Teacher Russell Baker talks with eighth graders Kira Schafer and Brianna Jackson about presenting the news prior to the EMS News recording last week.
El Dorado Middle School teacher Russell Baker’s eighth grade students learn the art of presenting by going very public with their presentations each day.
EMS News started two-and-a-half years ago when Baker realized a daily newscast would be a real-life learning experience for his presentations students.
Students are divided into groups, and each group has about one week to prepare, practice, film and edit its newscast, which is played during seminar class for the entire school.
“This is the most real-world thing they do in school,” Baker said. “They have to depend on other people to do their stuff. Nothing ever goes as planned. Here, four other people are counting on you, and the school is waiting on the news.”
The daily news adheres to a format that includes a weather forecast, birthdays, sports scores and the lunch menu. But students are able to include their own personal slant on the news, with additions like student and teacher interviews, clips from sporting events and other activities, and silly gags like the “scarecam” (linked here) that had teachers shrieking in the classroom.
Baker, who teaches computers, has taught for 15 years. He enjoys the nine-week EMS News class because it teaches not deadlines and responsibility but technology like iMovie.
“This is the most beneficial thing I think I have ever done to prepare my students for the future,” he said.
Students said they enjoyed the class because they were able to determine what they covered on the news. They have learned to consider that the student body has a variety of interests.
“It’s hard to reach everyone,” eighth grader Jett Roberts said. “Maybe the sixth graders laugh at the joke, but the eighth graders don’t.”
Roberts is one of a few students who have obtained permission to take the class twice. Baker said the newscast is popular with not only students but community members because they love to see people they know on camera.
“A lot of times [parents] are surprised at what their kids can do when given a chance,” he said.
Baker said a bonus is the newscast gives his classes the chance to promote the positive activities happening at the middle school. Mostly, though, he enjoys what the experience does for the students taking the course.
“I see kids who may not have success in any other classes -- or enjoy other classes -- come here and be successful and enjoy it,” he said. “It allows kids to shine in a new light.”