Advisers and Editors Center
Middle School Newspaper Activities
The perception that newspapers are adult media is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to your middle school students. Although a newspaper can be created at any level, there is something truly “grownup” about having your name and article in a newspaper. Students learn better when there is real world application that is applied to what they are learning.
These newspaper activities are designed especially to help your students learn while creating something that will be particularly special to them. Each activity is meant to teach or enhance a particular skill and to explore the world of journalism in a fun and innovating way. They focus on one particular subset of a newspaper so that you can teach the same thing to all your students.
#1 – The Interview Newspaper
Assignment: Each student is to interview at least one person and write an article based on the interview. Tell them that their work will be published in an actual newspaper.
Skills that will be challenged: Communication, writing, photography, layout and design.
Students will need to first devise a list of questions they feel are important. The nature of the questions themselves could be an entire lesson. An interview needs to be conducted with a particular goal in mind. If, for example, a student is interviewing the principal of your school, their needs to be direction to the questions asked. Take a specific area and ask many questions about that area. Does the student want to know about school policy, a particular upcoming event, how someone came to be principal, about a particular problem in school, or what the principal does in his or her free time. The student wouldn’t ask all of those questions, but focus on one specific question and ask many related questions to draw out more information.
For the purpose of the interview, the student should have a minimum of five questions. Hopefully, there will be enough information from those five questions to write at least a paragraph for each answer. The student should also take a photo of the interviewee (there is no problem if the student is also in the picture!).
Once the interview is finished, the student should isolate the most important bit of information that came out of the conversation and use that in the title somehow. The article would naturally follow the that theme. Gather up all your articles and photos and design a newspaper around those interviews. Title the newspaper something like Maddison Middle School Gossip.
#2 – The Opinion Newspaper
Assignment: Each student will write an opinion piece on either an assigned topic or from an approved topic list. Tell the students that their article will be published in an actual newspaper.
Skills that will be challenged: writing, research, critical thinking, layout and design.
For this activity, each student must take their topic and do the research needed to understand both sides of the issue. They are then to pick a side of their choice and explain why they believe it to be superior. Their article will need to include both sides of the issue in some form. For example, a student is assigned to write about which superhero, Batman or Superman, is the better hero. They will need to include the pros and cons of each superhero, but then explain why they believe one or the other is the better hero. There needs to be elements of critical thinking in the argument:
- Identification of basic premise and conclusions. A student is likely already to have an opinion, so they should break their opinion down into statements for evaluation and verification.
- Clarification of arguments. Students then should evaluate their own arguments and opinions, looking for weaknesses, vagueness, and contradictions.
- Establishment of facts. Students should gather more information to help clarify their arguments.
- Evaluation of logic. Students will then evaluate if their opinion can be true based on the facts and logical direction those facts take them. This is where opinions may change somewhat.
- Final evaluation – or expressed opinion based on their research.
It may be more enjoyable if the topics are not serious or of current social hot topics. That, however, is up to the teacher. Gather up all your opinion pieces and have the students build a newspaper to print their opinions in.
#3 – The Current Events Newspaper
Assignment: To write an article that covers a current event at your school or in your community.
Skills that will be challenged: writing, research, photography, layout and design.
Somewhat similar to the interview newspaper, it differs in that it focuses on a live event the student can attend, not a person. Students will need to attend the event, interview at least three people who were at the event or who took part in it, and write an article about the event that seeks to reveal a side that few people might be aware of.
It shouldn’t be too challenging. The student focuses more on the following:
- Understanding the purpose of the event.
- Taking good notes while there.
- Trying to see the event from more than one perspective.
- Try to get a look behind the scenes.
- Watch for the unexpected.
- Take many photographs.
- Look for the impact the event has on people.
- Interview people both participating in and watching the event.
The article should be a little deeper than a recitation of an order of events. The article should express the impact the event has on people and why it had such an impact. Once written, gather all the articles and publish a newspaper.
#4 – The Photo-Op Newspaper
Assignment: To take a photo or series of photos of an object or person for the purpose of creating a photo essay.
Skills that will be challenged: photography, graphics design, image editing.
For this exercise, you will want your students to understand the basics of photography and understand the power of imagery. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the right photo can evoke powerful emotions. Find famous photos and discuss them with your class, ask what makes the image powerful, and find out what the image means to them.
Assign each child a task of taking a photo that they feel generates a similar feeling. They may need to take many images and pick out the best one. As the name of this assignment suggests, it can be an arranged photo session that your student sets up with someone or it can be something they just happen to take being at the right place at the right time.
Generally, avoid a nature scene. It can be an object, for example, such a deflated soccer ball sitting next to an abandoned rail road track. Such an image could conjure up all sorts of emotions and even speculation. Find powerful images to share with your class to help them unerstand this concept.
Have the student write a caption that briefly describes the photo. Collect all the images and put them in a newspaper for publication. Make sure each photo has the caption and the name of the student that took the photo. You can even do a contest if you wish and reward the winner with a full size image on the front page.
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