Topic outline

Welcome!

project overview

Welcome to the Effective Communicators Project. We've developed an exciting project, adaptable for grades 6-12 and field-tested in more than 100 classrooms.

At the heart of this project is choice. Students invest time and dedication in assignments that they generate. They research, interview and write over many weeks. 

The process is inquiry-based, using modern technology tools and critical news literacy skills, and requires complex reading, listening, speaking and writing. 

The outcome is generative: the creation of original, informative news articles that synthesize local facts with community voices and opinions, published for an audience of peers and adults outside of school.

We invite you to explore these sample materials and consider subscribing for instant access to our professional development course, 30 classroom lessons and educator discussion forum. 

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    Sample Lesson

    Lesson 19

    Interview Prep: Asking Open-Ended Questions

    Today, students will learn about the types of questions that elicit detailed information in interviews, and they will edit and add to their question list to prepare for upcoming interviews with their sources.

    Sample Professional Development

    How are Your Students Getting Their News?

    While print newspapers may have been a staple of family life for some of us growing up, print is clearly on the decline. The Pew Research Center estimates that daily print newspaper subscriptions in the U.S. have dropped by 61 percent, from a peak of 62.8 million in 1987 to just 24.3 million in 2020. 

    Many news outlets offer a hybrid model. The biggest outlets may offer print plus sophisticated websites with digital articles, photos, videos, live streams, blogs, podcasts, comics, games and interactive, curated comments. But many smaller community outlets cut operating costs by canceling Saturday print editions or ending print runs altogether to focus entirely on digital news, which, depending on the publisher, can be relatively anemic. 


    Free-range News Habits

    Unlike their parents or grandparents, teens today rarely watch cable TV news. In fact, they watch very little TV at all, just 24 minutes a day on average, according to Common Sense Media. Instead, they’ve developed free-range news tendencies. A 2019 study by Project Information Literacy, a national research institute that studies information practices in the digital age, found that two-thirds of surveyed undergraduates receive their daily news from five overlapping pathways: 

    • social media—72 percent of undergraduate students
    • peer discussion, either face-to-face or online—48 percent 
    • online newspaper sites—32 percent
    • classroom discussion with professors—23 percent
    • curated feeds (Apple News, etc.)—32 percent

    It’s quite possible the middle or high school students on your rosters may not consider themselves even to be news consumers. Sure, they might follow pop culture trends or check sports scores online or share breaking current events through conversation, but they may not identify these activities as “news habits.”  

    News Deserts on the Rise
    The absence or sparsity of quality local news is a concern in many communities.
     
    A
     2018 study by the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Media and Journalism found the United States has more than 1,300 “news deserts,” with more than two-thirds of the country’s 3,143 counties no longer having a daily newspaper. 

    Even more troubling, 171 counties — totaling 3.2 million residents — have no newspaper at all. 

    Research shows that the decline of local newspapers is fueling political division in the United States.

    Johanna Dunaway, professor and research director at Syracuse University's Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship, spoke with PBS News in August, 2023, for a broadcast titled "How the Loss of Local Newspapers Fueled Political Divisions in the U.S."

    "I mean, national news, for all of its many benefits, it tends to frame politics in America through the lens of the major conflicts between the two parties, right?And for those Americans or those citizens who are only watching the national news, they often only get this sort of game-frame style coverage, that it's almost like sports reporting with Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other.

    One of the things local news does is reminds people that, oh, that person, they may be of the other party, but they're facing the same challenge that I'm facing."


    Is Your School Located in a News Desert?
    The Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina maintains an interactive website that you might want to check out (and have your students utilize). 

    The map at usnewsdeserts.com allows users to click on their state and county to see how many newspapers there are compared to other counties and states. 



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