Elizabeth Cyr of Stockbridge High School, left, and Amanda Thorpe of Portage Northern High School presented a session about journalism at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English conference.

Elizabeth Cyr of Stockbridge High School, left, and Amanda Thorpe of Portage Northern High School presented a session about journalism at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English conference. Photo by Jaimie Bozack

Self-purpose, motivation, student voice and agency. Those are just some of the benefits of adding journalism to an English class or launching a journalism program, according to MIPA member advisers Elizabeth Cyr from Stockbridge High School and Amanda Thorpe from Portage Northern High School.

Cyr and Thorpe teamed up Oct. 7 in a presentation at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English conference at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing.

The two focused their lecture, “Journalism: Giving students voice and agency in the English classroom” on strategies for English teachers to use journalism in their classrooms.

“When students study journalism they get addicted to words and grammar,” said Cyr, who has been a teacher for 18 years. “They start to study syntax, AP style and kerning. Last year when the principal observed our class he said there was so much jargon usage related to our craft, he did not understand what students were talking about.”

The two spoke about voice and agency in student writing. Cyr said this was the heart of the presentation for her.

“In our English curriculum, we have opportunities, through journalism modes, to teach students how to give voice to their ideas in all the current modes of publication,” Cyr said.

Cyr said most core standards have no value to young writers, but issues and current events have high value to them.

“Think of it this way: When students come to the journalism lab, they come early, they stay late,” Cyr said. “Student journalists work all through their other classes, into the night and then arrive to school early again. Why? Because they have purpose. Their purpose is self-directed, self-chosen. When we infuse that sort of self-selected, purpose-driven writing into English curriculum, the core comes to life.”

View their presentation here