Grain Valley South Middle School sixth-grade English language arts teacher Courtney Schmidt remembers her days as an adolescent, wrapping up newspapers with a rubber band and delivering them house to house where she lived in Illinois.
Last week, her class worked on informative writing, which included working on a couple of picture books. For her students’ final project, instead of having students write a five-paragraph essay like in the past, Schmidt had her students collectively come up with content for a class newspaper and deliver them to other classes at the school – just like Schmidt did when she was younger.
The students chose the topic they wanted to write about and Schmidt had to approve it. The students then had to research their topic and type it in paragraph format. Schmidt then checked what her students wrote for their research and their content. She then gave it back to the students for editing before they copy and pasted it into the program that formatted the paper.
“We wanted to share our work kind of like the newspaper does in an informative and productive way,” Schmidt said. “I joked with other teachers about how they used to distribute newspapers back in the day.
“We rolled them, rubber banded them and then delivered them, and stacked them. I made sure they did it in a way that you could still see the front page.”
She said that her students used The Examiner as an example for what sort of content goes into a newspaper. The paper called “Grain Valley South News” was two pages front and back and included reviews about movies and video games, information about places to visit in Kansas City, current events and mock interviews with celebrities and sports figures.
For the interviews, students chose someone and did research on that person and formulated the questions based on the what they found.
“They are not experts on the topics, so they had to do the research,” Schmidt said. “They had to put where they got the information from in there.”
Curtis Ault, one of the editors for the newspaper, wrote a review for the video game “Subnautica.”
“I went to the (Subnautica) website and got my information there,” Ault said. “I really liked this a lot because I got to research something that I wanted to research. This was a lot more fun than writing an essay.”
Schmitt added that she wanted to do this three-week-long project to teach her students about newspapers even with most news outlets transitioning to an online and mobile format.
“The kids were excited to go out and deliver the newspapers,” Schmitt said. “It’s new to them. They didn’t understand when I explained how newspapers were delivered. They asked, ‘So people just walked up to your house and threw it on the front porch?’ They are used to seeing news on their computer. It was bringing up old things that are new to them.”
Laura Rivest, whose class assisted with putting the paper together, said her students had limited knowledge about newspapers at first.
“I was talking to them about columns and they said, ‘No. I don’t know what a column is,’” she said. “Then I explained to them what it was. Then I explained to them when news came out in print, those reporters worked around the clock to get that newspaper out, so the information is current when it comes out the next morning.
“Their minds were blown. For them, you get on social media and it’s instant. We had to wait for our news when we were kids. They get it instantly today.”
Added Ault: “I have picked up a newspaper before, but it was when we were dyeing eggs.”
She said the newspaper project worked well compared to what her class did in the past.
“I am over the whole essay thing,” Rivest said. “They need something that will be engaging and will have their attention for the last three weeks of class. This is what we came up with and Courtney came up with a super awesome format for it. It was a really good experience.”