We are well into our second crew and we’ve made some tiny changes behind the scenes. Our ambitious idea that we would have students fill the roles of student director and producer has been pushed back a bit. We decided that we would let one full class rotation take place so that the students would have a stronger sense of how the roles work.
We have all enjoyed the new process. The kids have settled into an easy routine of getting to work right away in the newsroom. The two anchors head into the studio to run through a practice while the rest of the crew researches and prepares for the broadcast. The meteorologist records the weather in front of our now ‘semi-permanent’ green screen. We use Do Ink to put an interesting weather themed background behind them. That gets exported to Google Drive and then is finally merged with the recording of the whole show. Everyone’s favorite part of the show is the ‘dance party’ at the end. Just pick an episode and you’ll see the kid’s pure joy as the credits roll.
There are always areas to improve; most notably the lighting in the studio. We have ordered replacement bulbs for the key light bulbs. Once those arrive and we get them installed, the color should be more consistent. The cameras also are not set to the consistent white balance. However, the stories and talent are awesome! That is truly all that matters.
Stay tuned for further updates. Be sure to check out a Wednesday morning show. One of my favorites was when ML and her partner rapped a fantastic poem by Kristy Duncan Dempsey: Stop: Let’s READ!
As an educator, I am always looking for ways to integrate various subject areas and keep the content fresh and connected to the world. Many years ago my mentors used the daily newspaper with their students. They struggled with how to translate the articles to their students who, like in all classrooms, are at a wide variety of reading levels. What it did do that I especially admired was that it sparked conversations, helped students see a variety of viewpoints and encouraged students to both listen and think critically.
When I was a young student, one of the things I looked forward to was The Weekly Reader. It was one of the highlights of the week. Our teacher would give us some time to explore it and then we would read it ’round robin’ style around the room. Thankfully I was a confident reader so I actually enjoyed this experience. Some of my friends, however, struggled and counted around the room to see which paragraph they would have to read so that they could practice reading it quietly so they wouldn’t be embarassed in front of their peers. As an educator now that breaks my heart to think that students did and still do that in some schools.
Of course, The Weekly Reader evolved over time. Sadly, the magazine that began in 1928 put out its last edition in 2012 when it merged with Scholastic News. They began exploring digital editions and today produce dozens of classroom related news magazines. One of my favorite relative newcomers in the classroom newspaper business was Time For Kids. Our school decided to subscribe to TFK and for years it has been and continues to be our primary weekly news magazine. It, like Scholastic News, has been evolving integrating all types of digital elements, quizes, writing and project resources. Even with various ‘editions’ for a variety of ages, we still struggled with how to reach the students in our classrooms who had vastly different reading and comprehension levels.
Now, in 2016 I’ve discovered a new tool that changes all the rules. News-O-Matic has found a way to do what I think has never been done.
This daily news magazine is the only K-8 reading program that combines:
Daily updated content (5 original articles, Monday-Friday, 52 weeks a year)
Kid-appropriate content (every article vetted by child psychologist)
High level of personalization through multiple reading levels (lexile)
Customizable assessment tools correlated to the standards
Bilingual text and audio recordings (English & Spanish)
Teacher’s guide and vocabulary support
Option of peer-to-peer discussion
Ability for student to ask questions, comment, or draw
Users will be able to read News-O-Matic on any device, so it doesn’t matter if you’re using a computer at school or a smartphone at home.
News-O-Matic inspires young readers at an early age and creates lifelong learners who can think critically about their world. We would love to see your students join the News-O-Matic community.
You can start a free pilot of News-O-Matic by clicking on the link: News-O-Matic
They recently interviewed me about the School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year Award. It was a pleasure working with them; they made it fun for me to be a part of the process.
The News-O-Matic team is a small, but mighty force. In my opinion, they have the key components in place. Each story is screened by a School Psychologist and the staff works hard to keep the news fair, balanced and exciting.
These were some of the photos from the story and a few of the fun elements I love about the program. Check out the map feature. It shows how many ‘books’ it would take to stretch from where YOU are to where the ‘news’ is happening. Things like this are perfectly suited for my readers!
Another fantastic feature of News-O-Matic that I forgot to include in the original article: Read to me! Every article is read by a real human and it is available in both English and Spanish! How fantastic! It does this for every reading level.
And, once you sign up with News-O-Matic, you’ll get these very helpful emails that highlight tremendously helpful features!
So, what’s my verdict? I HIGHLY recommend giving News-O-Matic a try. They offer a free trial and what makes this service so solidly useful is that it is not device dependent. It doesn’t matter if you have Chromebooks, iPads, PC desktops or Macs or even smartphones, you can use this tool with your students. Once you sign in as a teacher, you can magage your class. The simple interface allows you to set lexile levels for your students. (While I’m not crazy about having to ‘level’ the readers, I know that by doing so it will help them grow more effectively.) This then adjusts the articles and questions to the individual reader’s level.
I am piloting this source with fourth grade students who work on our daily news broadcast. This is our fifteenth season of producing a news broadcast. We’ve come a long way from where we started, but this new tool is going to provide our students with excellent examples and terrific jumping off points for stories that they want to share with our school community. We are eager to collaborate with News-O-Matic on stories and learn valuable lessons along the way!