NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A CHILD’S CAPACITY TO COMPREHEND – Part 1

Several years ago I decided to develop a journalism workshop based on my years of interviewing people for various stories and articles, etc.  It took me two month or so to workout a curriculum that would make a writing program fun, engaging and digestible for young children (middle school, and high school).

My enthusiasm for this concept was often met with the ever so supportive, “What are you, crazy! Kids don’t want to write!

Nevertheless, I developed a list of basic terminologies, rules of conduct and ethics, as well as exercises and assignments.  Next, I set publishing goals that would be obtainable in various limited environments such as random classrooms, after school programs, community centers, libraries, etc.

The kids would …

  • Fill out job applications
  • Learn journalistic terminologies
  • Interview classmates and school staff (from teachers to maintenance)
  • Research various subjects.
  • Write articles and transcribe interviews
  • Publish newsletters on a regular basis

Our supplies would consist of …

  • Steno pads
  • Pens or pencils
  • At least one digital camera per group
  • A digital or micro cassette recorder
  • Computers with Internet access

(A couple of the tech items I supplied initially.)

Feeling ready to test the waters, I introduced my workshop to an after school program, carefully explaining it and the type of work I would expect from the students.

They loved it and insisted they’d do all the recruiting of students and obtaining supplies, and have it all ready by Day One.

Okay…

A couple of weeks later I was assigned to an elementary school. The first day I walked into the session and was greeted by 7 bright-eyed, energetic, ready for anything …  6 and 7 year olds.

When the site coordinator noticed my stunned expression and asked if this would be a problem, I replied, “Uh, only the massive amount of reading and writing parts.”

I could have chosen to back out of the class, or wait for the coordinator to recruit new (and older) students. But I was NUTS, and it dawned on me that this was a truly unique opportunity to see if my concept (slightly re-tailored) would work with such young students.

And so the great experiment began.  What happened … is for the next installment. While waiting for that, I ask the lyrical question, “What would you do?”

Till next time, go forth and be brilliant.

Alex

About SimmonsHereAndNow

Alex Simmons is an award-winning freelance writer, comic book creator, playwright, teaching artist, and educational consultant. He’s written for Disney Books, Penguin Press, Simon and Schuster, DC Comics, and Archie Comics. Simmons is the creator of the acclaimed adventure comic book series, Blackjack. As a teaching artist Simmons has created and taught creative arts workshops for students and educators in the US, Europe, West Indies, and Africa. Simmons has served on panels, and delivered lectures on children’s entertainment mediums, as well as empowering young people through the arts. Simmons founded the annual family event, Kids Comic Con, as well as three comic arts exhibits, which have traveled abroad. He is currently developing a comics and creative arts program for children all over the world. For over 30 years, Simmons has been a member of arts and education boards for the New York State Alliance for Arts Education, the Department for Cultural Affairs, and is on the State Department Speakers Program. As a teaching artist Simmons has been paid to have fun working with youth through the Apollo Theater In-School Arts Program, Henkel McCoy, Upward Bound, New York Council on the Arts, Children’s Art Carnival, Wings Academy, and NYU Creative Arts Team, to name a few. He has been a panelist at many literacy and arts events, and he has been a guest speaker at numerous colleges and educational institutions here and abroad.
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