Hello again! In my last post, I detailed the work that students in the third and fourth grade courses for Book Club and Young Leaders will be doing. Not to miss the fine work students are doing in their other courses here at Berkeley Academy, I wish to outline for you the work of our middle school newspaper team and Common Core writing students.
For our middle schoolers, newspaper is a chance for students to tell you, the parents, in their own words what they are interested in and what they are doing this fall. Admittedly, this course got off to a shaky start as some of our students are used to rigid expectations. However, once they embraced the idea that they had creative freedom over their work, the ideas began to flow. In just a few weeks, the students have already voted on all of the columns to be included in their fall edition and have started the writing process for their first articles. Many of these are much more creative ventures than your typical student newspaper, too! One group is focusing on an advice column for their fellow students, while others are busy working on puzzles, choose-your-own-adventure stories, and reviews for some of their games, places, and products. It has become clear to me that many students feel like their job in the classroom is to present ideas in their writing that fall in line with the instructor’s beliefs in order to get a good grade, which is why it is my goal to let this newspaper be produced by the students with as little interference from me as possible. Of course, I will help with the editing process and getting their final articles organized, but students need to learn now more than ever that their ideas are valid. After all, how can we expect students to be our future leaders if we do not encourage them to expand their own ideas?
As for Common Core Writing, our students are split into two groups (1st-2nd grade and 3rd-4th grade) but are working on similar projects. The Common Core standards emphasize writing opinion pieces, informative works, and narratives. What all of these genres have in common is an attention to detail. It is never too early for our students to understand that their writing is a part of a conversation, and therefore should be focused on an understanding of their potential audience. Without supporting details, statements like “My favorite video game is Minecraft” leave much to be desired in a potential reader. By reminding students to consider their audiences and encouraging them to add details to their writing, they will become more aware of the purposes for their writing and the rhetorical situations they will find themselves in.
As someone who has taught writing classes at the college level, I have seen firsthand how even young adults write when they do not have a meaningful purpose to write. At Berkeley Academy, it is my goal not only to teach the Common Core standards but also to highlight to our young scholars that their purpose in writing is not simply to please me as the instructor. Their purpose, first and foremost, should be to communicate their ideas, and many of our students are ready to embrace this opportunity with open arms.