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10 resources to strengthen
your journalism program: FSW

Posted by on Oct 25, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


freespeechweek_logo_mainSolid reporting makes arguments for free expression in student media easier. Here are 10 articles journalism teachers and advisers can build from to put newsthinking into their journalism programs.

  • How to do good journalism between now and election day

The key here is how to apply important points to all reporting, even after the elections. What can be applied here to make your student media reporting even more effective so it better fulfills journalistic responsibility

  • Fact check: Trump and Clinton debate for the first time

This experiment in real-time fact-checking runs more than 40 pages and drew more than 7.4 million pageviews, reported. Its links to accurate sources is a treasure trove scholastic journalists can use in other reporting.

  • Emotion in reporting: use and abuse

High on this year’s ethics in journalism discussion list is objectivity and its side issues. Scholastic media have been particularly affected by this: whether emotion or self-promotion is acceptable. Ethicist Stephen J. A. Ward makes the argument emotion in journalism can be manipulated.

  • Why journalism education has much more progress to make

While this article is primarily aimed at collegiate journalism education, it has key thoughts for scholastic media: there will be journalism jobs for those who can make sense of information, no matter the tools.

  • Is solutions journalism the solution?

In addition to just reporting negative impacts of issues or events, solutions journalism reporters will look at efforts to deal with those problems. This article outlines who one reporter tackled local issues in an approach that focused on searches for solutions along with just highlighting the problems. Also see Solutions Journalism Network.

  • Interviewing: The ignored skill

Good questions bring about good stories but they are not the only skill needed in interviewing.

Asking the right questions based on skillful listening is also a key.

  • Data Journalism Handbook

In its Beta stage, the  handbook is well organized with descriptions that put this growing journalistic skill into perspective. The handbook also shares examples of data stories. Good for teachers looking for a basic understanding of data journalism. See also The challenges and possible pitfalls of data journalism, and how you can avoid them for the ethical concerns of this approach.

  • Do you know which news media to trust?

This Newsela/American Press Institute collaboration is aimed to help teachers and students with materials to strengthen news literacy in election coverage.

  • Joining forces in the name of Watchdog Journalism

Old instincts argue for competition instead of collaboration. Here is a story on the importance – and need – for collaborative watchdog journalism.

  • Resources for journalism educators (in covering sensitive issues)

As scholastic journalists delve more and more into reporting sensitive issues, these materials will help provide background and reliable and credible sources.



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Free speech?
Protests and the national anthem: FSW lesson

Posted by on Oct 20, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



Analyzing and creating meaningful discussion about free speech issues over protests during the national anthem


Discussion on whether refusing to stand during the national anthem is an acceptable and effective form of protest have grown in recent months. This lesson enables students an opportunity to research and clarify their views as they share them with others.


  • Students will analyze legal and ethical aspects of the issue.
  • Students will share their findings.
  • Students will discuss what they find.
  • Students will report their position on the issue using information gathered from research and discussions.

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.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).


60 minutes for two days

Materials / resources

Access to internet resources on the issues of standing for the Pledge of Allegiance by citizens in and outside schools.Foundations_main

Access to the US Supreme Court decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.

Background on this issue:
The teacher would share these quotes introduce the assignment and to background the issue.

From Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin:“I think it’s disgusting, frankly, I can appreciate the fact that people have freedom of speech, people can stand for, figuratively and literally, things that they choose to, but to use an opportunity to denigrate our nation’s flag — it’s not the flag and it’s not the national anthem itself, what it represents is the sacrifice of one and a half million Americans who died.”

From the court decision: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

“We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.”

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — introduction to the assignment and homework at the end of the session the day before (10 minutes)

The teacher should ask how many students are aware of the varied protests, in and outside of schools, against standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher would point out the introductory quotes as representative of the sides on this issue.

The class would discuss pros and cons of the issue before the teacher introduces the assignment: researching current events on the issue, examining legal and ethical positions on the issue and preparing a personal position statement either as a letter to the editor to local or national media or in a personal blog.

Stress that students can begin information gathering at home using live sources as well as digital ones.

Day 1 –

Step 2 — Research (15 minutes)

The teacher will remind students of the assignment and give them 15 minutes to add to and organize information they gathered the night before. Students should also begin to formulate a statement of personal position on the issue. Tell them they will be expected to discuss possible positions and arguments during the second 35 minutes.

Step 3 — Discussion (35 minutes)

Ask students to share information they gathered with others in the class. They could have made pro-con lists based on information they gathered and shared.

Then, students could use of PowerPoint, whiteboard or Google Docs to list possible positions and/or questions they might have about the issue. Such lists should be available for student use after class by them copying the lists and positions or having access to the Google Doc.

Focus during the discussion should be to verify information for possible positions, to clarify issues involved, to develop personal positions and support for them. Students should prepare annotated bibliographies for sources they used as a way for all to examine credibility and reliability.

Step 4 — Clarify assignment (10 minutes)

Reiterate the details and purpose of the assignment and ask students to have a draft of the statement of position or blog post for the next day’s class.

Day 2 –

Step 5 — Group coaching and editing (40 minutes)

Students should break into groups of three for peer coaching and position revision. The teacher can move from group to ask questions and offer suggestions as asked. The teacher should not edit student work but encourage peer coaching and editing. Final coaching and editing should enable all student work to be sent to or posted on designated media.

Step 6 — Final discussion and statement emailing or posting (10 minutes)

Conclude the assignment with final discussion and coaching. Assist students as necessary in the mailing and posting of their statement of position.

Step 7 — Assessment (10 minutes)

Have students discuss what they did, how others might react to their statements as well as what they learned about the issue and about issues surrounding it. They should also discuss how they might handle any responses they receive.


Option 1 – Additional media possibilities include broadcast personal statements, video statements or podcasts. Additional lessons could involve pro-con panel discussions or community forums to involve larger groups.

Option 2 – The teacher could organize the class to have a debate whether this form of speech should be allow in society and as a part of school activities. Discussion of the issue and positions on it could take place before the debate. After the debate, students could write a reflection on their views of the issue before and after the debate.


You could also work with students to assist them in using social media to discuss their experience and what they learned. Another lesson could focus on student reaction to and comment on this comment from Bevin: “If you’re a superintendent, if you’re a principal, if you’re a high school coach, step up, set an example,” Bevin said. “For us to allow everybody to be free range chickens, to not encourage them to know what they are doing and what the impact is and what the denigration of respect is something that is the responsibility of the adults to communicate to these young people.”

  • Thanks to Jamie Miller, du Pont Manual High School, Louisville, Kentucky, for sharing information about the Kentucky governor’s quote.
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Free Speech Week lesson:
What does the First Amendment protect

Posted by on Oct 16, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



What does the First Amendment protect?


This lesson takes a look at the freedoms the First Amendment to the Constitution protects and explores what these mean to students.


  • Students will understand more about their rights.
  • Students will see how the First Amendment applies to them.
  • Students will learn the First Amendment.

Common Core State Standards:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9 Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts.
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).


Length 50 – 60 minutes



  • Copies of the First Amendment for each student
  • First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
  • White board and markers

Introduction (10 minutes)

When students enter the class, ask them to take out a sheet of paper and write down the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. When they are finished, share with them the answers: region, speech, press, assembly, petition.  Discuss briefly what each of these mean.

Small Groups (15 – 20 minutes)

Break into five groups (or, depending on the size of the class, 10 groups with two groups doing each freedom) and assign each group a freedom. Ask each group to list all the ways that freedom impacts their lives. (answers will vary, but should include such things as how free speech would affect students wearing political t-shirts, free press would impact students making content decisions in student media, students wanting to make a change in school policy, etc.)

Report out (10 – 15 minutes)

Have someone from each group list his or her group’s answer on the white board. As each freedom is posted, ask others in the class to add any other ways that freedom comes into play in their lives.

Exit slips (10 minutes)

Ask students to choose one of the five freedoms they think impacts them the most and write why it’s important to them.


Challenge students to memorize the First Amendment and recite it to the class in the future. Have prizes (candy, hand-made badge, etc.) to award when they successfully repeat the 45 words of this important document.

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Prepare for Free Speech Week,
Oct. 17-23

Posted by on Oct 9, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



freespeechweek_logo_mainFree Speech Week (FSW) runs Oct. 17-23, and JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee (SPRC) urges you to honor this cornerstone of democracy by participating either through activities shared by Free Speech Week, ones the SPRC developed or by ones your and your students created.

Free Speech Week (FSW) is a yearly event to raise public awareness of the importance of free speech in our democracy – and to celebrate that freedom. As freedom of speech is a right all Americans share, this non-partisan, non-ideological event is intended to be a unifying celebration.

JEA is a partnering organization.

To prepare for FSW, we urge all student media programs to check out the following FSW links now::

  • Examine the resources available at
  • Link to and display the FSW badge on your digital media; download the FSW logo
  • Consider the organization’s lesson plans as listed here
  • Consider becoming a partnering organization through your school or student media. See the FSW for details
  • Plan to help your communities know more about what free speech isand how they can extend its benefits

Additionally, as FSW draws closer, we will share SPRC original or extended activities based on those listed on the FSW site through the listserv and/or on our website at

Check out the site, plan your celebration activities and honor the free speech that makes this country special.

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Celebrate Free Speech Week,
show it means something real

Posted by on Oct 15, 2015 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Free Speech Week starts Monday, Oct. 19 and continues through Oct. 25.FreeSpeechWeek_Logo_Main

Let’s show the nation it means something to scholastic journalism, its students and advisers.

According to information from the its website, Free Speech Week (FSW) is a yearly event to raise public awareness of the importance of free speech in our democracy- and to celebrate that freedom. As freedom of speech is a right all American’s share, this non-partisan, non-ideological event is intended to be a unifying celebration.

SPRC suggestions include:
• Publish at least one substantive story across platforms this week that show students who practice free speech to make final content decisions perform intelligently and act journalistically responsible, no matter how controversial the topic
FSW_Icon_500• Reach out to some part(s) of your communities and show them how and why free speech guidelines are important, not only for publishers but for audiences
• Invite community members, from students to adults in and out of school, to sessions where students decide content to be published so these observers can see the thought and principles that go into decision-making.
• Follow links to the FSW Social Media Badge used to the left and/or the FSW logo and display your active support.

Scholastic media can also become partners with FSW and display badges like the one at the start of this article and others. Click here to find out how.

In fact, try to get your whole school to partner and display the social media badge o FSW logo.

You can find other celebration suggestions on the Celebration Ideas Douglass-225x225webpage.

Click on the image to the right to find free speech and expression quotes for personal use.

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