I tell my students that people, other than their fellow classmates and teachers, will be reading their homework. We print about 1,400 copies of our newspaper twice a quarter (that's approximately 11,200 copies for an entire year), and 1,050 yearbooks each year. I want them to be aware that what they do isn't just for our eyes in the classroom; it's for everyone. I let them know that people have the chance to go online and read our Twitter updates (which include photos and posts written by them) and read the newspaper.
That families pay for the yearbook, which is essentially their classwork.
I also mention that it's up to them to gather the history of Clay and to publish it. Local news agencies aren't going to cover what's happening inside the walls of our school. It's up to us to do our best to tell Clay's stories.
While they benefit the overall culture of Clay, as well as inform the public of what's happening in the different classrooms, journalism students are also upping the ante when it comes to testing, grades and their success in other classes.
Back in 2008, the Newspaper Association of America performed a study about the positive link between journalism education and academic achievement. The research/study used 31,000 students from all 50 states, as well as some foreign countries. The study showed that a non-journalism student's GPA was an average of 3.28, while a student that was involved with a journalism program had an average GPA of 3.38. Not only were GPA's stronger for the average journalism student, they scored better on the ACT and got better grades as freshmen in college.
Granted, the study was aimed at high school students, but who says that starting in middle school can't help?
We're lucky to have an entire program at the middle school/junior high level that allows for students to write stories for an authentic audience, to refine their communication skills with writing and speaking, as well as note-taking. They also get to have some fun gaining experience behind the camera, taking photos and video of all that's happening in the classroom, as well as extra-curricular activities. Oh, and they dabble in basic design.
I'm also a little biased, but I think it's a lot of fun -- to the point where students forget they're learning.
Who is The Vade Mecum
Evan Williams is a middle school journalism teacher in Indiana. He advises the student publications: yearbook, magazine, video announcements, broadcast and online news. To find success in the classroom, he uses blended learning with the help of Canvas and Google Apps for Education.