Fifth-graders learn the art of news

Seven West Boulevard Elementary students are producing a new school newspaper.
Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:23 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

After reading “The Landry News,” a book about a fifth-grader starting her own newspaper, West Boulevard Elementary School fifth-grader Robert Kaas and his friend Justin Jose decided they wanted to start their own school newspaper.

“We just thought it would be kind of fun to write stories and put them out to the school,” Robert said.

Robert approached Peter Stiepleman, assistant principal at West Boulevard, about starting the newspaper. Robert said it was scary to approach Stiepleman, but it turned out all right because he and other students now get to produce a school newspaper.

The Bobcat News staff consists of seven students who meet for an hour three times a week with MU junior Steph Musto. Musto is in a service learning class in which she mentors students for three hours a week. She said she was originally going to be a literacy mentor for one student, but when Stiepleman found out she was a journalism student the newspaper seemed like a good fit, she said.

“It’s been a really awesome experience,” Musto said. “I’m just really fortunate.”

The students work on the newspaper while the rest of their classmates are participating in interventions in writing and math. Interventions are designed for students who have gaps in their math knowledge or students who are learning to develop their writing skills. The Bobcat staff is proficient in both of these areas.

Only two newspapers have been printed so far, but Musto said the group plans to publish twice a month. The issues printed already have included investigative stories, such as “Girls Recess, Is It Fun?”; health articles, such as “The Lunch Express;” and profiles, such as “Mentoring with Mr. and Mrs. Burk.”

The paper is printed on white 8½ inch-by-11 inch paper and is stapled in the top left corner.

“They are learning to critically think and to question their environment,” Stiepleman said. “They are able to be writers. They see how things are written from a perspective.”

Musto said the students, who are responsible for writing articles and taking pictures, are learning journalistic standards, such as objectivity, as well as improving their verbal skills.

Stiepleman also said the newspaper is an example of students taking responsibility for their own learning.

“They have a product that they want to produce,” he said. “Their names are in print. School is purposeful.”

West Boulevard hopes to continue the newspaper next semester and get new students involved, Stiepleman said.

“We are thinking about rewarding those kids who really make improvements in their writing in the intervention program,” he said. “They can contribute or be staff writers.”

Musto said she can tell the students have fun through little clues, such as a reaction to seeing their article.

“There’s moments when they know what they are doing is really cool and out of the ordinary for a ten-year-old,” she said.

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