Super young writers at Abington Academy

Written by Sally Hunt.

Pupils at Abington Academy deep in thoughtYesterday I had the pleasure of working with 30 Year 8 pupil premium pupils at Abington Academy in Wigston, Leicester. It was a full day workshop and I feared they would tire, especially as one or two of them had confessed to me that they hated writing! I couldn't have been more wrong. The morning went slowly, because everyone was so interested and asking loads of questions. They applied themselves with energy and enthusiasm and had loads of fun doing the interviews and being mock reporters. A big shout out to pupil premium co-ordinator Louise Claricoates who had really got in the swing of it and provided press badges which they loved wearing and really got in the part. I had to award a certificate for best dressed journalist at the end as one young man even came in a trilby with a space for a pencil!

The workshop ended with the students writing an article about their school merging with the school next door in September of this year. The schools are rivals at the moment and the children needed to be careful to keep their articles positive. Some of them even walked around the school during their lunch break getting quotes from students and staff..... that's dedication!

I came away having thoroughly enjoyed the day. One young man interviewed me! He wanted to write an article about me, and has promised he will email it to me. Unfortunately we couldn't photograph faces because of permission issues, but I did take a few pictures of backs of heads!

Since this workshop I've had press passes designed and they've gone down a bomb!

St George's Academy did it like dudes!

Written by Sally Hunt.

Journalism for Schools spent the day in Sleaford with a huge group of 260 year 8 students.

There weren’t enough computers to go round so we had written a bespoke workshop which involved writing the old fashioned way – with lots of lined paper and a pen.

The highlight of the day was the announcement that Jessie J was coming to town (not really …) and that our budding reporters had a rare five minute chance to go backstage with Jessie. They had to think of questions to ask her to make their newspaper story unique and interesting. They all rose to the challenge and some of the questions would have been fit for a journalist from a well-known music magazine. I knew a couple of Jessie J songs but by the end of this section I knew loads more! The children impressed us with their creativity - using song lyrics in headlines and the body of the article.

Despite the enormous number of children, I can honestly say that this was the most well-behaved group I’ve ever worked with. Well done St George’s Academy – you are a credit to your teachers and headteacher.

Pupil Premium

Written by Sally Hunt.

Our interactive workshops are increasingly being booked by Pupil Premium Administrators as external specialised support to the English department, to raise achievement and improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

We work with students of all abilities, but we have received some outstanding testimonials on the impact our workshop has had on pupil achievement. A day learning about being a reporter goes some way to closing the gap between the less literate pupils and their peers.

[click to enlarge a testimonial from an Abington Academy student]One Year 7 student at Heyford Free School had reading and writing difficulties and been receiving one-to-one attention for the whole year. He received an award for Excellent Article Writing at the end of the Journalism workshop, reducing his teacher to tears of pride. The lovely thing was, I didn’t know anything about his past and had quite genuinely picked out his article as a superb example to read out to the class!

Please click on the image (right) to open/download a testimonial from a student at Abington Academy (Adobe Acrobat or Reader required).

A chance to interview hawk-man (not a super-hero!)

Written by Sally Hunt.

Journalism for Schools had the pleasure of spending a day with Year 6/Year 7 students at Ken Stimpson Community School in Peterborough during their Summer School.

Although the students were all very interested in the workshop, it was, after all work, and the highlight of the day, I have to admit, was when ‘hawk man’ came in at lunchtime! The school had been having a problem with seagulls swooping down in the playground and the administration team had called upon the services of an experienced falconer who was able to fly his hawk safely around the school area to frighten off the seagulls.

Hawk man was called Tony and while they were on their lunch break the children got a great demonstration and talk about his hawk, her daily life, how she was trained, her character and general lifestyle.

We had spent the morning learning about how news reporters work during their day-to-day life of filling the pages of a newspaper. I had talked with them about how we find news and about reporting news, most importantly, with truth and accuracy. The children had enjoyed working in pairs and interviewing each other while taking notes ready to write up their articles after lunch.

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I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pick a handful of students to do a personal interview with Tony (hawk man). We checked with him and he was happy to chat to the students. I left my assistant to work with the other students who were writing up their articles and sat with the group interviewing Tony. This gave them the chance to ask a real person questions and a chance for me to help them get the general story from Tony. We asked him about himself and where he worked, about the hawk, her name, age and breed and a brief history of her life. We asked him how the hawk worked as a deterrent and why, and how long did it take to take effect. The kids were great and asked such questions as ‘will the hawk ever eat a seagull?’ and some good questions such as did Tony get emotionally attached to his birds and what do they eat, how long do they live etc?

Afterwards, we went back into the IT suite and joined the others who were finishing off their articles. I saw some lovely work and was very impressed that the students had clearly listened to me and were writing up their articles starting with the main summary of the story followed by more detail.

The students who had been interviewing Tony got straight to work and I could see quite quickly some fab headlines and great opening paragraphs. They all said to me that they were enjoying writing their articles and I could literally see their minds ticking over as they put the ‘pieces’ of the article together from their notes.

At this point I was also answering lot of questions and getting some feedback from the children about what they thought a journalist was, and what they learned from me today that they didn’t know before.

In general, I felt very proud of the students for everything they had learnt and taken in throughout the day and then used in their end-product articles. There was a range of abilities but I felt that everyone got something out of it as it enabled them to develop ideas in their mind and then see the finished results on paper.

Thank you very much as well to the staff who really got into the spirit of it and hopefully enjoyed the whole day as much as the children.

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