The Bon Air Times: An Elementary Classroom Newspaper

Workshop SeriesElementary Ed.2018 

How might we teach fourth grade curriculum through a collaborative design project?

The Bon Air Times newspaper is a collaboration with elementary educator Rylei Davis and the fourth grade students in her class at Bon Air Elementary school in Kokomo, Indiana. Together, Rylei and I structured the curriculum for her class' spring 2018 semester around a design project: a class newspaper. I visited Rylei's classroom once a week and taught design lessons while the rest of the week Rylei taught the main subjects using the newspaper as a method for understanding big concepts.

In math, students learned fractions through the way that the page was divided into halves, or thirds, or fourths, and so on. In english, students learned narrative structure (beginning, middle, end) through creating comic strips. They also summarized their thoughts and feelings on their class novel in a book report section of the paper. In social studies, students learned about the history of newspapers and the printing press. Together they also wrote an advocacy piece raising awareness for an organization called Big Cat Rescue. While creating the paper together we also discussed hierarchy and making the things that are most important the most noticeable, we used design thinking methods to brainstorm newspaper names, and when wrapping up the project we decided to create a custom class typeface where each student contributed a letter.

The choice to create a newspaper as a class was not arbitrary. Rylei and I agreed that as much as learning was important to her students, so was empowerment. Rylei had a particularly difficult class and many students had issues at home beyond the reach of an educator. So much of Rylei's job was just making sure that her students felt safe and listened to at school. The format of a newspaper was meant to allow students to see their work as important, as print worthy. A newspaper is a place where voices go to be heard, voices that are opinionated, and strong, and valid. This was our hope for the project. Once I laid out the final document, every student got a printed copy.