Monday, April 6, 2009
Penny paper publishers
ROCK RAPIDS-Penny papers are making a comeback - at least at Central Lyon Middle School.
The cheap, tabloid-style newspapers popularized during the mid-1800s can be found at the school.
Only, they look a little bit different.
Not published on newsprint, the Central Lyon papers are printed on standard, 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheets of white paper and bound together in book form.
That's OK, though. The eighth-graders involved are not exactly attempting to duplicate the 19th century papers. Rather, they are trying to become experts on the time period.
The unit involves eighth-grade students enrolled in social studies, tech education and English as they work to show an understanding of the historical events and influential figures of the mid-1800s.
"We give them two articles to write that deal with that time period, so anything from the election of 1824 to the invention of clipper ships," said middle school social studies teacher Bruce Eckenrod. "They also have to write one obituary that deals with some historical person from the mid-1800s."
Be that Andrew Jackson, Walt Whitman or Susan B. Anthony, the students are educated on how to properly write an obituary.
"We try to make it as close as we can to actually being a reporter," Eckenrod said. "They do research, take notes, organize that into some sort of outline, then write their articles from that."
And, of course, no reporter's job would be complete without deadlines.
"We tell them if they are sick of not sick, you have to meet your deadline, just like an actual reporter," Eckenrod said.
The students can either write their articles from a historical viewpoint or as if they are actually in the 1800s, but no switching back and forth between the two is allowed.
Before the eighth-graders hand their completed articles in to Eckenrod for a social studies grade, they proofread each other's articles, gaining editing experience along the way.
The edited articles then are taken to middle school language teacher Dale Jansma, who again edits each article and accordingly assigns the students a grade and finally, to tech education teacher Sue Van Wyhe, who grades the students on their organization of the two pages they are assigned to design using software they previously have learned about in tech education. In addition to their articles, Eckenrod said the students also must incorporate time-relevant pictures and advertisements.
A newspaper name is then voted on and all the pages are placed together.
"In the end, they use the newspaper as a resource to take their unit test," Eckenrod said. "I try to tell the, the better they do and the more information they incorporate, the better off they will be when they take the test."
Eckenrod and Van Wyhe first incorporated the project into the social studies and tech education curriculums 10 years ago, not adding the English aspect until five years later.
"In social studies, I have unites," Eckenrod said. "Every unit, we try to have some sort of project. So, Sue and I sat down and were looking into projects where we could use the software she has taught, so it just kind of evolved into the newspaper between the two of us."
While Eckenrod hopes the eighth-graders gain a deeper knowledge of the 1800s, prior to the Civil War, he has some other desires in mind, as well.
"I want them to learn how to organize, how to go about writing, cooperating and working together as a group," he said.
This article appeared in the April 4, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.