Friday, May 29, 2015

Profiles in Teaching

Once again, the end of the year finds my students interviewing one and another and writing journalism-style profiles using the simple structure of a lead anecdote that describes the subject in action, a description of how and when they started (past), what they are doing now (present), and what they hope to achieve (future). The whole piece is about 500 words and ends with a quote from the subject. "Give your person the last word," is how I explain it to my students.

Despite many models, this is a hard assignment for them. Evaluating and synthesizing the information gained in interviews with their classmates and at least two others is very challenging for your average 11 or 12 year old. Still, they forge through, mostly because they want to do right by their peers and so they are motivated to write the best piece they can.

Of course, I am available to assist them, and I willingly do so by stepping in to model on-the-spot follow-up interviews to glean the information and quotes they need to craft their articles. I'm also a whiz at providing just the right secondary source quote to move the profile forward, and should someone be stuck for a transition? Why, I am only to happy to offer a suggestion.

Such was the case today when a student approached me with her dilemma. "Can I say, Anthony isn't all that great in soccer because he didn't even make the school team," she asked. "Or is that too much of an opinion?" She frowned. "It's important information, but I'm not sure how it fits."

I was happy she recognized the importance of journalistic objectivity. "Why don't you write something like, Despite working hard and practicing daily, Anthony has had some disappointments when it comes to soccer...?" I suggested.

"Wow!" she said. "That's not bad! I guess you do know what you're doing with this writing stuff!"

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