One of the great writing activities made simple through computers is that of a newspaper. As the gifted and talented coordinator in my building, in order to meet the needs of my literary kids and provide them an outlet for their writing and leadership skills, I started a school newspaper last year.
The newspaper is a testament to team effort and peer pressure, and it inspires a self-starting nature to writing. You take a group of kids who like to write (or just like to gossip) and give them a task: tell people what’s going on. Suddenly, everyone is coming up with ideas.
“We would like to know more about the new principal.”
“We are learning about crawfish in science. It’s pretty neat!”
“Can I put a cartoon in?”
Then, you have the kids write up their stories and put them all in the same file, preferably on a network, but passing around a thumbdrive or a zip disk works well too. The students who are writing aces (and need a challenge) become editors, fixing up the writing, leaving me free to supervise. When it’s all done, we pile them into a pre-made Publisher template.
On a perfect month. But nothing is ever perfect.
Much of the time I, along with the editors, am chasing kids around for the stories that they promised us. We also spend a lot of time getting those stories to fit into the template, either by making them bigger or trimming them down. But what we are left with is a great collection of writing from different kids in different grades with different interests.
Seeing Weekly Reader each week has helped the kids understand that what they’re doing is not just writing, but something bigger: They are doing the same jobs as many of the reporters of the paper are doing. Weekly Reader gives kids a great example of how to write professionally, and it allows them to feel like they have a kinship with the people who report on the news.