Hold The Front Page…

My kids have done me proud, just as I expected.

I’m not talking about my own flesh and blood here, but a group of budding writers that I’ve been working with at a local primary school.

Thanks mostly to their own desire and skill, albeit with a little helping hand from yours truly, this handful of 9- and 10-year olds have written, designed and created their own school newspaper.

This is not just any old school newspaper either. It’s an all-singing, full colour, glossy job, complete with headlines, cutouts, hampers and panels, photos and even an exclusive celebrity interview. They refused to do anything by halves, despite having just seven weeks to do it.

We only met once a week, for less than an hour a time, so it was all a bit more frenetic than I’d planned for, but their energy levels barely dipped. Every week they would turn up, at the end of a full school day, bursting to tell me who they had interviewed, what new ideas they had got, and desperate to show me their notebooks full of scribbled notes. It gave me a real buzz and reminded me how exciting the job of a news reporter can be.

To their delight, I made them each a reporter’s ID badge on a lanyard, and a named notebook and pencil, and persuaded the school to let them use a digital camera. It all added to their impression of themselves as “proper” reporters, and they behaved accordingly. One of them even suggested doing a “young love” expose. I managed to talk him out of it, but only on the promise he could do a pre-Valentine’s Day special about romance among primary kids. I await the finished article with bated breath and a terrible sense of dread.

The kids decided on their own news list, wrote to or approached their interviewees, wrote out their own questions, arranged photocalls and did all the writing themselves. They did most of the layouts, and generally wowed me with their IT skills and creative abilities.

It was an amazing experience and reminded me, not for the first time, how much I sometimes forget just what kids are capable of and how deeply they think.

As this was a bit of an experiment for all involved, I had volunteered to mentor the kids for free, and only charged a nominal rate for extra time I spent on it. I’d got no idea how the kids would respond to me or how much time it would take, and the school had no idea whether their instincts about me would prove correct.

I’m pretty confident we all came out of it well. I got the chance to trial a few ideas – some worked, some didn’t. I learned, for example, that letting kids loose on design will result in the introduction of LOTS of colours, many of which will clash horribly.

I also learned that all the “fun” of a “fun end of term quiz” is lost if you let the kids mark their own answers at the end; no matter how good they are, at least one of them will  not be able to resist cheating if chocolate is at stake.

I found out a lot about how to get the most out of different personalities; when to cajole and when to stay quiet. The kids told me they really enjoyed it, and have shown it by signing up to produce the next edition. The head was pleased with the finished product, and I got some lovely compliments from teachers, governors and parents.

It could also turn out to be very worthwhile in the long run. I’ve already been approached by two schools wanting my help to do something similar for them. As someone who thrives on confidence (if I was a footballer I’d be more erratic Emile Heskey than cocky Ashley Cole) this means an awful lot to me. I just hope I don’t let the kids down.

By the way, if you want to read the first edition of The Franche Flyer, you can see it here: http://www.francheprimary.org.uk/assets/final-franche-flyer-ed.pdf

Enjoy reading!

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  1. Hi mate,

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. Having seen yours now, you clearly haven’t lost your knack for purple prose and it looks like you and the family are doing well.
    I couldn’t find you on facebook but if you want to drop me an email we can chat further.
    All the best to Richard,
    Cheers,
    Neil

  1. January 8th, 2011

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