- Key Words: Writing, Student-centered learning
- Learner English Level: Intermediate to Advanced
- Learner Maturity Level: Junior high school to adult
- Preparation Time: Done throughout the semester
- Activity Time: Often throughout the semester
Newspaper conferencing is a student-centered way of producing a newspaper. This integrated task will allow your students to build on the skills they have acquired, in addition to providing them with a sense of achievement. As this task involves combining the four skills and continues throughout the semester, it is an ideal task for teachers of college and university-age students who may be bored with more conventional writing assignments.
The activity should be introduced on the first day of the semester. Students should be made to feel they can and will successfully complete the task and that the learning experience will be worthwhile and interesting. If the students know in advance they are not simply fulfilling a course requirement but learning to emulate success, then they will percieve the rationale for this activity
Step 1. Brainstorming- Have your students brainstorm about what kind of article they would like to write and/or read about. If you have a group of 40 students, we recommend groups of 4, as this will enable students to participate actively. During this time, the teacher will circulate, providing feedback only when or if requested by students.
Step 2 . Deciding on a Topic- After students have brainstormed for 15-20 minutes, the teacher can write all the students' ideas on the board. Once this is completed, the students, as a class, can vote on which ideas they think would be best. Through this procedure the students will narrow their focus and decide which articles their newspaper will be comprised of.
Step 3. Freewriting- Depending on the size of your class, have each group choose 2 or 3 ideas for which they will be responsible. Then ask the students to do freewriting on the ideas they have chosen for approximately 10 minutes. After the writing is completed, the students share their ideas among group members. The students then return home and rewrite their ideas as a homework assignment.
Step 4. Using Writing Models- During the next writing session, the teacher will give the students examples of different types of articles from newspapers and/or magazines. Depending on the level of the students, articles may be chosen from graded or authentic materials. These articles will be used as writing models as students rewrite their own ideas at home.
Step 5. Sharing Writing- The students will bring their homework to class and share or combine their written ideas in their groups. They will then give their draft articles to another group for peer review and comments. It's important for the students to not only share their own articles, but also admire and learn from their peers. This step will help them become more sensitive to their audience, which Cohen (1990) claims is necessary if one wishes to be a successful writer. The students will use those peer suggestions to revise their drafts.
Step 6 First Conference- At this point, the teacher will arrange a time for teacher-group conferences. According to Calkins (1986), conferences can "help students relax about their style and technique in order to better focus on their subjects and their pieces of writing usually improve as a result." (Calkins, 1986, p. 127) The group will present their 2 or 3 draft articles. Then they will discuss ways of gathering more information, if needed, or the possibility of conducting interviews in order to complete their articles. Although this task is student-centered, the teacher should provide needed guidance.
Step 7. Final Draft and Conference- After the students have gathered the necessary information and/or conducted interviews, they will make and present a final draft of their article in another teacher-group conference. Reid (1993) suggests students attend a conference with prepared questions to ensure they are setting the agenda. If the teacher and group believe it's worthy of publication, the students will decide on appropriate headings and other stylistic features. Of course, several revisions and teacher-group conferences may be necessary before the actual product hits the news-stands. We believe this activity is purposeful, fun and provides the students with a sense of accomplishment.
- Calkins, L.M. (1986). The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann Educational Books, Inc.
- Cohen, A. (1990). Language learning. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers.
- Reid, J. (1993).Teaching ESL writing. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall Regents.