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Students navigate news

Unit gives classes an inside look into the operation of newspapers

December 21, 2009

FARNHAMVILLE - The newspaper world is full of technical terms: headlines, bylines, cutlines, jumplines, inverted pyramids and beats. The list could go on and on.

The words are a language in themselves and may not be as familiar to readers as they are to the writer.

However, at Prairie Valley Middle School, those terms are becoming part of the students' every day classroom discussion as they work to complete a newspaper unit in Mary Hammen's eighth grade English classes.

The newspaper unit has been a part of the English curriculum at PVMS for 15 to 20 years, Hammen said, and as newspapers and technology evolve so does the unit's curriculum.

In previous years, students collected their own examples of what they studied and turned in a portfolio at the end of the unit filled with headlines, examples of puns, advertisements, photographs and comic strips.

Now they complete a series of daily assignments which are discussed and checked in class, along with quizzes and a final test.

"It's a project that has changed a lot," Hammen said. "It's day-by-day assignments, and they study the terminology in depth,"

With so much to study, each student shared their favorite assignments and what they learned.

"Sports was my favorite, but we learned a lot about the whole paper," said Nate Heisterman.

Both Ethan Weiderin and Zoe Schneider said they learned a lot about news photos.

"We learned about the cuts and what they are," Schneider said.

"Now I know more about the pictures and what goes under them," said Weiderin.

Dylan Gurnett enjoyed learning about the lighter side of the newspaper - the comic section.

"The comics and the history of comics was my favorite so far," he said.

Hammen said that seeing so many viewpoints and learning about different types of news are some of the main components of the newspaper unit.

Upon completion of the unit, students take a field trip to The Messenger to get a real-life. behind the scenes look at what they have been studying.

"It's a world that the students are just starting to enter,"said Hammen. "It's a way for them to understand a form of communication that can become a big part of their lives,"

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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