New Literacies in Action

In this month's New Literacies in Action, Kara Clayton, a high school English and mass media teacher, describes her processes and problem solving involved with teaching video production in her classroom. Readers will enjoy Kara's pragmatic account of how she addresses such issues as technical difficulties, assessment, and censorship. Kara's use of print and mass media to teach diverse students illustrates the many possibilities of new literacies.

Ann Watts Pailliotet
Department Editor

Broadcast Media: Enhancing Literacy Through Student Production

Kara Clayton


I've just begun my sixth year teaching at Thurston High School in Redford, Michigan, USA, near the city of Detroit. Thurston is a midsized school with a population of 1000 students. Students in my classes range in ability from those enrolled in special education programs to candidates for the honor roll.

Beginning last year, my video production class has produced a daily news show, taped and then aired in classrooms throughout the school at the end of first period. The show is 5 minutes long and includes not only the school announcements for the day, but also feature stories and public service announcements produced by students in either the video production or mass media classes.

This endeavor has had many technical hurdles to overcome. At the beginning, just getting all the classroom television monitors online was a tremendous chore. In fact, as of this writing, there are still some monitors not working, but we hope to have them all online this year. Another technical problem we had was a lack of TelePrompTers. Because our newscasters initially were reading from printed scripts on their desks, our viewers ended up seeing the tops of their heads instead of their eyes. Fortunately, the building administrators eventually contributed funding for the purchase of TelePrompTers for our two studio cameras, which improved the look of our news program tremendously. TelePrompTers also gave the students an opportunity to practice reading aloud while making eye contact with their audience.

Each week a nine-person news crew is chosen to handle the newscast for that week. The crew includes two camera operators, two technical directors to operate the video machinery, a TelePrompTer operator, two anchor people, and a news director. As the teacher, I try to facilitate the newscast by keeping students on task; however, the students usually put the newscast together without much involvement from me. Because the show is taped, I am able to censor as I deem necessary. However, my expectations are made very clear at the beginning of each semester, and students seldom abuse the privileges they get in my classroom. Students are graded based on their attendance, as well as the enthusiasm and creativity they bring to the newscast.

   

students in a hallway working on the video production

Students working on the newscast in “Studio C” -- the lower school hallway.

video production equipment

Some of our portable studio equipment.

What lessons have I learned from this project? Many! Students love the opportunity to perform for their peers. They also learn very quickly what makes a good newscast -- and a bad one. I've also learned to develop a thick skin. While most of the feedback about our newscast has been positive, there is always someone (usually a fellow teacher) who has something negative to say: someone doesn't like the interruption in class time, another doesn't like what the anchor person was wearing, a third criticizes the inflection a student used while reading a story. Sometimes, however difficult it may be, it's better just to ignore those people with negative attitudes.

Student Comments About the Newscasts

  • “I like producing a newscast because it's something we see on television every day, but do not realize how complex it really is.”
  • “The newscast was complicated, but the most fun.”
  • “The newscast has given me an appreciation for all of the work that goes into making a newscast successful.”
  • “Now I realize that not everything goes as smoothly on the newscasts we watch at home.”

There are some things about our newscast that I would like to change or improve upon during this school year. For example, I want the broadcast to feature a news story (taped and edited) at least twice a week. In order to accomplish this, students in the video production class will receive more required news assignments to be completed as part of their semester grade. The public service announcements produced by my mass media classes are usually a big hit. The students love to see their work on the news and I plan to continue airing these projects.


About the Author

photo of Kara Clayton

Prior to beginning her teaching career six years ago, Kara Clayton worked in both broadcasting and corporate video production. Contact her by e-mail at THTVVIDEO@aol.com.


For an index to New Literacies in Action, click here. To print this article, click anywhere on its text; then use your browser's print command.



Reading Online, www.readingonline.org
Posted October 2000
© 2000 International Reading Association, Inc.   ISSN 1096-1232