Hear ye! Hear ye! Read all about it!

This week over at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is ripped from the headlines. Look at local, regional or global news.

Now if there is one thing I have noticed about “the news” over the years, it’s that the news reported in the media is generally bad. Often the stories are meant to alarm or frighten. I think it must be easier to control a population through fear. A little scaremongering may go a long way.

Although the song is called It’s Good News Week, it doesn’t have much good news to tell.

I selected a few headlines (expressly for my purpose) from a recent Conversation:

  • The role of water in Australia’s uncertain future
  • The scariest part of climate change isn’t what we know, but what we don’t
  • Stop, go back, the NDIS board shake-up is going the wrong way
  • We’re overdosing on medicine – it’s time to embrace life’s uncertainty
  • Australians less likely to survive home ownership than Britons

“They” can do it with Education too:

  • Is your child less likely to be bullied in a private school?
  • Uni drop-out rates show need for more support, not capped enrolments
  • The slide of academic standards in Australia: a cautionary tale
  • The absurdity of English spelling and why we’re stuck with it

F

All of these headlines state the existence of a situation or condition as irrefutable, like falling standards and failing students. I’m sure most of you will be familiar with headlines such as this one from the Conversation nearly two years ago:

Lost for words: why the best literacy approaches are not reaching the classroom

In this article Misty Adoniou attributes the failure of some Australian children on national and international literacy tests to their lack of exposure and experience with standard English – they do not speak standard or “school” English at home. Adoniou says that is up to teachers to improve the language used by students and to make their understanding of correct usage explicit. However she says that many teachers do not have an explicit understanding of English and, as a result, are unable to teach it to their students.

 

I’m not sure how true that statement is. However, what I do like about this article is the advice Adoniou gives about teaching. She says that “all our teaching about language must be done in context and in the course of achieving real outcomes.” I couldn’t agree more.

Daily news – learning in context

In fact, from their first weeks of school I was explicitly teaching students about language and literacy using a strategy I borrowed and developed from the ubiquitous “show and tell”. I called this strategy simply “News”, and found it to be a powerful tool for teaching the skills of both reading and writing.

Its strength came from the familiar context, the connection to children’s lives and the importance it placed upon them. The teaching could be adjusted to suit different stages of development, to reinforce learning for some and extend the learning of others. For me, as teacher, it was a powerful learning tool. I was able to gauge children’s developing strategies, understand their needs and identify next steps for learning.

How it worked

Talk

A few children each day would have the opportunity to share their item of interest or “news” with the class. Class mates could ask for additional information or clarification if they wished.

Compose

We (teacher and children) would collaboratively compose a report, initially just one or two sentences, of what had been shared.

Write

I would model the composition and the writing process, rehearsing what to write while involving children in thinking about what to write and how to write it. How much they were involved, and the detail of language and skills discussed could be easily adjusted to suit their development.  There was always ample practice and repetition, in a meaningful context, for children who needed more time; and discussion of strategies and ideas to extend the most advanced students.

Some of the writing strategies children were learning include:

  • Composition or rehearsal before writing
  • Directionality of writing
  • Translating conversational language into written language
  • Changing first person spoken text into third person written text
  • Identifying letters used to spell the sounds of language
  • Awareness of punctuation
  • Tenses, past and future, depending on what the children shared
  • Rereading to ensure message is correct and what to write next
  • Proofreading and editing
  • Identifying the main idea through choosing a suitable headline

Read

After the news was written, we would read it together to ensure it was correct and the child was happy with the way the news had been reported.

The text could then be used for developing a number of reading skills, for example:

  • Recognising words by sight
  • Noticing similarities in spellings, or differences in spelling of words with similar sounds
  • Punctuation and its effect on reading
  • Comprehension and grammar: who, what, where, when, and (sometimes) why
  • Reading with expression

Share

Each day I would print up the news for the children to take home to share with their family. It was a great first reading experience – about them, their friends and their families.

While this is only a brief overview of the strategy, the learning that can take place using children’s own language is obvious. Used as one small part of a rich literacy focused and literature-based classroom environment it is a powerful teaching tool. One day I will explain the strategy in detail so that others can use it too.

Flash fiction

But back to the headlines and Charli’s challenge.

Over recent years I have noticed an increased use of ambiguity in headlines and the introduction of (attempted) literary expressions into the body of articles. I have drawn on that for my flash. I hope it works.

 

Bridge plans in jeopardy

She scrolled through the headlines, searching …

Minister passes over bridge in favour of tunnel

Minister fails to dig himself out of tunnel fiasco

searching …

Minister reveals hand on bridge impasse

Minister’s tunnel vision blocks bridge improvement

searching …

Minister jumps from bridge over tunnel plans

Talks with Minister over bridge collapse

searching …

Bridge closure forces Minister’s hand

She was sure she had heard something … it must be here … why couldn’t she see it?

Scrolling … scrolling …

“Finally,” she sighed.

Bridge players wanted, Tunnel Street Community Hall, Wednesdays 10 am!

 

A Day in the Life

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

34 thoughts on “Hear ye! Hear ye! Read all about it!

  1. Bec

    Your FF elicited an actual ‘lol’ at the end! Very amusing. Certainly I can relate to the struggles of text searching!

    Your ‘news’ activity plan is excellent – I can imagine this being of great use to many teachers as you’ve have explained the step-by-step process and the value of this approach. I would love to see it adopted by others!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Bec. I’m pleased you enjoyed the story.
      And thank you for your encouragement re use of the “news” for teaching literacy. I would love to see others use it also. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  2. julespaige

    Your Flash reminds me of the story of little Johnny coming home and wanting to know where he came from. Uh oh, Mom thought time for the talk about the birds and the bees…
    After all that was said and done… Little Johnny looks thoughtfully. “OK, but Larry who just moved in down the block said he came from New York City….” Everything in context. It is perfectly fine to ask a child for clarification or to prod for more information if one, as an adult isn’t quite sure where the conversation is heading 😉

    Thanks for being a teacher and all of your visits. I was away and it is amazingly fast how one day of not being glued to the net puts a ‘writer’ and ‘reader’ behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I have heard a story like that one about Johnny – funny. Asking for clarification before jumping in is always a good idea. 🙂
      Thank you for your kind comment. I know what you mean about getting behind in reading and writing. There are soooo many things to do! Thank you for making the time to pop by and comment. Your prompt/question about my response made me less keen to let this one go by. Thank you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. Pingback: Ripped From the Headlines « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Charli Mills

    Sensational headlines seem to be a world plague. Someone posted on FB yesterday an article with the headline, “Children who are picky eaters might have mental illness!” She posted her own take on the topic — that she was once a picky eater and she’s not masking any mental illness. She went on to say that it was another plot to frighten parents. But why do we have these plots? I think the clever 1965 song is right, it’s a distraction.

    You apply critical thinking to what you read about education and that is how we should read the news. I remember how important “show and tell” was to me and my children. I like that you made it into news that also had underlying lessons. It connects what is important in students’ lives but it also get them to process it. Hopefully, that leads to critical thinking when, later in life, we are called to process news that impacts our lives.

    Terrific flash fiction! I often feel that way trying to find something so simple and all the sensational stuff clogs the feed instead!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Charli. As if parenting does not instil enough fear without adding to it with such statements. Picky eating and mental illness. I’m sure there may be a connection for some, but probably little correlation! While eating disorders are particularly tragic, I don’t think all “picky” children end up with an illness as a result of it.
      I’m pleased to hear that you and your children enjoyed show and tell. It certainly has many benefits on its own. I have seen too many classrooms where the only one interested in the talk was the one giving it. I think that’s sad and a waste of time for all. I always endeavoured to progress the children’s learning in all I did. I always made sure we had lots of fun doing it though! 🙂
      I’m glad you liked the flash. I nearly missed the boat this time. I’m pleased the bridge popped up and I was able to make the crossing anyway! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Charli Mills

        I like how you never stop learning, bridging from show and tell to “news.” It must set an enthusiastic example for students to have a teacher who is engaged in learning,too. And as to picky eaters, I find more of a correlation between parents who like to cook and children who enjoy trying new things. Glad you found a way to the flash!

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  5. Sherri

    Haha…very clever flash Norah, and just shows how careful we need to be with our writing! Loved it, and as always, your preamble. It reminds me of the tiny primary school I attended in Suffolk. Each morning we had to sit quiety and write our ‘Morning News’ in an exercise book. This basically meant writing about what we had done the night before. My mother kept one book from my brother and from me and years later we laughed at the things we wrote. My brother’s spoke of having baked beans for tea and how ‘they were very delicious’. Mine spoke of watching ‘Jackanory’ and having a mug of Ovaltine before bed. Somehow, I think your method of encouraging your students to write their news was much more beneficial 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sherri. I hope it was and didn’t become too mundane. It’s funny that you mention writing your own “Morning News” because, in addition to the news as I’ve just described, the children also wrote a daily diary. They wrote to me and I wrote back to them every day. We had lots of fun communicating and finding out interesting things about each other. Because the writing was purposeful communication I think it worked better than just a diary for self. When I responded to them I was able to model the correct spelling of words they had written and ask for more information or clarification. They told me wonderful things about their lives and experiences. Recently I saw the mother of a child I taught in the 80s. She told me that they had recently been looking at one of his diaries and were amused at what he had written, just as you and your brother were. I think they are wonderful mementos. Thanks for sharing your experiences. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Sherri

        I enjoyed writing every day 🙂 Sometimes I would go into descriptions about washing my hair, ha!! Seriously though, it is a great excercise and how lovely to bump into a mother of one of your students all those years later. It must be wonderful to hear stories like this, knowing that they kept some of their work. I love the way you used your news diaries as a way of communicating back and forth and then with you fostering an environment in which interesting things could be shared and learned about one another within the classroom setting. How engaging for the children and for you too. Now that’s what I call proper teaching and you modelled it wonderfully Norah 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          Thank you, Sherri. I always enjoyed the communication and the lovely things the children wrote. It took a lot of time each day to respond to each child, but I considered it important so did it willingly and “lovingly”. It is wonderful to know that the effort was also appreciated by others. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
  6. macjam47

    I loved reading about your classroom news. Children are always eager to share what is happening in their lives, and your exercise reinforced their use of language while sharing. So many teachers, like you, are so creative in the classroom to help children learn and enjoy doing so. More recognition is needed for teachers.
    Your flash was right on the mark and fabulous.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your enthusiasm, Michelle. I procrastinated with this flash, unsure of how to approach it. Once I came up with the first bridge headline I had fun thinking of more! It is lovely to receive your praise for teachers. Thank you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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