Bringing The Classroom Together: How To Write a Class Newsletter
What is a class newsletter, why should students write one, and how can they write one? A class newsletter is a publication that informs the class of important events in their classmates’ lives as well as within the school community at large: a new sibling, for example, or school holidays coming up.
Producing a newsletter creates opportunities for authentic speaking and writing tasks as students interview each other and report on news in each other’s lives. With desktop publishing programs available, class newsletters are also easy to publish these days. Students can be involved in every step of the process from brainstorming the articles, to writing and editing them, to the final publication, and in the process gain a sense of authentic purpose and audience for writing.
Steps to Publishing Your Newsletter
This is an entire unit of instruction that could very well stretch out over the course of a week. It’s probably best to start small, however, and see if there is enough student enthusiasm for the project to carry it through.
First help students become familiar with news articles. Give out a sample news article and study its structure: the headline (title), the byline (author), and the lead or summary.
Have students summarize the article, an important writing skill, and also a check for understanding of main ideas.
Analyze important language for news articles, such as the how verb tense is used in a news story, such as simple past and past progressive.
Teach the passive voice, which is much used in the news. Teach and practice the passive voice in various tenses. Passive voice is prevalent in the news as the focus is usually on the event (e.g., “A bank was robbed”) not a specific person (e.g., “A criminal robbed a bank” is not standard grammar in news reporting.)
Have students practice writing sample news articles. Provide them with headlines, either real or made up. Divide into groups, and students write stories to go with the headlines.
To provide speaking practice, students can read the stories aloud.
Now that students have some familiarity with newspapers and news writing, they are ready for the actual newsletter project. This can be as simple or complex as you would like it.
Simple Class Newsletter Project
Generate Enthusiasm Explain what a class newsletter is, why the students should publish one, and generate some enthusiasm for the project. Show an example newsletter if possible. If you don’t have an example newsletter from a prior class, a community newsletter will do in showing the format and the types of stories covered.
Discuss Types of News to Include
Work with students to brainstorm possible articles. Students can volunteer information about events they have heard about that may prove newsworthy. Some students may be involved in a competition, for example, or working on a particular project. They should receive recognition for their efforts.
Show Another Example Newsletter Article
Now that the general project is organized, it’s time to talk about actually writing the newsletter.
Teach or review the writing conventions of the news genre: e.g., an inverted pyramid with an early paragraph including the core information and why it is important, and the remainder of the article, which including supporting paragraphs with quotes and interesting facts of decreasing importance to the main idea. News articles are written this way so that they can be cropped as necessary to space requirements.
Teach Basic Interviewing Skills Go over the types of questions to ask to get information for the articles, such as the five “wh—“ questions.
Write the Stories
After this preparation of seeing an example newsletter, a couple of news articles, and some practice in the genre of news writing and its conventions, students are now ready to begin interviewing and writing. Each student should interview at least one other student and draft an article.
Type’n’Save Students should then type the articles and save them to disk, so the teacher or volunteer student can put them together in a desktop publishing program, and it can be as simple as that, a one-time project.
Expanding the Newsletter Project
If you and your students would like to see the newsletter expand beyond a one-assignment project to a more ongoing one, following are some steps.
Some students may be more comfortable with just writing the news articles while others may want to branch out and take pictures or work on the layout. Get some assistance in expanding the project by recruiting interested students to do some of the work.
Choose Editors One student with leadership skills might want to take on the role of editor and decide how to organize the stories each issue by class news, school and local news, and so forth.
Put It Online If the class has a web page, the newsletter can also go on the website to keep the class and community informed of school events and news, or students can hand out the newsletter. A regular readership provides an authentic sense of audience and purpose to writing.
Never Stop Students can take more control as they gain more confidence and skill, thinking up and suggesting stories to write about.
A class newsletter takes time and planning, but the results in student interaction, team building, leadership, and writing skills as well as the final product are all well worth the effort.
Have you ever tried something similar with your class? Would you like to try?
Dr. Stacia Levy teaches writing and reading skills at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California to both native and nonnative speakers of English. She also has taught academic and creative writing at the University of California, Davis. However, she began her teaching career twenty years ago as an instructor ESL in adult education programs and still primarily defines herself as an ESL teacher. Publishing credits include two academic works based on her dissertation, several short stories, and a novel, California Gothic, a story of romantic suspense. Google+
That's all it takes for you to say 'thank you' for the articles you find useful! Use the buttons above to show us your love, we know you want to!
Get 25 'Like a Pro' ESL E-books at 70% OFF!
Don't miss this unique opportunity to get the complete 'Like a Pro' series (twenty-five phenomenally popular ESL best-sellers) at only $3/book. Unbeatably priced, this Bundle literally saves you hundreds of dollars and fits your budget just right!