[Write-Handed] What did I think about our first Young Journalists enrichment workshop?

Students investigating a notorious YouTuber. (Chung Cheng High (Yishun))
Students investigating a notorious YouTuber. (Chung Cheng High (Yishun))

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a more personal kind of entry on this site, but well, here it is! So, as you guys know, I’ve started my own company, Write-Handed, that provides writing, education, and social media services.

We did a journalism enrichment workshop (Secondary 3) and creative writing enrichment workshop (Secondary 1) for Chung Cheng High (Yishun) last month. I was going to write a PR/events coverage type piece to, you know, to promote it and such but I decided against it after awhile. Post-events articles are a dime a dozen, and anybody who attended could have written about it. So here’s something more from the creator’s side (since this is a creative piece of work after all).

Students at a mock press conference. (Chung Cheng High (Yishun))
Students at a mock press conference. (Chung Cheng High (Yishun))

So anyway, I conducted the journalism one (titled Young Journalists but really, should have come up with a more creative title huh?) (maybe something like Clark Kenters and Lois Laners) and Adrian conducted the creative writing one. I’d let him talk about it in a future article. We’re both former tuition teachers, if you don’t know.

I’m not entirely sure how much students remember about news articles. Teaching it to them is one thing, I’m pretty sure every school has it as part of their syllabus. But you know, at that age, they don’t really read news articles (unless it’s about pop stars) so it’s hard to get them to understand what’s in a hard news article or why it’s relevant to them.

So OK, that’s the first thing that came to mind – how do you make it relevant to kids?

By connecting it to their life experiences and popular culture.

I inserted a “Descendants of the Sun” example into my lecture and the girls literally swooned upon seeing Song Joong-Ki. Wow. I should have opened with that, I suppose, but I thought Superman/Spider-Man would have been a more interesting choice (then again I’m a guy, so perhaps the lecture was skewed in that direction).

Title is pretty authentic eh?
Title is pretty authentic eh?

The structure of Young Journalists was to open with a lecture, followed by a hands-on activity where the students got to investigate a story on their own, and then finish up with a written news article (in groups, of course).

The story that the students had to investigate – like I said earlier, what would be something relevant for them?

Back then when I was in Secondary 1/2 there was a lot of news about Gorbachev and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal (not that they are connected), but all I knew about Gorbachev was that he was from Russia and he had a funky name. I think The Straits Times had a front page feature about the Clinton-Lewinsky affair with all the sordid details about their activities, but I never read it. Yes, I was going through puberty then and I was, of course, interested in the act itself, but news was so dry and irrelevant at that age that I got turned off reading it at all.

So back to the students. How do you make them even half interested in something that’s honestly, pretty boring for their age?

A bit raw, but the intentions are clear.
A bit raw, but the intentions are clear.

Adrian had this awesome idea to shoot a video that would be the basis for the story they’d investigate, and then I’d come up with all the relevant documents – press release, interviewees’ stories, social media accounts and a news bulletin. Yes, we had an Instagram account for this activity, and a YouTube video too. So we split it up into different stations and let the students run amok for the activity. They had to investigate dryer, more real-life components like a press release, but there were also fun aspects like the aforementioned Instagram account. As a research writer, you’ve sometimes got to investigate social media accounts to get information, as do journalists. So it’s teaching them to apply their comprehension skills and analytical abilities to Instagram. No Snapchat though, but maybe in our next workshop.

Classroom management is, well, mmm, how do I put it. Someone said before that I’ve got the “can bully kind of face” so students will generally not be scared of me. Sigh. So yes they cornered me and squeezed the rubber chicken I always carry around to break the ice when I do relief classes when I was not looking. Argh.

I’ve also got to thank my team (there were 7 of us for the journalism workshop) for handling the individual stations. They delivered the information in an interesting fashion, and you could really see the kids paying attention. I don’t think they pay that much attention during listening comprehension, which is what this was. I fell asleep during listening comprehension once. I’m a terrible student, I know.

Thanks guys! And ladies. There was only one other guy so technically, “guys” would be wrong.

Students investigating a notorious YouTuber. (Chung Cheng High (Yishun))
Students investigating a notorious YouTuber. (Chung Cheng High (Yishun))

I’m pretty impressed with some of the articles that the kids did in the end! I’ve put some of them up here for you to read (you have been reading them right?). I mean, they are Secondary 3. 15-years-old. It’s not easy to mimic a style of writing that is honestly quite boring. So kudos to them!

I’m always surprised (OK, not always, but frequently) by what students can do when they put in effort and they’re really interested in the topic. Motivation is a huge factor in doing great work, no matter what age you are.

So even if they don’t become journalists when they grow up, I really hope that they are at least able to articulate what reporters to do to their own children. I kind of miss teaching (and I miss my ex-students a bit), so hey, I hope I was able to help this bunch of kids in learning about journalism.


Anyways, yes, I’ll be continuing to do enrichment workshops for schools! So if you’re keen, hit me up at enquiries@write-handed.com. We do writing enrichment workshops, and we tailor it to the school’s requirements. Check us out on Write-Handed!

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