Adelina Chavez’s fifth grade student-journalists put more than just creativity and hard work into their weekly KVIC newscast. These future reporters, anchors and stage managers aspire to share the facts around the community all while gaining a firm understanding of leadership and public service through writing and public speaking.
The KVIC newsroom is one of Fields Elementary School’s extracurricular clubs that accurately simulates a buzzing work environment. It is a place that challenges their leadership and ability to work as a team, particularly for the teacher running the show.
“The KVIC club was an opportunity the school had for me when I was first started at McAllen ISD,” said Chavez, who is now in her third year of teaching after being trained and hired by Teach For America.
Chavez never imaged it would be possible to run a student newsroom until her campus administrators informed her that she was the only sponsor available to do it.
“Now with software like iMovie and platforms like YouTube, it’s possible to produce and broadcast episodes with the equipment students already have, so I was ready to dive right in,” Chavez said.
It took some time before she was able to get the handle of how to run a newsroom staffed with the school’s best and brightest students.
“It’s challenging because I’m learning so much myself but it has become a great hobby,” Chavez said. “Even at night when I’m editing, I’m reminded of how much I love it.“
Each broadcast, which is shot in Chavez’s green screen-equipped classroom at Fields Elementary, typically has three to four stories along with a meteorology report. KVIC’s student-journalists type out their script using a template and video record each episode using their iPads, provided to them by McAllen ISD.
The KVIC student-journalists produce the broadcast a day in advance, after which it is uploaded to YouTube. The link is distributed to Fields Elementary teachers so they can broadcast it to all students during their homeroom period. The YouTube link also means that anyone, including parents and members of the community, can see the student-produced broadcasts.
Chavez makes great strides in both motivating her students and ensuring they receive comprehensive training in all of the nuances of an effective news team. Students have the opportunity to work with the McAllen High School Choir teacher to learn about the importance of stage presence. In addition, once a year during a home football game, select students shadow McAllen ISD students in a media technology class, known as KMAC. Chavez’s student-journalists get to be on the football field during the game, assisting with broadcast, using the hardware and technology, and gaining real world experience.
“We use a vertical team alignment which has the students learning from high schoolers, Chavez said. “This generates interest because they get to see what it will be like when they get older and its keeps them sustained throughout their academic career.”
Chavez has managed to equip her student-journalists thanks to McAllen Education Grants, which exist to encourage and reward creative instructional approaches. Through this grant, Chavez acquired a green screen and tripods, among other essential equipment. The use of mobile devices and social media for reporting is no longer a novelty. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are some of the social media tools altering how journalists do their jobs and how people consume news.
Help from the school district in addition to social media and user-friendly software that is available on iPads provided by McAllen ISD’s $20.5 million investment, one of the largest in Texas, has helped make this endeavor possible. Former superintendent James Ponce believed iPad technology is just what the district needed to provide its students with a rich, interactive classroom culture. Most of the students have never had access to this type of technology before.
“It’s benefiting them academically, emotionally, and career-wise,” said Chavez, who earned a music performance degree at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It is doing so much more for them because of the reading fluency demands and hands-on experience.”
Indeed, name something that an any employer wants in a young employee: from analytical thinking to writing skills and the ability to meet deadlines. It’s the myriad of skills journalism teaches students that uniquely prepare them through hands-on experience and rigorous literacy demands.