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Teaching writing: news reports that go further

  • by: Louise Robinson
  • On: 22, Oct 2020
10 min read

Do you need a great hook for teaching how to write a newspaper report?

Several years ago, I came across the book Tuesday, by David Wiesner, a nearly wordless book about the strange events of one specific evening and one group of frogs. As a twist I decided, instead of using it as a book, to create an actual crime scene in the classroom and playground and to immerse the children in the story of the frogs’ adventures.

Setting the scene

I had a wonderful TA who just happened to have her very own pond with giant lily pads; to take it a step further I made my very own toad slime with green food colouring and shampoo which I poured over items of washing and the old lady’s cup and remote and of course the lily pads. I also found some green bath crystals which the children concluded were toad eggs.

Garnering involvement beyond the classroom

We had a super governing body at the school, who I managed to involve by playing the “victims”, which included roles for an elderly lady, a man eating a sandwich, a police officer, and a dog owner. I invited them to be interviewed by the children (after, of course, briefing the governors fully), using closed- and open-ended questions I had prepared with my class in advance to solve the mystery for our local newspaper.

Solving the mystery

There was a wonderful buzz around the classroom as the children excitedly examined the evidence, posed questions and interviewed local residents. The result was a superbly written newspaper report from each child, many of whom believed toads had actually attacked their village, and some of whom thought the residents had been poisoned and were perhaps hallucinating. They all understood it to be fiction, however they happily went along with it, and were able to create imaginative circumstances that took the original prompt of the book far beyond its original scope.

Although I did this with a Year 5 class, this is a stimulus that can be used for any year group. Not using the book as a strict script was so much more interesting, and it’s a technique that can be applied across subjects and age groups. Another take on the game could be for the children to be police detectives, and write a formal police report rather than a news item. This lesson could also intersect with play- and script-writing, if you want to film a news bulletin with children as news presenters, local citizens, or interviewing members of the staff in the school.

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