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Download these 5 fascinating stories from The Week Junior to share with your pupils and turn your class into a buzzing newsroom.
If children can learn to tailor their writing to match a specific purpose, crafting their words for their intended audience, they’ll be well on their way to becoming successful writers – which is why the National Curriculum places so much emphasis on both skills.
There are few more motivating activities than journalistic writing: covering real events happening in the real world for a real audience.
And if you’re planning to explore this genre with your class, The Week Junior – with its fascinating and accessible overview of current events – is the perfect starting point.
In addition to letting children practise writing as a journalist, the engaging articles can act as a catalyst for other types of writing.
Here’s a pick of some of my favourite recent articles from The Week Junior and a look at how they can be the starting point for writing lessons. If you’d like to give them a go, all the articles mentioned can be downloaded for free by clicking the download link at the top of the article.
Read the story ‘MPs demand new fake news law’ aloud and discuss how the article shares key information, explains unfamiliar ideas (a code of ethics) and tricky words (fake news) in clear language, and uses quotes from sources.
Ask the children to choose a topic that interests them for their own The Week Junior story, using the same techniques you have discussed to help the reader understand what has happened.
It could be a story from the local area (a favourite shop closing), a news story they’ve been following (plastic in the seas), or a personal story (their local football team winning or a performance by their dance club).
Children can then share their piece with a classmate who doesn’t know as much about their topic to check it is written clearly.
As a class, read ‘Mammals make a comeback’, stopping to ensure everyone understands the message of the article and the technical vocabulary (markedly improved, toxic, habitat, extinction).
Working individually or in pairs, ask children to choose one of the eight British carnivores featured in the article: badgers, otters, pine martins, polecats, stoats, weasels, foxes and wildcats. They can then research their chosen animal, either using books or by looking online.
Encourage children to jot down notes about their creature (perhaps using a special ‘reporter’s notebook’) before writing an in-depth piece. This could be written as a fact file, a page of a non-fiction book or an online encyclopaedia. Their work could then be shared so everyone learns about the different creatures.
Show the class the article ‘Orkney crowned the best place to live in the UK’. Once everyone has read the piece, discuss why Orkney won. Ask the children to list the positive factors in the article about Orkney (good health, low crime rates, good schools and plenty of jobs).
Tell the children they are going to write a piece persuading people to move to Orkney. They can use the facts in the article to help them, as well as their own imagination about what would be good about living on the secluded islands.
Once they have finished, they can share their pieces with one another, comparing the arguments they have made.
As an extension task, remind children that Orkney is one of the remotest places in the UK. Ask the children if there is anything about the place in which they live that they would miss if they lived on Orkney (family, something they love doing locally, their football team, etc).
Now children can produce their own piece of persuasive writing, arguing why their home is the best place to live.
A regular feature of The Week Junior is ‘the big debate’, where an issue is discussed from two opposing sides.
As a class, read the opening paragraph of ‘Do historical films need to be accurate?’ and then take a vote to see what everyone thinks. When you’ve done this, read aloud the arguments for ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Now vote again: has anyone changed their mind?
Tell the children they are going to write their own big debate page. Share the question, ‘Should breakdancing be an Olympic sport?’ and brainstorm some arguments for and against. Then divide the class into two teams to debate the issue.
Now it’s time for children to write their own version of the page with an introduction to the debate, two sections for ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and two fact boxes to summarise the arguments. They can use the ideas raised in the spoken debate to help them.
Finally, compare the class’s ideas to the real page from The Week Junior. How do the two versions stack up?
Each edition of The Week Junior features a ‘quiz of the week’ to see how much children can remember about current affairs. This can be a terrific writing task for children, helping them to practise writing interrogative sentences and expressing information in a short, focused way.
As a class, look at one of the quizzes together and analyse the types of questions it asks: multiple choice, true or false, short written answers, etc.
The children can then work individually or in pairs to write their own questions based on the latest edition of the magazine. Once they have a bank of suitable questions, they can work together as a small group to create a quiz.
These quizzes can then be swapped around, so children try to answer another group’s quiz. The could even go home to test parents or be put to teachers in assembly – a high pressure activity in front of a packed school hall!
As well as following the writing prompts for non-fiction genres and journalistic writing, the articles in The Week Junior could be used to inspire creative writing too.
Using the articles featured here, children could:
James Clements is an education writer and the author of Teaching English by the Book. You can find him on Twitter at @MrJClements.
To find out more about The Week Junior and to download its free resources, please go to schools.theweekjunior.co.uk.
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