Rose Brock, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University, is a veteran educator and advocate for using audiobooks as a tool for literacy and is the cofounder of the national literacy initiative Guys Listen, a part of the Guys Read literacy national program. Dr. Brock was awarded the Siddie Joe Johnson Award for Outstanding Service to Youth by the Texas Library Association and is cofounder of NTTBF, the North Texas Teen Book Festival. She is the editor of Hope Wins, Hope Nation: Young Adult Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration, and author of Young Adult Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide.
James Ponti is the New York Times bestselling author of three middle-grade book series: City Spies, about an unlikely squad of five kids from around the world who form an elite MI6 spy team; the Edgar Award-winning FRAMED! Series, about a pair of tweens who solve mysteries in Washington, DC; and the Dead City trilogy, about a secret society that polices the undead living beneath Manhattan. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida.
Jill Stedronsky is a teacher, professionally, and personally. She teaches 8th graders at William Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, NJ for the past sixteen years. She is a teacher-consultant for the Drew Writing Project, an adjunct for Drew University, and a researcher. Her focus is intrinsic motivation. She strives to create an authentic environment for her students, and hopefully all students around the world, by motivating her students to read and write for real purposes! She co-authored a chapter with Dr. Kristen Hawley Turner, for the publication of her practice in “Inquiry Ignites! Pushing Back Against Traditional Literacy Instruction.” She hopes to help change curriculum worldwide.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Mayra Cuevas is the author of the teen novels Does My Body Offend You? and Salty, Bitter, Sweet. Her short story Resilient was published as part of the anthology FORESHADOW. Mayra is an award-winning producer for CNN and co-founder of the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival. She keeps her sanity by practicing Buddhist meditation. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, her two stepsons, their fluffy cat and a very loud Chihuahua.
Marie Marquardt is author of YA novels Does My Body Offend You? (with Mayra Cuevas), Dream Things True, The Radius of Us, and Flight Season. Her books have earned many awards and commendations, including BEA Buzz Books, Books all Young Georgians Should Read, and the CLASP Américas Commendation, and they have been shortlisted for several state book awards, including the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award and the Missouri Gateway Readers Award. Marie also has published articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South, and has been interviewed about her research, writing, and advocacy on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and BBC America, among many other media outlets. She lives in a busy household in Decatur, Georgia with her spouse, four kids, several chickens, a dog, and a bearded dragon.
Bryn Orum is the co-director of the Greater Madison Writing Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In her current role she coordinates programs for youth and educators including Rise Up & Write, Youth Press Corps, and the National Writing Project’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP). Previously, Bryn co-founded and taught high school English at Clark Street Community School, a public charter dedicated to deep engagement through personalized, democratic, and place-based education, in Middleton, WI. Bryn studied Literacy and English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned her BA and MS. Much of her work in education has focused on equitable and innovative environments.
Gordon Korman introduces himself as a regular guy who just happened to write 100 books for kids and adolescent readers. Born in Montreal in October of 1963, his writing career began in the seventh grade when he took English with his track coach. Then, he was challenged to write every day for more than four months and he finished his first novel, This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!With his mother as his typist, he sent it to Scholastic and just like that, Korman was published as a freshman in high school. That was just the beginning. He has sold well over 30 million copies of his books, many translated in over 30 languages.
Currently, Gordon lives in Long Island outside of NYC where he continues to love visiting school, teachers, and driving his own children to wherever they need to be. His new book, The Fort, about a group of kids who stumble on an abandoned Cold-War-era bomb shelter, was released in summer 2022.
Allison Fallon is an eighth-grade teacher and Department Head at Central Middle School in Greenwich, CT. She has been teaching for 14 years, is an NWP teacher-consultant, and CWP graduate and teacher. In 2021 Allison was awarded the Distinguished Teacher Award for Greenwich Public Schools. When she’s not teaching or crafting curriculum, she is busy with her two daughters, husband, and guinea pigs exploring the outdoors, eating ice cream, and seeking new reading and writing adventures.
How can teachers maximize the learning potential of field trips?
In this post for Larry Ferlazzo’s EdWeek Blog, facilitators from three Intersections teams discuss what they have learned through their inquiry of field trips, from working with museum educators, watching students in action at museums, and careful ‘reading’ of the museum itself.
Join NWP Radio for a visit with author and NWP Writers Council member Pornsak Pichetshote. Pichetshote was a Thai-American rising star editor at DC’s Vertigo imprint where he worked on such comics perennials as The Sandman and Swamp Thing. His books have been nominated for dozens of Eisner awards—be it the award-winning Daytripper, the New York Times bestseller The Unwritten, or critical darlings like Sweet Tooth and Unknown Soldier. He left Vertigo to become an executive in DC Entertainment’s media team, where he started and oversaw DC TV’s department. He is the author of Infidel, his first major comics work as a writer, and his newest series The Good Asian which features police detective Edison Hark.
A media pitch is a short communication, typically an email or direct message, suggesting a news story to a journalist or editor at a publication, radio station or broadcast network. The goal of a pitch is to generate coverage and determine if your media contact is interested in creating a story around the content. —Muck Rack
What will students learn?
If students can understand why certain stories make the news, and if they can weigh in on whether they think it’s an important issue or not, that can go a long way in creating an informed citizenry. During this process students also learn more about how information spreads and ways to find and create more connections with the world around them.
Students can use reading models to engage with available information to determine what questions they have about this topic. Students can also check in with themselves about reactions to articles and information and see that as a journalist, you are both a reader and a writer—that you are thinking like your audience and also thinking like the person who has done the exploration.
Why write a story pitch?
As students and citizens, writing a story pitch is not a common practice. According to ___, students either are not reading the news, are engaging solely in social media to learn about the world around them, or do not see themselves reflected in the news and so do not see a connection between themselves and what is published. What’s more, students find that it is sometimes difficult to discern what is misinformation and what is news, and this can keep them from even engaging in reading or wanting to write news—why join in the mumbo jumbo that sometimes just feels like noise?
What if more students felt empowered to join in the news writing so that they didn’t only feel like they needed to fact check others’ writing and reporting, but they lived the process of bringing truths and realities that they reported on to others? And what if the topics were things that affected them or that they knew affected the world around them? What if they had the tools and practices to sift through documents and to talk to people to understand an issue firsthand? What if they felt what it feels like to then communicate their findings to those who haven’t explored that topic and discuss ways in which it made sense and where there are still holes in their thinking?
What will students make?
Students can work in groups to create a pitch together around a single topic, and then work individually to create their own pitches for their own individual stories.
Although journalism is a profession with a strong ethical base, there are numerous examples exist of reporters knowingly crossing the ethical line or completely disdaining it. But reporters might also where where the line is. A fundamental principle of civic journalism dictates that news outlets present the news that is factually accurate, so that the audience can decide how to judge or evaluate the events of the day.
You might find that students are well-aware of examples of unethical behavior at news organizations, but if you are looking for illustrations, find examples to share with students here: examples of unethical behavior. You or your students can update this link with examples you find to illustrate the issue.
Below find information to use as a resource for teaching ethical behavior for student journalists and helping them create their own Code of Ethics for the work they do as a class.
Honesty. Journalists have an obligation to seek out the truth and report it as accurately as possible. This requires diligence: this means making every effort to seek out all the facts relevant to a story. Journalists should also corroborate any information with multiple sources.
Independence. Journalists should avoid taking political sides and should not act on behalf of special interest groups. Any political affiliations or financial investments that might constitute a conflict of interest with the subject they are writing about should be declared to editors and readers. Some organizations characterize this principle as “objectivity,” while others, especially non-profit civic journalism projects, reject this term, as they position themselves explicitly on the side of public interest.
Fairness. In addition to being independent, journalists should show impartiality and balance in their reporting. Most news stories have more than one side, and journalists should capture this. That said, they should not place two different perspectives on equal footing where one is unsupported by evidence. The exception to the impartiality rule is opinion writing, as well as “gonzo” journalism and creative nonfiction.
Public accountability. News organizations should listen to their audience. To enable the public to hold them accountable, journalists should write under their own bylines and accept responsibility for their words. When news outlets publish factual errors, they need to issue a correction.
Harm minimization. Not every fact that can be published should be published. If the amount of harm that could come to private individuals—particularly children—as a result of disclosure exceeds the public good that would come of it, then news outlets might choose not to publish the story. This is less of a consideration when it comes to public figures. It is huge, however, in matters of national security, where lives could be on the line.
Avoiding libel. This is a legal as well as a moral imperative for journalists. Journalists cannot print false statements that damage a person’s reputation. In most jurisdictions, true statements cannot be libelous, so journalists can protect themselves by rigorously checking facts.
Proper attribution. Journalists must never plagiarize. If they use information from another media outlet or journalist, they need to attribute it to them.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment doesn’t give journalists the right to say whatever they want. There are limitations on a free press, especially around defamation, slander, and libel. Understanding the language can help students better understand how the First Amendment relates to ethics in journalism.
Defamation is communication which exposes a person to hatred, ridicule or contempt or lowers them in the esteem of their fellows, causes them to be shunned or injured in business dealings.
Slander is the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation. It is usually a false and defamatory oral statement about a person
Libel is defamation in written or printed words.
The New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) is a crucial Supreme Court case in understanding libel law. It ruled that public officials could not collect damages in civil lawsuits unless the reporter showed actual malice in their reporting, which means the reporter knowingly attempted to damage or destroy the reputation of the public official.
Gertz v. Welch (1974) delineated differences between public officials, public figures and private individuals.
Public officials usually are elected officials performing work for the public, the citizenry.
Public figures have attained such pervasive fame or notoriety or they hold a position of power and influence that they are a public figure for all contexts. Or a public figure can be someone who assumes some special notoriety in the resolution of a public question. A person voluntarily inserts themselves into a public controversy.
Private individuals are more likely to be vulnerable to injury. Private individuals don’t voluntarily expose themselves to the risk of injury from defamatory falsehoods concerning them. They don’t have power, prominence or notoriety.
Provide students with a list of names of people who might fit these different definitions. Have them identify if the individual is a public official, public figure, or private individual.
With a partner or a group students should create scenarios of ethical/unethical behavior.
Students should identify the harm that comes from unethical reporters. They could individually or in groups develop scenarios of unethical behavior.
Be Inspired: Develop a statement that proclaims the necessity of ethical behavior. The statement also should define ethical and unethical behavior
Create: Without researching existing codes of ethics, have students develop their own code of ethics for journalists in general or student journalists
Document: As they create this code of ethics, they should be able to explain why they included and excluded certain behaviors. They also should be able explain how such a statement will govern specific reporting behaviors. Make a log to reflect on the creation of your code of ethics.
Share: Share your code of ethics with your classmates. Seek their reactions and responses. Listen to their comments. Determine if you would like to or need to revise your code.
Collaborate: As a class, work together to create your own classroom Code of Ethics.
A strategy that has been used in writing classrooms from elementary school through college, A Writer’s Memo is a memorandum from a student-writer to their teacher-reader, answering specific questions about how they composed a written draft.
Why do it?
A writer’s memo helps to shift the responsibility for the writer’s growth from the teacher to the writer themself by asking the writer to use metacognition and reflection to produce a memo for the teacher-reader about the work being turned in. The use of such self-evaluation promotes self-reliance, independence, and autonomy. But the writer’s memo accomplishes more than simply helping students become more effective readers of their own writing. It also positions teachers to adopt constructive roles as respondents, rather than judges.
How do I incorporate this into my teaching?
In introducing the writer’s memo to their classes, teachers usually distribute a Writer’s Memo assignment sheet, which accompanies a regular writing assignment. The Memo assignment sheet includes a series of questions that deal with the process of writing the assigned paper and with the students’ feelings about the finished draft.
Questions on the writing process might, for example, ask students to recount how they selected a topic, how they generated ideas for use in the paper, or what problems they encountered in organizing their thoughts. Other questions might deal with the students’ composing choices; for instance, one might ask students to explain which other organizational patterns for their ideas they considered before making the final decisions about the structure of their writing. Other questions compel students to evaluate their own work by asking them to point out and explain their work’s greatest strength. Students can be asked to select their single best sentence or paragraph or transition, which can have the further benefit of bolstering students’ confidence, simply by helping them to locate parts of their writing worth praising, even while the draft is still quite rough. The students can also be asked to compare the effectiveness of the draft to one of their earlier pieces of writing, or to identify weaknesses of the draft. Still other questions can be used to reinforce ideas about writing or techniques covered in class, and to suggest various new approaches to the writing process.
Finally, students can be asked to provide the instructor with needed assistance in effectively responding to the draft. Questions about audience and purpose are useful ones to pose, as well as those that allow students to direct their teacher’s responses to their individual needs as writers: “What questions would you like me to answer about your draft?” When the memo questions are distributed with an assignment, the teacher should explain that the memos are required and that papers will not receive comments until the memos are completed.
At the same time, the instructor stresses that the memo itself is a tool for both student and teacher, and will not be evaluated or graded. The memo questions can usually be placed on the same sheet as the assignment, making it easy for students to see the connections between the two writing tasks. Over the course of the term, questions need to be varied from assignment to assignment in an effort to keep the memos from becoming a rote-like chore and to tie the questions as closely as possible to each given assignment.
By asking students to share their memos with each other or to read them to the class or by writing a memo to the class about one of their own drafts, a teacher can show the range of responses possible and say something about the importance of metacognition in the writing process.
Writer’s memos can also be used when students turn in revised versions of earlier drafts. Questions can ask students to explain and justify the changes they have made in their work from one draft tothe next. This is particularly useful in responding to the revised paper, because it guarantees that the teacher will be focusing on the conceptual concerns or specific parts of the essay about which the student is most interested in receiving some response.
Where can I learn more?
Rebecca Powell traces the Writer’s Memo to Peter Elbow, and points to “Writing and Response: Theory, Practice, and Research” by Jeffrey Sommers as a good source for understanding the Writer’s Memo and its history. According to Robert Brooke, the “writer’s memo started out as ‘author’s note’ in the early work of Donald Graves, when Lucy Calkins was a researcher for his larger project.” You can read about author’s notes in Calkins’ iconic Lessons from a Child. Since they were all working in New Hampshire, this idea filtered up to Donald Murray at the college level, where author’s notes were part of his pedagogy, codified late in his career in his book A Writer Teaches Writing.
Rachel Ignotofsky is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, based in Santa Barbara. She grew up in New Jersey on a healthy diet of cartoons and pudding and graduated from Tyler School of Art in 2011. Her work is inspired by history and science. She believes that illustration is a powerful tool that can make learning exciting. She has a passion for taking dense information and making it fun and accessible. Rachel hopes to use her work to spread her message about scientific literacy and feminism.
Bryan Ripley Crandall has an interesting story with technology, as he remembers vividly the envy he felt when his best friend, Peter Boy, got the first home computer of the neighborhood and, later, when his college classmates came to campus with clunky, but helpful, keyboard machines. He taught for over a decade in Louisville, Kentucky, and became part of the 21st cohort of the Louisville Writing Project. It was then he began thinking about the ways technology was shifting his own classroom instruction. In fact, he was first published in Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom, edited by Anne Herington, Kevin Hodgson, and Charles Moran. Ah, but he confesses that he knew little about the history of the computer until reading Rachel Ignatofsky’s book.
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