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Hit the Headlines
Colin Macfarlane
Hit the Headlines charts out a series of fun and inspiring, cross-curricular journalism workshops that enhance key skills and confidence.

This book will enable teachers of 9 – 15 year-olds to involve their students in a number of effective and well-tested exercises, games and scenarios, which will encourage them into enthusiastically seeking out and gaining further knowledge in areas such as news, journalism, social issues, IT, data assessment, ‘intelligent observation’, and enhanced questioning and listening. This is ‘organic learning’ at its best!

An introduction to the theory behind the book summarises short and long term learning outcomes which your students can achieve through these methods, explaining why scenarios which feel ‘real’ can immerse students and inspire them to achieve greater proficiency. The author also flags up particular aspects of the book which encourage readers to read and use it systematically, as well as to take on specific challenges themselves in order to better assist their students in the writing and editing challenges it contains.

Practical photocopiable templates for many chapters are provided, which can be used as classroom (and out-of classroom) exercises, examples and solutions to exercises. Through these engrossing journalistic scenarios, students will learn how to critically assess levels of ‘interest and importance’ of diverse facts, and so begin to understand that report or presentation writing of any sort involves sequencing a critical balance between these two factors.

Readers and users of this book can go on to customise their own scenarios, drawing on the stimulating techniques outlined to improve their students’ factual writing and related thinking skills. In particular, classroom teachers in primary, middle and secondary schools and all literacy co-ordinators will find this book extremely useful, as well as students studying for PGCEs and NQTs.

Hit the Headlines by Colin Macfarlane aims to provide exciting journalism activities for improving writing and thinking skills. The activities are designed to stimulate, inspire and motivate pupils of all abilities, challenging the most able and also those who are less easily motivated including boys. The activities are cross- curricular, interactive and develop a broad range of skills including reasoning, observation and the ability to ‘read between the lines’.

There is a short section on educational theory to underpin the purpose of the book and to outline the learning outcomes it hopes to achieve. The power of creating ‘real’ situations and the use of drama is emphasized. The author describes this as ‘organic learning’.

“Watch a pack of young human newshounds’ immersion and pleasure in learning through exciting structured play and you see organic learning at work!”

Advice is given by the author on how to make best use of the book and the activities begin with a ‘Basic Sequencing’ exercise which enables students and young people to read articles in a more informed way and to use and recognize some of the elements of a newspaper story and its form including the look of a story page, construction of lead paragraphs, headlines and captions and journalistic terminology. A useful glossary of terms is provided at the end of the book.

‘Basic Sequencing’ is described in detail and sets out the differences between fiction stories which have a beginning, middle and end and the newspaper story for which the author provides the model of a pyramid with a cloud above to represent the headline. This news story structure is detailed and includes relevant terminology, e.g. MIAIF (most interesting and important facts), single lead story and multiple lead story. A photocopiable exercise is provided for use with the class/group. The chapter also explores detailed examples of questioning, deliberate difficulties including gender assumptions, different beginnings for sentences, editorial judgement and the ‘four Ws and an H’.

Exercises for either a minimum sequence or an extended sequence are provided. Chapters give detailed guidance and each session is highly structured to include the introduction of journalistic techniques and vocabulary, skilful use of questioning and photocopiable resources to support the learning. A wide range of issues are explored to initiate discussion and promote critical thinking. These include political and socio-economic bias, lead facts and how they are used, as well as spin. Editing is another issue which the author explores in depth.

journalistic skills offering many excellent ideas to support and enhance the learning experience. The exercises are interesting and tried and tested techniques will undoubtedly motivate and inspire pupils across the 9-15 age group and beyond. Teachers and others involved in the delivery of the sessions are encouraged to adapt the exercises to meet the needs of the group and the author does provide some examples of adaptations in Chapter 18. Adaptations for a primary curriculum and for secondary schools and colleges are provided. Additionally, there are suggestions on how to use the exercises for transition projects, and the guidance for creating an effective website is useful. Differentiation for different age ranges would however be a helpful addition to this comprehensive book, making it more suitable for different age ranges. This would make the exciting ideas more accessible to a wider audience and help busy teachers and others to engage with pupils and young people in ‘organic learning’ at its best.

Maureen Bennett

Additional Information:
Thu 3 May 2012
Issue Number:
ISBN 978-0-415-69511-4
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