Cider Mill students embrace newspaper writing

“Student-centered personalized learning” is a big priority at Cider Mill this year, as the school looks to expand its enrichment programs, said Principal Jennifer Mitchell.

Dr. Mitchell formed an advisory board of parents this year to figure out what Cider Mill students are most interested in and discover ways for them to expand and explore their passions.

Newspaper writing, she said, has been a big hit at the school this year. During the Board of Education’s Jan. 8 meeting, Dr. Mitchell said, “I can’t tell you how many volumes of newspapers I’m accumulating on my desk.”

“My students — all on their own — have been very focused on writing different newspaper pieces. They’re self-generated articles and they’ve been writing different volumes,” Dr. Mitchell told The Bulletin. “The students just found this passion on their own and it’s just spread like wildfire throughout the building.”

Dr. Mitchell said about 25 to 30 students in all three grade levels have been spending time during the school’s “When I Meet” — or “WIM” — block to write newspaper-style articles.

“Some of them are utilizing that time to create that enrichment opportunity for themselves, which I think is wonderful,” she said. “I’ve even got some parents who are actually coming in to help during the WIM block to facilitate small groups of students.”

Although she cannot pinpoint exactly how newspaper writing became so popular among students, Dr. Mitchell said, she thinks the idea of “communicating, sharing knowledge and writing about things of interest to them” is what drew them to it.

“They’re just so incredibly proud of their work and to be able to publish new editions and different stories,” she said. “They’ve been interviewing and coming up with interview questions and they pick different topics to cover.”


Dr. Mitchell said the students are writing about topics that are “close to their hearts” and “things that are important to them.”

“During the holiday season, one of the topics was on the Giving Tree, where the students worked to provide toys, hats, mittens, and gloves for children and women who have less,” said Dr. Mitchell.

“I also get lots of articles on why we should allow computers in the schools, why they should be able to use their iPhones and their iPads.”

Three students in Jean Yates’s third grade class — Natalie Hough, Phoebe Snow and Julia Wiener — came up with the idea of writing a newspaper article to Dr. Mitchell in which they proposed putting “big water jugs” in each house and having students save pennies and other pocket change to be donated to the food pantry.

“At the end of the month,” the class wrote, “we will see which house has the most change [and] the house that has the most will get a special celebration or a free homework day.”

As of Friday, Jan. 16, the third grade houses raised a combined total of $296.92.

“They use newspaper writing as a platform to sell their audience and they’re very persuasive — I think it’s wonderful and a great tool for them,” said Dr. Mitchell.

“I’m hoping to one day have an actual Cider Mill newspaper, because I think it would be great to give them a chance to have a voice.”

Dr. Mitchell said students use different modalities to get their messages out to their audiences.

“Cannondale fourth graders found their own Microsoft Word template all on their own to use, and there’s a group of Nod Hill third graders who are doing it with just paper and pencil,” she said. “I’ve got everything from very published-looking documents to hand-drawn copies of student work.”

The Cider Mill community wants to capitalize on the students’ interest and engagement in newspaper writing, Dr. Mitchell said.

“We are trying to work with the district and the budget process to support more of a systematic enrichment program,” she said, “and [Superintendent] Dr. Kevin Smith has been really trying to help us figure out ways in which to fund some teacher support for [newspaper writing] — that would be huge.”