“A Lesson in Jr. Junior Journalism, or Tiny Tots Can Teach You, Too”

Kids from TNTM’s first semester.

Impish is a great word. It suggests a playful trait, with just a dash of – you could be a pain if you worked at it.

My class was in that realm. There was the, I’m 6 or 7; full of everything that has to do with movement-volume-curiosity-know-it-all-after-school crazies! I accepted and acclimated to that.

I already knew that telling kids – any kids – “Hey gang we’re gonna write, write, write!” Is not necessarily going to win them over.

But if I said, “I’m going to teach you to be Investigative Reporters,” put the whip cream on the Jell-O.

My job, “should I choose to accept it,” was to bring order to chaos via fun. Cue theme music.

And as I tried to teach what I knew, they taught me what I needed to know…

  • Flexibility saves sanity
  • Questions lead to answers…eventually
  • Play-acting can be processing

With note pads and pencils in hand, we awkwardly moved forward.

Teaching them a pared down version of journalism terms was fairly easy, as long as I didn’t expect the kids to remember them the next time.

Flexibility saves sanity.

Teaching my Six Standards of Probing was fun: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How was a bit more challenging? So, I made figuring them out a game and we soon had the words listed on the blackboard.  It took a little longer to get them written into everyone’s note pad.

How to teach interviewing techniques was the real eye-opener for me. I showed them how to come up with five questions for anyone they were going to interview. Next, I organized them into 2 person teams and asked them to interview each other.

Remember now, writing and reading at their age was a bit more of a challenge for them. Certainly reading questions and writing down the answers was going to be time consuming, even if I did the writing for them. That’s when the kids lit the way.

Play-acting can be processing

They began pretending they were reporters on the six o’clock news.  A couple of them held mini water bottles as if they were microphones. A lunch pail became the TV camera. They took turns, using the prepared questions that they remembered, and then began improvising.

I jotted down responses as fast as I could. And a personal note to self was, “Bring video camera, next time.”

By the end of our third session together, we had developed a way and means to make this workshop fun and informative.

Little did I know, there were two tougher challenges ahead, and my junior investigators were about to teach me even an even bigger lesson about the value of listening.

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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