and trail and error. 

The students had a great time getting to know Mr. H and had an abundance of questions for him about his job and the many things he has gotten to see and do. They enjoyed writing an real-world news article and did not want their time with this special guest to end. When we began writing news articles about Martin Luther King Jr. Day the following week, they all began working harder and taking it more seriously when I told them I'd send the two best articles to Mr. H. Most importantly, my several of my students have been inspired and want to enter a career in journalism.

Slice of Life: Technology Safety Lesson

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Join in and write your own slice.

As part of my district's technology classes, we use a site called to complete several internet and technology safety lessons with the students. These lessons cover things such as text and cell phone safety, identify theft, and cyber bullying. This technology curriculum is a requirement for every grade level within our district. 

My classes have finished many of the online lessons involved with this course, and this past week we were working on one of the class discussion lessons that does not require the internet or computers. Normally these class discussion lessons are dull and the students lose interest in just talking about texting safety. To help alleviate this monotony, I created an awareness week poster assignment that students can create to teach other grades about texting safety. The first day of the lesson, however, is simply going through lists of safety guidelines and precautionary measures to take. I have always thought this first part seemed a little dull, despite it's necessity. In the middle of this first lesson, one of the students stopped me. 

"Wow, Miss Kopec, you're making this a lot of fun!" he said. At first I thought he was being sarcastic, which was a surprise, as sarcasm goes over many of my students' heads. 

"Really? What makes this so much fun?" I asked.

"Yeah, it is. I don't know. You're just making it fun." 

Wow. He couldn't explain exactly why this lesson was so much fun, but he very much meant it when he said it. It made me feel good to know that I succeeded in making a potentially boring lesson more interesting for the students. I thought about this a lot the rest of that day, and since. We were talking about cell phones, texting, and all the different apps one could have. I think they liked it because it was something they interact with every day. They wanted to talk about what they knew, and they already knew a lot. They wanted to share with me experiences they had with scams or fake texts that they had handled well. Sharing these real-world experiences and lessons was what made it fun for them. It had a deep meaning to them.