Today was my last day with Ms. McKinney’s fourth grade class. They were to have written little news articles about Martin Luther King Day celebrations that took place around Los Angeles. Some of them also wrote extra credit articles about the inauguration.
Because the students had Mass at the beginning of the day, I only had about 25 minutes with the fourth graders before it was time to go out to recess with the third grade. So, I had a few of the students read their articles to the class.
One student, Ezra, was super-excited about reading his article to the class. But when he read it, it became immediately clear that he didn’t follow the directions that I gave the class last week. A few of the other students caught onto that, and I had to do some quick damage control in order to tell the class what they were supposed to do and tell Ezra, “no, that’s not what I expected you to do,” while keeping his morale high.
I ended up telling the class about feature stories. These are stories that are usually not in the first section of the newspaper, but they may expound on ideas from news stories. What Ezra shared was pretty well-written, it just didn’t follow the conventions of news writing that I had taught the class. I explained that while Ezra didn’t follow the directions given, he still wrote a pretty good feature story that could run in the features section if the class were to put out a full newspaper.
Overall, the journalism experiment/experience was a good one for the fourth grade. They picked up the essentials and were able to start putting together some pretty sophisticated stories. When I teach journalism to a new batch of high school students in the spring, I will now have some ammunition: “Mr. Knox, this is too hard!” “Well, I taught it to fourth graders in Los Angeles, and English is their second language. If they can pick it up, I’m sure you can too!”