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‘It feels important’

Fifth-grade news crew shares talk of the school, builds skills & confidence

In talk-show style form, news anchors Janna Barba and Angelica Ferrell spiced up their announcements with lots of enthusiasm recently during Tiger Talk, the new Townline Elementary School news broadcast.

The anchors introduced a segment on the school walk-a-thon and the harvest festival with some light-hearted conversation.

“Summer has turned into fall and we are already into October,” said Angelica.

Added Janna: “Before we know, the leaves will be painted with colors of fall.”

“Do you know what my favorite part about fall is, Janna?” continued Angelica. “Halloween! As you know I am new to town. Do we get to have any Halloween parties?”

The program then cut to an interview with the Parent Teacher Council president about the fall fun before it was time for a segment on school behavior expectations, Tiger PRIDE, including interviews with students and staff.

“Let’s roll the video!” Angelica announced.

Anchors Janna Barba, left, and Angelica Ferrell read the news for Tiger Talk

The Weekly News

These chatty cats like taking the mic and wearing their journalism hats while recording in the hallway-turned studio. As fifth graders, they and their classmates are in charge of bringing the news to students and teachers through announcements and on-site interviews on Tiger Talk, named after the school’s mascot. Students record an episode on Friday mornings, then it’s sent to teachers to show in their rooms during the week. It’s also posted on the school’s Facebook page for parents.

“It feels important,” said Angelica, shortly after completing the final cut of their most recent broadcast. “I learned to show our PRIDE.”

That’s PRIDE, as in Problem Solve, Respect, Independence, Demonstrate Responsibility and Excellence, she said. That’s been one of Tiger Talk’s topics. 

Tiger Talk first aired this fall as a way to efficiently get news out to staff and families. Principal Michelle Downs said her daily announcements over the intercom were disrupting instruction, and she wanted to get students involved in communicating the happenings at school.

“We thought, ‘Why not videotape kids doing a talk show to get that information sent to teachers?” she said.

Alycia Cruz watches the iPad screen as she records

Building Solid Skills

Tiger Talk involves more than just announcements. Students have interviewed teachers about the school’s literacy night and about new furniture and carpeting. They also interviewed a local firefighter about school safety drills. Students videotaped kindergartners practicing a fire, lockdown and tornado drill.

“It’s important because it will let our parents know how we are acting in school,” said Trendon Holliman.

Students rotate positions, serving as anchors, on-location anchors, and production crew. Media lab paraprofessional Brooke Schachermeyer coordinates and writes the script.

“Our hope and our goal is to have all fifth grade students participate at one point in the year,” Downs said. “What’s been exciting for me is you can see kids in a different setting, a different light. We are starting to see those who are naturals. They like being in front of the camera. They communicate very well.”

The Tiger Talk team involves all fifth graders at Townline Elementary, who rotate jobs

Others prefer to be behind the camera, involved in production, she said. 

Another benefit has been increased parental involvement. After parents watched the Tiger Talk segment on reading night, attendance was doubled over last year’s event. “It was the first time we’ve run out of food. We had 160 people show up,” Downs said.

Fifth grade teacher David Schmidt said Tiger Talk not only helps meet fifth-grade Michigan technology standards, it also shows students explore different career options and gives them experience in communication. It’s a perfect precursor for working on East Kentwood High School’s student broadcast, Falcon News Network. “It’s always nice to show how we can use technology to communicate in a really positive way,” Schmidt said.

Also, “It’s just plain fun. It’s really cool when we are sitting here in class and the video is on and everyone’s watching one of their classmates present… all the kids get to really cheer on and encourage each other.”

The students are also shining as school leaders, said fifth grade teacher Leann Seymour, who students interviewed about a courtyard being turned into a garden. “It builds confidence and it’s fun when they see younger kids in school. They are kind of like school celebrities.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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