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West Jordan Journal

Mountain Shadows Elementary is bursting with good news

Feb 28, 2019 03:07PM ● By Jet Burnham

Different students anchor the news broadcast each week. (Kasey Dahl/Mountain Shadows)

Students spread good news at Mountain Shadows Elementary with both a weekly broadcast and a bimonthly newspaper. 

Extra! Extra! Writing skills

The newspaper club, new this year, has about nine regular contributors from third to sixth grade who highlight events such as the food drive, literacy night, box tops drives and Classic Skate Night. Each issue also includes a Teacher Spotlight, a recipe, a book review and a comic strip.

“I think it's so informative,” said Jessica Sheffield, kindergarten teacher and editor of the paper. “The goal is to help people see what’s happening in our school and for kids to write about each other and to see the reason why they love their school.”

Rayne Finn, a fifth-grader, was excited to write about the celebration of Mountain Shadows’ 30th anniversary because she got to interview the principal. She said faculty members and students have been excited to be featured in the paper. She said fourth-grade teacher Susan Allen was fun to interview because she was so pleased to be chosen for the teacher spotlight.

“I tried to make that the best one I’ve done so far because I just knew that would make her so happy,” said Rayne.

Rayne enjoys writing for the newspaper and learning a new writing style; she has to remember not to use first-person narration or include her own opinions.

Exposure to a different kind of writing fits in with the school’s overall focus on writing skill development. Sheffield said the student writers experience the full writing process while covering topics interesting to them.

News writers submit several drafts, receiving feedback from Sheffield at each stage. When it is complete, students type it up either at home or at school. Sheffield formats the final articles and pictures into a two- to three-page paper.

The staff publishes a paper every other month.

“I think just seeing that published writing gives them a sense of accomplishment and helps them see how important it is to learn to write, even though it is a lot of work through the writing process,” said Sheffield. 

Nathan Statham, a fourth-grader in the club, believes staff writers have an advantage.

“It gives the kids in the newspaper club a chance to get better on their writing and know more about the writing process,” he said. 

He also said contributing to the paper brings some popularity. Nathan creates the comic strip for the paper and loves to see kids after school talking about it with their friends.

“It felt good when I saw people laughing at it,” he said.

Marleigh Tarr feels a sense of accomplishment when, after all her hard work writing an article, other students recognize her or compliment her work.

Staff members take pride in their newspaper. They are encouraged to dress up on the day they deliver papers to each classroom.

“We want to make it a big thing,” said Sheffield. “We want them to love writing and be proud of their writing.” 

While students said they are writing for their peers, parents also benefit from the news  in the paper.

“There are just so many things happening in our school that I think parents don’t fully understand,” said Sheffield. A recent article highlighted why the school collects box tops. Another gave details about the school’s “Meet the Masters” program that teaches students about famous artists and their work.

“That program is fantastic, and I don’t know how many parents actually understand what these kids are learning about,” said Sheffield, who knows many kids don’t share the details of their day with their parents.

Students tune into news, fun and growth mindset

Student anchors for MSTV (Mountain Shadows TV) have learned that making mistakes is the fun part of filming a weekly news broadcast.

Kasey Dahl, the fourth-grade teacher who directs, films and edits the broadcast, encourages a goofy vibe in the newsroom, which makes anchoring a popular activity for the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders who host each week.

“Knowing that they’re going to be in front of 700 students — even though it’s not live — you can see their anxiety go up as soon as we start to record,” said Dahl. He strives to make filming a fun experience, encouraging students to accept mistakes as just part of the process. 

“We try to laugh and have fun with it,” said Dahl.

Rebecca Contreras said the fun environment means it is not a big deal to mess up a line.

“We have a good laugh, and then we just redo it,” she said. Dahl collects the best mistakes for the blooper reel, shown at the end of the year.

Rayne Finn, a fifth-grader, said when students see others make mistakes, it is less intimidating to go on camera. 

“You’re not expected to be perfect at doing everything,” she said. “If you accidentally say your line wrong but it’s close enough, it’s no big deal.”

This attitude reflects the growth mindset philosophy that Mountain Shadows has adopted, which focuses on the process of improvement more than the end result.

“In my class, we are always discussing grit and tenacity, and always working to do better this time than you did last time,” said Dahl.

Growth mindset helps students worry less about failure and be more willing to anchor the broadcast. A different set of students are invited to host each week.

Each anchor gets a customized introduction, using props, a green screen and their own imagination. 

“This really helps you to be yourself and be confident,” said Rebecca. “You can be nervous, but it definitely helps improve your confidence when you see all these other people just being themselves on the news and think ‘I can do that, too.’”

Dahl, who encourages students to add silly actions or interesting inflections to their announcements, records segments in short chunks.

 “It gets rid of the nerves because they know they only have to remember one thing at a time,” he said.

MSTV is shown in classrooms every Friday morning. The broadcast reports school news, announcements and events as well as local weather and local and national sports. Anchors announce winners of the reading incentive drawing and those nominated as a Star Student by their teachers. Occasionally, there is a Special Report—a segment on bullying or good manners or just a silly video.

Dahl also films a “Who am I?” segment where one clue at a time reveals interesting facts about a faculty member.

“It’s not just teachers,” said Dahl. “I try to ask the janitorial staff and the people that work in the kitchen, so the kids can get a better feel for who some of the people are that they see every day that they may not necessarily interact with.” Of course, sometimes the clues reveal a character such as Snoopy or the Grinch.

Though it requires a lot of time to produce the broadcast each week, Dahl believes it provides great experiences for the students.

 “The biggest part is probably that public speaking and realizing the things they’re saying are going to have an impact on the rest of the school,” he said.