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Beginning Journalism Course
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Beginning Journalism - Class Organization

Beginning Journalism starts off like any other class in the school. The students sit in their seats and the teacher stands at the podium and speaks. Everyone looks interested, at least on the first day of class. Students are instructed to have notebooks, bring pens, paper to class and to expect homework every night of the week and on the weekends. I explain that the homework consists of activities like reading the newspaper, reading magazines, watching TV or writing a story. Most students seem somewhat apprehensive about the workload, but in fact, the reputation of the class around the school and community usually saves me. The word is that "it is a lot of work, but it is really fun." Getting started wasn't easy for me because kids are not risk takers when it comes to work load. If they think a course it going to be hard, then they think twice before taking it. Back in those days, I used to use candy to at least twice week in class in connection with some kind of a writing exercise or journalism game. Now I use it rarely because I have other ways to motivate them.

By the middle of the semester, students are beginning to be more independent, willing to ask questions, willing to take a risk.

Part I

In the beginning of the semester, students start off learning how to do the following:

  • read newspapers and magazines
  • use newspapers and magazines as models for writing styles
  • critique newspapers and magazines on a weekly basis
  • write one 500-600 word article every week
  • complete two or more revisions of each article within a two week period
  • come up with story ideas
  • take notes in class, pay attention, ask questions
  • learn to follow the news locally, nationally, internationally
  • learn to differentiate between writing styles
  • learn to write the following writing styles:
    • news
    • features
    • reviews
    • opinion
    • columns
    • sports
  • history of the press
  • laws of the press

Part II

By the second part of the semester students are expected to add the following to the above list:

  • learn about desktop publishing design
  • learn about photography and what makes a good photo
  • learn how to use Microsoft Word, PageMaker, and PhotoShop
  • learn how to use a scanner and digital camera
  • learn how to do research on the Internet
  • learn how to use the internet to send large files
  • become an expert in email
  • learn how to use both PC and Mac computers
  • become a critical viewer of TV shows
  • learn to edit each other's work

Part III

On the interpersonal skill and behavior level, students are expected to do the following:

  • start to challenge my view points on issues
  • start to challenge my ideas
  • be willing to take psychological risk
  • be able to ask difficult questions
  • not be afraid to be laughed at
  • learn to accept and work with a variety of different people
  • learn to appreciate ethnic diversity
  • begin to see that they are in charge of their own happiness
  • learn to accept success and failure
  • learn to work within deadlines
  • learn to work under pressure
  • learn to write under pressure
  • learn to be objective
  • learn how write a fair review
  • learn to work both as a team member and as a leader
  • learn how to work with peers effectively
  • learn how to take criticism
  • learn how to give constructive criticism

The course is organized so that in the beginning, I am teaching primarily skills in the first section. By the second quarter, I am teaching Part II materials. Mixed into the both of these quarters are Part III skills. Early in the semester, the students know very little about Part III skills, but as the semester continues, they learn more. In Advanced Journalism, they actually hone these skills and become expert, but it usually takes about a year.

© 2002 - Esther Wojcicki - Email: thewoj@hotmail.com