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Start the semester out right

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Just relaxing and avoiding work is a good way to spend winter break, but, with the new semester not far off, maybe a little time can go into getting lesson plans in order. Why not explore some of the wealth of online materials available?

Particularly if it’s a new group of students and a new course, starting out with legal and ethical training is vital. So…here’s a belated holiday gift: Links to some sites with a wide range of teaching materials, from discussion-starters to entire units. Browse for now and bookmark for later.

  • Of course the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission has plenty on its Web site, everything from podcasts to PowerPoints to 5-minute lessons to start a class thinking. Most of these are in the “teaching materials” link.
  • The Student Press Law Center has an amazing array of Media Law Presentations.  These cover copyright, libel and more, and each has a PowerPoint with teachers’ presentation notes.
  • If you’re not familiar with the American Society of News Editors High School Journalism Initiative site, you should be. In the archived lesson plans its summer institute teachers create are a number concerning legal and ethical issues.
  • NAA Foundation supports youth journalism in many ways, including funding vital research.  The Newspaper in Education (NIE) section of the Web site includes lesson plans for many levels and a variety of courses. “First Things First: Using the Newspaper to Teach the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment” is one good example.
  • The First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and in Washington, D.C.,  has as part of its Web site “Education for Freedom: Lesson Plans for Teaching the First Amendment.” These, too, work for various age levels, and all focus on the importance of those 45 words added to our Constitution.
  • Want something a little more interactive? Something students might do on their own? Try News University, part of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. With a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, NewsU offers online training for newsroom journalists and classroom ones, too. Check out the large range of (mostly) free, interactive courses. For our purposes here, consider “Introduction to Ethical Decision-making,” but the course list probably has others of interest as well.

No one wants to spend the holidays focused on school. BUT no one wants to come back after vacation, scrambling to find good materials to use.  A little time browsing now can make a lot of difference later in January.

Happy New Year!

Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

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