Listening to students’ reactions—noting their interests, questions, and misconceptions—will inform your decisions about how to debrief their viewing of Reporter. What issues that the film raises are relevant to your curriculum? What skills would you like students to practice? What did you hope students learned from the film? How will you know what they have taken away from viewing Reporter? These are all questions to consider when deciding how to deepen students’ understanding of material explored in the film.
One or more of these ideas, in addition to your own, can be used to create a lesson plan relevant to your students.
To deepen students’ understanding of key themes in the film, ten supplementary readings have been included in the study guide. Readings are organized into four investigations that correspond to specific excerpts and themes in the film.
Investigation One: “Why Don’t People Act?: Confronting Psychic Numbing”
Investigation Two: “Should Reporters Advocate?: Exploring the Role of Journalists”
Investigation Four: “What Can We Do to Help?: Education and Action”
Each investigation includes an overview that frames the readings. Readings are following by a series of connections that can be used to frame discussions and writing assignments. We have written separate lesson ideas for each of the investigations.
A quick way to have students share immediate reactions to the film is through an alphabet brainstorm.
Reporter brings up complicated questions about creating and responding to the news, such as:
- Should reporters advocate?
- Who should be trusted to write the news?
- What are different ways we can respond to news of suffering around the world?
- Is it important to know what is happening on the other side of the globe?
- What can we do to help? Should we help? Under what conditions?
More questions can be found in the Viewing Guide of the Teaching “Reporter” study guide. You can also ask students to come up with their own “controversial” question raised by the film. The four corners or SPAR strategies can be used to discuss their questions. If you had students complete an anticipation guide before viewing Reporter, you could return to these questions now—asking students how viewing the film changed or reinforced any of their earlier opinions.
The images included in the study guide can also be used as a catalyst for discussion. You could put these images at the center of a large piece of paper as the focus for a big paper: building a silent conversation activity, or they could be posted on the wall and students can respond to them as part of a gallery walk. For additional images you can include in these activities, we suggest looking at Will Okun’s photography website. Under the heading “c.africa,” Okun has posted hundreds of images from his reporting trip with Kristof.
Letter to Nicholas Kristof:
In the “Introducing Reporter” section of Teaching “Reporter,” we have included a letter to students written by Nicholas Kristof. After viewing the film, you can have students write a letter back to Kristof. Letters can be emailed to Kristof via his New York Times profile page.
Win a Trip with Nick” application essay:
Since 2006, the New York Times has hosted the “Win a Trip with Nick” contest. The “Introducing Reporter” section of the study guide includes excerpts from the essays of Leana Wen and Will Okun, the winning applicants who are featured in Reporter. After reading these essays, you might have students write their own “Win a Trip with Nick” essay. Students who would not want to take a trip with Nick can write an essay explaining why this opportunity would not appeal to them and what other experiences they might want to seek out to learn more about the world.
Write an article about something happening in your own community:
In Reporter, Kristof explains the choices he makes when writing a story. After watching Reporter, students can share what they learned about Kristof’s writing style. Then they can be assigned to write an article about something happening in their community that matters to them. When presenting their articles (or in a short written statement), students can explain how their style compares and contrasts with Kristof’s style. This is an appropriate time to discuss the difference between a news article and an opinion piece. For ideas on how to instruct students in writing news articles, you might refer to News Writing with Scholastic Editors. This website provides step-by-step instructions to help students write and publish their own news stories. In “The Shape of a Story,”The News Manual, a professional resource for journalists, describes the inverted pyramid structure for news writing. The Op Ed Project provides excellent resources on editorial writing, including a basic outline for the structure of an op-ed.
Create a front page (for a newspaper or blog):
“What gets on the front page?” is one important question raised in the film Reporter. Kristof is critical of the fact that stories about Congo are rarely covered in newspapers and hardly ever make front-page news. After discussing this question, you can assign students to create their own front page with stories that they think should be getting the most attention. This exercise involves not only selecting topics for their front page but also writing headlines that will get readers’ attention.
Track stories on the news:
What stories get covered on the news? Which stories get your attention? These are questions raised in Reporter that students can follow up on by tracking their own experience with following the news. You might ask students to select a source (online news source, print newspaper, television, etc.) and chart what gets covered over the course of a week. Or, for homework you might ask students to spend 15 minutes with a news source of their choosing. The next day in class, ask students to report on what they remember. After students discuss the news that gets covered and the news that seems to get their attention, you might have students create their own front page that reflects their ideas about what should get covered.
Review journalists’ ethics codes:
Professional journalists have to follow a code of ethics established by their publishers. They also have editors whose job it is to make sure that only accurate, credible information is printed. Ask students if they think the same standards should apply to citizen journalists, including bloggers, who are posting their own news stories online. You could ask students to compare the ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalists to A Blogger’s Code of Ethics. This could culminate in the class writing its own code of ethics for publishing information online or in print.
Read columns by Nicholas Kristof:
The New York Times has a page for Nicholas Kristof with all of his columns collected. They are searchable by keyword. You can assign students to read one or more of his columns and report back to the class on what they learned. You could also have students read and respond to Kristof’s blog “On the Ground.” Students could compare the tone and content of Kristof’s columns to the tone and content of his blog. This exercise helps students think about how types of media have their own rules and expectations, or how each medium is different.