Sixth-graders at Churchville-Chili Middle School are taking on a whole new role this quarter – as journalists. As part of their grade level ELA unit on nonfiction narrative, a genre of writing that reads like fiction, but is true, students were tasked to write about someone whose life experience exemplifies courage or perseverance. To be successful, they needed to learn how to interview their subject and then write that person’s remarkable story.
In preparation, students met with several local professionals who shared tips on interviewing people and writing for publications. Democrat & Chronicle journalists Justin Murphy and Robert Bell, and Genesee Valley Pennysaver’s Hometown Editor Amanda Dudek each took time to video conference into classrooms, sharing insights and answering questions. Students learned from them the importance of research and planning ahead. The professionals also shared how vital it is to really listen to what interviewees are saying. The story they write can be far more interesting if they are willing to balance their prepared questions with unexpected ones that emerge from the actual conversation.
The visitors covered many topics during their time with students, including:
- How do I encourage my subject to be open and share their perspective?
- What is the first question you ask in an interview?
- How do I listen to understand?
- How do I write to help my audience understand this person's perspective?
Instructional Coach Jennifer Loria said, “Students really enjoyed hearing from the journalists. We’re so lucky to have professionals in the community who are willing to share what they know. Many of our faculty have volunteered to be interview subjects as well.”
Photo: Churchville-Chili students listen as Democrat & Chronicle Education reporter Justin Murphy answers their questions about interviewing.