A call for best practices

As journalism educators, we are all in search of new and engaging ways to help our students learn and grow as reporters, writers, editors and critical thinkers. In this space, we’ll open the web to educators from all over the country to share what has worked, and what hasn’t worked, in their classrooms. Your “best practice” doesn’t have to be long or involved (but it can be), it just has to be real.

I’ll go first. One of my favorite best practices is a lesson I borrow/adapt from a Diversity Across the Curriculum session at the Poynter Institute. I assign my students to visit a neighborhood gathering place for an hour or so, to observe with all of their senses, and then to write a descriptive piece using dialogue, sensory details and their own insights. The pieces don’t have to be long–500 to 800 or so words–but they do illuminate characters, writing styles and even some subtle biases that can be addressed from an instructional standpoint during future class meetings. The best part, for me, is that my students love this assignment. It offers them a chance to be anonymous, to be creative and to be immersed in their reporting.

Have a best practice to share? Email me at elissa.sonnenberg@uc.edu so I can add you to the blog!

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  • http://hunterword.com Gregg Morris

    I love what you’re doing. I’ve been experimenting with requiring my students to take descriptive notes of their subway commutes to campus over a period of several weeks. At the end of the semester, they are required to turn in a narrative based on their notes and are encouraged to submit pictures, all to be published in hunterword.com.

    I’m still tweaking. I’m not comfortable with anonymity. Because of a limited J-program, I require that the narratives be published for them to beef up their portfolios. I get mixed results. Narratives either soar or crash, there is little in between. Crash because they don’t like the assignment. Anyway, I’m still tweaking to get better class participation.


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