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This week, I’m teaching my 7th and 8th graders about persuasion.  The 8th graders are working on persuasive speeches on an injustice in the world that needs to be eliminated.  The 7th graders are writing persuasive essays suggesting a book that the entire middle school should read next year.  We’ve talked about emotional appeals and logical appeals and calls to action.

And then, it got turned around on me.

The high school speech team coach brought in a few of his team members to my class to try to drum up some interest.  He wanted not only the 8th graders to think about joining the high school team next year — there are also plans for a middle school team, and he wanted to get the 7th graders involved as well.

After the performances were over and our guests left the room, my students had questions.  I couldn’t answer all of them, but I gave them what I knew from when I had been on my own middle school’s speech team.

Then one of them said, “Speaking of academically related extracurricular activities…”

Uh oh…

“Why don’t we have a newspaper?”

I replied that the newspaper was generally the domain of the journalism teacher, who also does the yearbook.  If there isn’t enough interest for both, yearbook usually gets preference.

This is when the students began testing their new-found powers of persuasion.  “We should have a middle school newspaper next year!”

“Dude,” one of them responded.  “We can’t even afford paper.”  (True.  Teachers are responsible for buying our own copy paper.  And chalk.  And dry erase markers.  And Kleenex.  As a result, extra credit is often offered for students to supply these items.)

I started thinking.  “Well, it could be a digital, online newspaper.”

Once they saw I was thinking about it, some of them got really excited and began talking about possibilities.  “And you could be the sponsor!” they exclaimed.

Yep.  Shoulda seen that coming.

So, I’m thinking about it.  It could be fun.  A lot of work, for certain.  But maybe also enjoyable, and something unique to the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.  A way to make a positive name for these stuck-in-the-middle kids who, in a K-12 school, sometimes get overlooked or left out.  And if I can encourage young writers on top of that, even better.

They’ll need to keep working on convincing me, though.

In the meantime, do any of you have suggestions (aside from just a blog) for a site where we could make a free digital newspaper?


About Karen Koch

I like the old-fashioned lifestyle. All this new-fangled stuff baffles me sometimes. I cherish living out in the country, raising chickens and rabbits, planting fruit trees, and enjoying a slow life filled with beautiful words and ideas. I don't always achieve a slow life. I teach middle school English and manage a little burgeoning farm with my husband, and somewhere in the midst of that, I try to find time for writing, running, knitting, reading, and playing the ukulele. And sometimes, I actually succeed.

3 responses »

  1. Great idea! And what better way to improve the students’ grammar and spelling than a newspaper, which requires not only logical and straight thinking, but is also a great source for illustrations on how NOT to write. And why not throw in a few tidbits of ‘etymology’ while you’re at it?

  2. I love this idea! I don’t really have any suggestions to help you though…

    It’s ironic that it came up after a visit from the speech team – I was enrolled in journalism in high school but my uncle (who was an English teacher at my school) convinced me to switch to public speaking since I liked to argue so much 🙂 I ended up not being on the debate team – I did original oratory instead. I can remember the opening lines to some of my speeches even now. Ha!

  3. Brings memories of when i was appointed to lead the journalism club at the Escuela Evangélica where I taught for a few months. i still have copies of the newspaper we ‘mimeographed’ and distributed.


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