We recently test drove our School Life News (SLN) initiative in Hudson, NY, introducing some 30 third- to eleventh-grade students to the wonders of the Reporter’s Notebook, the 5Ws, interviewing, researching, writing, and publishing. Here’s some of what we learned:

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  • Third grade is not too early. We introduced SLN to incoming third-graders, far younger than we had planned for, and quickly realized that the sooner we teach the basics the better;
  • The basics are — basic. Not only did we drill the kids on note taking, but on the rudimentary skills of hearing, seeing, and thinking;
  • Skilled teachers can teach journalism. With minimal training, good lesson plans, and ample resources, teachers trained in other fields can teach journalism;
  • Partnerships work. By collaborating with existing programs in the district, we benefited enormously from facility- and staff-cost sharing—delivering a robust program for less than $150 per student for four weeks, six hours a week, of journalism instruction.

The best thing was that in just a few hours of practice, our SLN kids became more confident about their reporting, note taking, and writing skills — confidence being the key to learning more.  And this is just the beginning. We need to continue the test in Hudson and plan our expansion to other needy districts and neighborhoods. 

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