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Croninger Elementary Teaches Students How to Put on a Newscast

Kindergarten students learn to read a prompter and perform a newscast.

At a local elementary school, young students are learning how to create a close-up, how to read a script and what exactly a 'two-shot' is. Sitting in front of two TV-grade cameras, kindergartners are building communication skills by learning to do newscasts.

Croninger Elementary is one of seven magnet schools in Fort Wayne Community Schools. They focus specifically on communication studies and their kindergarteners are learning skills in a hands-on way; By doing newscasts in the school’s TV studio.

At their young age, the students aren’t yet doing live newscasts for the whole school, but they’re learning some of the skills necessary. The classes cycle into the TV station throughout the day, taking turns sitting in front of the two cameras and the teleprompter.

It’s not just kindergartners. Students continue to learn these, and other video production skills, up until the fifth grade at Croninger.

Derek Burgette teaches the program. He says the program has been around since the late 90s, but that it’s changed over the years.

While students waited for their turn in front of the cameras, Burgette had them drawing the teleprompter and talents to help familiarize them with the language.

  “The program started initially with newspaper and I believe it was a newscast maybe once a week," he says. "But I know within the last fifteen years, I believe, they’ve done newscasts twice a week. And it starts with fifth graders and goes all the way down to second graders presenting for the school.”

They learn to read the teleprompter, having to distinguish themselves as either talent one or talent two, how to emote as they ask questions and respond and even how to work the teleprompter while students read from it.

Burgette tailors the mock-newscasts to the kindergartners each time he writes scripts for them. He’ll hide words he knows they’re learning in other classes or integrate their spanish language classes to give them something familiar. 

"I went down to your room and saw some site words from your word wall and hid them in the script today," Burgette tells the students at the beginning of class. "So, a lot of you are going to see things and say ‘Aw, Mr.  Burgette, we’ve been working on that word.’ Well, don’t worry. I’ve been watching and knowing.”

The class isn’t just giving students an interest in journalism. It’s also building other skills such as speech, reading and communication. The kindergartners also have the opportunity to learn the technology of the cameras, microphones and teleprompter.

As a magnet school, students have to apply through the lottery process. The administration offers more skill building than the average elementary school. 

A board on one side of the TV studio shows examples of different ways of framing a camera shot.

  “One thing we really impress upon them is how to speak clearly to someone, get your point across," Burgette says. "And that’s something that I know a lot of them take elsewhere. We hear that from teachers in other grades - our upper levels and secondary - from students they say ‘Oh, those kids, you can always tell some kids have had a lot of experience in front of a camera or in front of public speaking in general.”

Burgette has visual aids around the studio with technical terms to help students understand how to frame shots, edit video and produce the newscasts themselves. Colorful boards with photos of students give examples of headroom, close-ups, two-shots and more.

The students also really get into the opportunity to work on the newscasts. 

Laila is a kindergartner at Croninger. She says she really likes doing the newscast and thinks she’d like to continue to pursue them as she gets older.

“We learned about the newscasts so that way we can learn how to do it when we get older, like in fifth grade,” Laila says.

For other students, like Peyton, the chance to get to play around with the equipment is what makes the class fun.

“Doing the microphones," he says. "You get to hold them.”

Students face down two TV cameras and a teleprompter as they give their newscasts.

  The kindergartners will continue to build their skills and comfort with the newscasts through first grade. In second grade, they’ll begin to do their own recorded newscasts. By fifth grade, students are writing, producing and filming their own casts.

The newscasts, which are available on the school’s Youtube channel, encourage students to develop segments and research their own stories. Once fifth graders are finished with the newscasts, they spend the rest of their semester learning other forms of storytelling.

“They learn a lot about all the mediums that are used in creating some kind of communication with others," Burgette says. "And that’s our goal here, is to just being able to communicate, teach kids to communicate in so many different ways that we have in society today.”

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