3 Reasons I Teach My Middle Schoolers to Write Like Reporters
I found a struggle with my children when they were in late elementary school. They loved to write and had good things to say, but they wandered throughout their paper from this subject to that subject. I couldn’t get them to focus and stay on topic.
Enter Newspaper Writing! It was the perfect way to teach my kids to get to the point and stay on task throughout their papers.
They learned to write like reporters.
How Do Reporters Write?
Reporters write very differently from the way we usually write as students in high school or college. A reporter sums up the Who, What, Where, and When in a lead – the first sentence of every article. The sentence that follows gives the Why and How. You can read the first two sentences of a newspaper article and get the main idea of what the entire article is about.
The rest of the article gives more details about the first two sentences.
The final paragraph is the least important details because it can always be cut out to make more room in a newspaper.
Writing with Focus
Writing like a reporter teaches my middle schoolers how to write with focus instead of rambling all over the place. Yes, my children, like me, often ramble over here to this topic, over there to that subject, and finally back to the matter at hand. It must be genetic.
The task of writing the lead gives my kids clear understanding of what they are writing about.
For example, my daughter is writing about her sister’s new puppy. She must decide if her article will be about the arrival of the puppy or the puppy doing something cute or the puppy and the family adjusting to each other.
Then she must answer the questions Who, What, Where, and When. Once she answers those questions, she writes a lead.
“Kayla got a new puppy for her birthday on Saturday, August 5, at her birthday party.” Wait that won’t work! The “for her birthday” answers the why question. My daughter must be more concise.
Kayla received a new puppy last Saturday at her birthday party. The puppy was a birthday present from her Uncle Ted. Now, she fills in all the details in the rest of the paper. She can describe the puppy, how much Kayla liked it, and how Uncle Ted wrapped the puppy in a big red bow. There is now focus that my daughter needs.
Writing Concretely Yet Concisely
There is always a balance between concrete writing and concise writing. Concrete writing shares everything that is needed for the reader to understand exactly what is happening or how something or someone looks. Concise writing uses as few words as possible.
Because reporters only have so much space in an article, they must be both!
“Uncle Ted thought and thought about how to wrap the puppy, considering all kinds of cute ideas, but finally bought a big spool of red ribbon, made a bow, and wrapped the puppy in a bow.”
That sentence is wordy and honestly, boring to read. It’s too long for my little reporter to include in an article.
“After careful consideration, Uncle Ted wrapped the puppy in a red ribbon bow.”
Writing for an Audience
Every writing project should have an audience. We serve others through our writing.
When children write like reporters, their audience is the readers of their newspaper. This changes the way they think.
If their readers are extended family members, they think thoughts like this before they write.
- “What would Grandpa enjoy reading about?”
- “Aunt Martha would love to see her name in print.”
If their readers are homeschool co-op members, the little reporters are wondering
- “Would they think this story is funny?”
- “Would the parents approve of this description or think it is crass?”
- “Should we include something for the younger kids?”
You can see how this impacts my little reporters!
For more on teaching middle schoolers how to write like reporters, listen to my podcast 7 Reasons I Teach Newspaper Reporting in Middle School.
The Next Step After Reporting
Newspaper reporting is a wonderful step towards all kinds of writing: reports, essays, blog posts, and research papers. My little reporters have gotten some important basics down (concise writing, concrete writing, and writing for an audience). Those basics will serve them well in all their future writing endeavors.
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling!
Warmly, Meredith Curtis
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Americana Newspaper Reporting, American Literature & Research, British Literature & Writing, Communication 101: Essays & Speeches, and Who Dun It Murder Mystery Literature & Writing. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Read her blogs at PowerlineProd.com and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast.