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Check out the new SPRC podcast

Posted by on Sep 30, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments


Looking to learn more about New Voices and the First Amendment? Check out SPRC’s first in a series of podcasts that will highlight issues of importance to empower student voices.

The first installment of “Conversations at the Schoolhouse Gate” features Neha Madhira from Prosper High School (Texas) and discusses her staff’s fight through prior review and censorship.

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Statement of importance of student journalism

Posted by on Aug 20, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments



Statement of importance of student journalism


A lesson on writing an editorial to explain the function of scholastic media.


This advanced lesson will take students through examination and discussion concerning the importance of journalism so students can write an editorial explaining their points. When students publish, they may send the article for inclusion in the JEA/NSPA editorial project e-book, which will appear on JEA’s site.


  • Students will learn and understand the Five Freedoms outlined in the First Amendment.
  • Students will begin to see how these Freedoms are present in their lives.
  • Students will understand how the First Amendment, which was written more than 200 years ago, has withstood the test of time.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1.a Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1.b Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.



150 minutes



First Amendment

Note taking

Questions for discussion

White board



Google doc access

Lesson step-by-step


  1. Introduction — 4 minutes

Choose one editorial (maybe even a local one) from CNN’s list printed for Aug. 16 in which the professional media addressed the importance and function of journalism.


  1. Text reading — 8 minutes

Ask students to read through the Boston Globe’s introduction here. Ask students to find three big takeaways or items they found poignant.


  1. Large group discussion —  (10-15 minutes)

Ask the students what they noted. Each student should post their thoughts on the whiteboard. (Having five or six post at one time helps move this along.)


  1. Small group discussion: 10 minutes

Ask students to identify trends they see. (They may note the shock of the populace actually stating the need for state-run media or the percentage of people who believe the statement “the press is the enemy of the people.”)


How can scholastic journalists fight this?


What are the ways students can make sure they are taken seriously as journalists and believed by their classmates and staff?


(Answers here should include verification, few unnamed sources, accuracy, interviewing a wide array of people, etc.)


  1. Small group reports — 10 minutes

Small groups should report what they think to the class.


Day 2:


  1. Revisit notes — 5 minutes

Ask students to review their notes from the previous day.


  1. Evaluating what the pros did — 10 minutes

Students will choose one of the editorials listed on the Boston Globe site or on NPR. What were the talking points of the editorial?


  1. Discussion preparation — 5 minutes

Explain to students they are going to work to come to a consensus concerning writing one of these editorials.


  1. Student editorial discussion in groups of 5-7 — 30 minutes

Students should come up with talking points and then write a staff editorial concerning the discussion.


Day 3


Production day (50 minutes)


Option 1:

Students should spend the first 30 minutes writing the staff editorial (in groups using Google docs) and then the rest of the class period editing the work. For the editing, each student group should pair with another to receive feedback and then, subsequently, make any necessary changes.


Option 2:

In addition to editing, students could work to meld all of the editorials together to make one that encompasses all points they deem necessary.


If the resulting editorial is published in student media, please send the content to by Sept. 25 for inclusion in an e-book.



Bring in a focus group and examine your school media credibility.


Use Constitution Day as a kick off for media literacy education for your students.

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Fighting fake news one Tweet at a time

Posted by on Aug 20, 2018 in Blog, Lessons | 0 comments



Fighting fake news one Tweet at a time


The principle of freedom of speech allows Americans the right to express opinions without censorship or restraint, and social media provides a 24/7 platform for that purpose. According to Pew Research, approximately two-thirds of Americans report that they get at least some of their news from social media outlets. In this lesson, students will review what Twitter is doing — and not doing — to fight fake news. After careful analysis, students will present their opinions in a Socratic Seminar.


  • Students will recognize the pros and cons of people relying on social media as their primary news source.
  • Students will gain an understanding of how Twitter filters news.
  • Students will discuss the level of responsibility social media platforms have in preventing the spread of misinformation.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.


1 class period (Easily extended into two class periods. Day 1 – Research, Day 2 – Socratic Seminar)

Materials / resources

Rubric for Socratic Seminar

Teacher Scoresheet (at end of lesson)

Lesson step­-by-­step

Step 1 — Introduction and article reading (15 minutes)

Read this article from Poynter Institute “What’s the matter with Twitter?”

Step 2 – Individual preparation for Socratic Seminar (15 minutes)

Write thoughtful answers to the following questions, citing evidence from the text and other research.

  • What does Twitter do to combat the spread of misinformation on its platform?
  • How do Twitter’s policies and actions compare to Facebook, Google and YouTube?
  • Share your thoughts about freedom of speech vs. spread of misinformation on social media platforms. What do you think companies should do about fake news and hate speech?


Step 3 – Socratic Seminar (30 minutes)

Host a Socratic Seminar in which the classroom is divided into two groups, an inner circle and an outer circle. The inner circle will discuss the first two questions aloud while the outer circle observes and completes the Socratic Seminar participation rubric. Halfway through the time, the inner circle and outer circle will switch places, and the new inner circle will now discuss the final question.


  • Have students interview each other regarding social media’s responsibility to prevent the spread of misinformation. Ask them to recall instances when they have been fooled by fake news. Have students record their interviews and create a podcast to share with the class and/or online.
  • Student can research Twitter, Facebook, and one other social media site such as Snapchat or YouTube to create a comparison/contrast chart regarding their policies when handling misinformation on their platforms.

Additional Resources:

Socratic Seminar Instructions (if you have never hosted one before):


Socratic Seminar Rubric : Teacher Score Sheet

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What are ethics?

Posted by on Aug 18, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Law and Ethics | 0 comments


Laws indicate what journalists must do, while ethics indicate what they should do.

Rooted in ethics, responsible and free journalism adheres to applicable laws and operates using professional standards to enhance student media’s reach and impact. Journalism, truly the cornerstone of democracy, starts at the scholastic media level, where students learn the legal and ethical implications of free media that make the United States unique among nations.


Guideline for staff manual

Student media should avoid mixing ethics guidelines with staff manual processes. While processes or procedures can include the verbs “will” and “must,” guidelines should be framed with “should” and “could.”


Why does our staff need ethics guidelines?

Journalism ethics at center stage, Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism:

Student journalists make ethical decisions daily, whether in advertising, design, information gathering or reporting. Ethical decision-making is essential and ongoing. Keep in mind that ethics are only guidelines. They do not represent standards for punishment or discipline.

Media view very few topics as “taboo.” High school student media should be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Imagine the potential for growth and responsibility when students have journalistic conversations with informed, sincere and open-minded adults before the “taboo” happens.

Differences between law and ethics, Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism:

A working knowledge of ethics can be helpful in reporting sensitive or controversial issues. A staff working its way through a list of questions to make ethical decisions solves problems before they occur. In the process, students generate valuable comments, discussions and considerations.


Student best practice

Develop an editorial policy outlining the legal and ethical responsibilities for student journalists. These resources provide context and/or offer potential models for policy development:

Foundations of Journalism: policies, ethics and staff manuals

SPRC model for ethical guidelines, process

JEA Adviser Code of Ethics

NSPA Model Code of Ethics

SPLC Model Guidelines for High School Student Media
SPJ Code of Ethics

Online ethical guidelines for student media

Yearbook ethics guidelines

Visual ethics


More SPRC materials:

Quick Tips: What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?

Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

Student media policy may be the most important decision you make

Students should understand while they can and should adopt best legal practices and ethical guidelines for their publication, the school district’s or school board’s media policy (if one exists) could impact the legal and ethical decisions of student editors.

Press Rights Minute: Ethics in Editing News Photos

Using Photoshop or other software to edit a news photo is unethical because it alters the truth.


Article: Obstacles and criticism can inspire, by Lindsay Coppens

Good, hard-hitting journalism can make people uncomfortable. It illuminates hardship, gives voice to the voiceless, questions the status quo, and encourages people to find solutions to problems. It can be challenging to secure important interviews for stories that pursue challenging topics. Those who agree to an interview may not want to answer all your questions. Editorials that question and challenge policy, procedures, and those in power may be accused of having a political agenda. However, if you adhere to strong journalistic procedure and ethics, these obstacles and criticisms can, in fact, help your journalism become even stronger.


Article: In plain view from public places

Photojournalists and free speech: What can and cannot be photographed continues to fall under question, bringing attention to photojournalists and igniting important First Amendment conversations. As part of other Free Speech Week lessons and activities, teachers may use this opportunity to incorporate key readings and discussion geared toward visual storytellers.


Article: A class activity to learn both law and ethics, by Candace Bowen

Not knowing the difference between law and ethics makes it difficult to teach these two concepts effectively. They are separate fields, though they do overlap in theory and practice, and plenty of journalistic situations require us to assess both legal and ethical components.


Article: Satire: easy to confuse when used out of context, by Tom Gayda

Is satire worth it? Maybe sometimes, but remember: most newspapers don’t include satire, so it is easy for a reader to get confused when what is a typical straightforward paper decides to enter the world of comedy. Perhaps a special publication for satire would be a better way to go.


Article: Lessons in transparency, by George, by Stan Zoller

Student journalists need to not only understand, but practice transparency. It’s not unusual for student journalists to want to take an ‘easy way out’ on a story and maybe use sources or materials that give them path of least resistance. Interviewing friends or colleagues in a club, sport or organization are not unheard of. Policy and procedure manuals should include a statement regarding transparency and any conflict of interest.

Resources: Fake or Fact? Seminar available via archived video

The 13th annual Poynter-Kent State University Media Ethics Workshop focused on fake news. Show your students panel discussions by accessing the archives. A lesson plan for scholastic students, created by Candace Bowen, also is available.


Want to know even more? See these links:

JEA statements on prior review (and definition of), photo manipulation, student free expression and more

Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism

Newseum case studies

Ethics resources from The Poynter Institute

The Elements of Journalism, American Press Institute


JEA curriculum links:

Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Always Mean You Should

Another Way to Examine Ethics: Red Light, Green Light

Making TUFF Decisions

When Journalists Must Navigate Ethical Situations

Exploring the Issues with Anonymous Sources

With Freedom of the Press Comes Great Responsibility

Protest Songs and the First Amendment

The Importance of Dissenting Voices

When Journalists Err Ethically

Ethical Guidelines and Procedure Statements: Creating the Foundation


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Student Expression Rights (What are they, exactly?)

Posted by on Aug 18, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments



Student Expression Rights (What are they, exactly?)


Students zero in on how the First Amendment protections apply to student speech, especially when it comes to walkouts, dress and publication related to protest.



  • Students will understand how the First Amendment was applied to students taking part in walkout protests in 2018.
  • Students will examine rules governing student expression in their own school.
  • Students will evaluate how students can and should conduct protests that are both legally and ethically sound.


Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.



50 minutes


Materials / resources

Student Handout (and answers):

Student Expression Rights Handout (Students):

Student Expression Rights Handout (Teacher Answers):


Article for Reading/Reference:

CNN article on Parkland walkout protests

Other Options for Reading/Reference if you Prefer More Explanation:

Vox article on walkout protests

Newseum article on walkout protests


Explainer articles for yourself or to make available to students, if you would like:

Student Press Law Center explainer on student protest rights

CNN article explaining student protest rights

First Amendment Center’s FAQ regarding student speech


Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — Introduce Constitution Day and the lesson (2-5 minutes)

Pass out the handout and any article(s) you expect the students to be reading as a resource, and introduce the point of the lesson (something along the lines of the following: “Constitution Day celebrates the writing and signing of the United States Constitution, from which we get our system of government as well as our rights as citizens. We would especially like to zero in on our freedom of speech rights and what restrictions can or cannot be placed on students.”


Step 2 — Students read resources and answer front of handout (Part One) (15 minutes)

Students, either individually or in groups, read the article(s) distributed or linked by the teacher and respond to the questions on the front of the handout. You may provide the text (or a link) of the CNN story or one of the others from Vox or the Newseum, if you prefer (those articles include more direct instruction on student expression rights than the CNN one). You may also provide printouts (or links) to one or more of the student expression explainers from CNN, the Student Press Law Center, or the First Amendment Center or to information explaining expression/dress rules at your own school. Even without all these resources, students should be expected (either individually or in groups) to provide the best answer they can for each question, even if it is a bit of a guess.


Step 3 — Discuss answer for the front of handout (Part One) (10 minutes)

Go over answers (or possible answers) to each question in Part One. You may want to ask individual students or representatives from different student groups to provide their answers and then clarify or correct as necessary so that everyone is on the same page.


Step 4 — Students respond to scenario prompts on back of handout (Part Two) (10 minutes)

Students, either individually or in groups, turn the handout over and respond to the scenarios to the best of their ability (and using information learned from the front of the handout).


Step 5 — Review responses on back of handout (Part Two) (10 minutes)

Go over answers (or possible answers) to Part Two. It would be especially good in this section to have students (or student groups) share responses and discuss justifications and specifics with teacher guidance.


Step 6 — Students respond to final question (Part Three) (2-5 minutes) (Optional)

Depending on remaining time, quickly explain how ethical considerations are also important and ask students to provide a response to the final question (Part Three) as an exit slip or final response. These can be collected to discuss briefly in a future class or shared out before the end of this class period.



Student may benefit from small groups if they will have difficulty answering the questions on their own. Providing technology such as computers and/or Internet access may make it possible to link to multiple articles or even look up additional resources to help find answers.

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