Journo Adviser

Exploring the worlds where teaching, advising, and coding coincide.

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Finding a place for the first-person voice in the journalism classroom

March 5, 2013

Arthur Boyle joined my Journalism class as a senior –– he had taken my AP Comp class last year, and during spring registration, I badgered him enough about taking journalism the following year that he finally gave in.  I love it when AP Comp students join the journalism class as seniors –– they offer a perspective and maturity that I don’t always see right away with sophomore and junior writers, and they have a grasp of voice and narrative timing that younger writers just don’t have.  They’re also used to coming up with their own ideas and challenging the status quo.

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Toward more effective revision: teaching editors and writers self-sufficiency

February 23, 2013

With every student I’ve taught, the writing process varies––some students can write beautiful first drafts and some require dozens of drafts to get there.  Critiquing a story, like writing one, is an art, and the writing teacher’s and editor’s job is to sense the needs of each writer and help him or her build a writing process that works.  No matter the writer’s skill, I’ve found that the start of effective revision happens when there’s a classroom culture where writers allow their first drafts to be ugly, awkward, and imperfect things, where they recognize that the first draft is about exploration and possibilities.  

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Strategies for using Twitter for live sports coverage

February 14, 2013

I remember my students’ sports coverage back when I started advising.  They would try to recreate what they saw real sports reporters doing, but because of our publication schedule, it just wasn’t possible to do it well, and we ended up with tepid game recaps that no one wanted to read.  Twitter, though, has given us the ability to report on sports in a real and relevant way that just wasn’t possible before.

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Becoming an online-first publication

February 12, 2013

My journalism students have been publishing an online edition for five years now, and it’s only in the last two years that they’ve really figured out how to do it right.  When we first launched our website, it was a novelty, an afterthought, a place where we deposited our stories after they were printed, hoping they might get a few more readers.  Even after several years, the print edition’s needs continued to dominate almost every aspect of our work and production. 

It makes sense that the print edition maintained this central role––it offers a tangible, real experience that can’t be replaced by a website.  There’s a physical presence to the newspaper: students feel its heft in their hands as they walk around the school, handing it to their readers and seeing their immediate reactions.  They return from distribution with ink-stained hands and begin to flip through the final product themselves with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

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Creating a legacy of student leadership

February 6, 2013

We teachers sometimes mistake our own hard work and busyness for good teaching.  Years ago, I used to be proud of myself for spending hours critiquing drafts of journalism stories on the nights before deadlines.  We had a shared Google Doc with a list that students added their names to when they were ready for me to critique their stories.  I would work my way through that list, and as fast as I could cross the names off the top, the list would continue growing as writers would resubmit their stories for additional critiques.  I regularly read 50 to 60 drafts in a night, and I’d usually give up and go to bed in exhaustion before I was able to completely finish.  It took me a while to realize that I was the person in the class who was working the hardest.

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Explore the potential of Twitter’s new Vine videos with your journalism staff

February 2, 2013

With the launch of the new Vine app on January 24, Twitter has made it easier than ever before to record and share videos, but Vine is going to make us rethink the nature of video and how we use it to tell our stories.  Just as Twitter limits the number of characters per tweet, Vine videos have a maximum length of 6 seconds, and the videos play on a continuous loop much like an animated gif.

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Reflections on sitting in the principal’s office

January 30, 2013

Journalism advisers find themselves in a precarious position in high schools.  We teach our students to stand up for the truth, to speak for those who can’t, and to question authority.  We teach them the power of their own voices and encourage them to put those voices to work in meaningful ways.  We teach them that if they believe in something, they should stand firm, and we teach them that consequences just might be worth it.  And that means, inevitably, that those of us who are advisers will find ourselves sitting in the principal’s office at some point in our careers.

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Embracing the chaos of the journalism classroom

January 29, 2013

I used to feel guilty that my Journalism classes weren’t as smoothly run as my other English classes. A passerby could walk into my AP Comp or American Lit classes and have no doubt that my students were actively engaged and that I was properly doing my job.  And then I’d go to my Journalism class, close the door and hope that no one would see the chaos going on within.

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Gather ‘Round the Campfire

January 23, 2013

I love my editors this year, and they’re one of the most talented groups I’ve taught, but man, are they bad at paying attention to me.  What was that over there? A shiny bauble?  What was I saying again…

They come to class, and the first thing most of them do is migrate to the desk they’ve sat in all year, spread out three different homework assignments that are due later in the day, open their laptops to start some YouTube music videos playing in the background while they check Facebook and argue with each other about who has more rhythm.  And maybe, just maybe, if I’m lucky, they open up one of the stories they’re supposed to be editing in another tab in their browser so that they can pretend like they’re working if they see me coming near.

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