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BBC News Interactive School ReportBBC News Interactive School Report
Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2007, 23:55 GMT
Teachers turn news-making mentors
Teachers from Paddington Academy and Villiers High School in London
Teachers take on the roles of a TV production crew as they make a news report
Teachers put themselves in the shoes of their students as they made TV news reports.

Pupils around the country are gearing up for School Report News Day when they will simultaneously make and broadcast news reports for real.

A training session at 21CC, the BBC's digital learning centre in London, was a chance for some of their teachers to try their hand at journalism.

21CC logo
Staff from Paddington Academy, Our Lady's Convent High School, Lewisham City Learning Centre, Longsands College, Fort Hill Community School, Villiers High School, St Marylebone School and Camden School for Girls gathered at 21CC (Twenty-First Century Classroom) on Friday.

Katy Harrington, citizenship co-ordinator at Our Lady's Convent High School in Hackney, said: "I've never done anything like this before. The knowledge I've gained from the training will make a massive difference."

Head of IT at Camden School for Girls, Clifford French, added: "It is very difficult to teach something you have not experienced yourself. This training has really made me think about the thought processes, group dynamics and concerns of my students."

DV in a day

Teachers from Lewisham City Learning Centre, St Marylebone School and Camden School for Girls in London
Teachers take it in turns to be in front of and behind the camera
Trainer Sav Kyriacou and BBC cameraman Steve Walker put the 16 teachers through their paces, challenging them to make a TV report in six hours - the length of a school day.

Steve explained that, at its simplest, a balanced TV report is based on five shots:

  • Presenter's introduction to a particular news subject
  • Presenter's interview with a person who has an opinion on the subject
  • Presenter's interview with a person who has an opposing view on the subject
  • Presenter's interview with an expert
  • Presenter's summary of his or her findings

    Steve stressed: "In order to keep students focused while filming, it is important to prepare thoroughly in the classroom."

    Following his instructions, small groups of teachers planned their report about a particular issue on a story-board worksheet.

    Their chosen news topics included the congestion-charge zone extension, contact sports in school, the pros and cons of internet auction sites and services provided by the BBC.

    Teachers from Longsands College in Cambridgeshire
    It is essential to draw up a story-board before leaving the classroom
    Once the reports had been mapped out on paper, teachers allocated themselves a particular role:

  • Presenter - to interview the guests
  • Camera person - to film the presenter and guests
  • Sound person - to monitor the sound levels entering the microphone using headphones
  • Director - to tell each member of the team when to start and stop their activity
  • Producer - to check off the presenter's questions against a list and add any follow-up questions

    Presenting tips

    Presenter Roz Mathews, who is the assistant principal at Longsands College, said: "I felt vulnerable when others were watching and frightened of stuttering."

    To mitigate this natural reaction, she suggested presenters write down the questions they would like to ask.

    She added: "That doesn't mean you should read them word for word and you also need to be able to ask follow-up questions. It's about finding the balance between being prepared and being flexible."

    Similarly, interviewee Owain Lewis, head of drama at Fort Hill Community School in Basingstoke, felt comfortable performing in front of a group of four teachers but was apprehensive when other people were watching.

    He said: "Using a camera in drama lessons is a useful tool for students who feel uncomfortable in a large group. Giving them a role, such as director, can also improve their confidence. After all, not everyone wants to be an actor."

    Media and English teacher at Camden School for Girls, Ness Raison, interviewed several members of the public outside the BBC building, asking them a range of questions.

    Afterwards she said: "I realised it's much better to stick to one question and to ask each person the same thing."

    Filming tips

    DV camera trainer Sav Kyriacou
    Sav Kyriacou demonstrates how to steady a camera by adopting the "human tripod" pose
    Steve Walker explained the dual purpose of a tripod. "Not only does it keep the camera steady, it acts as a focus point, keeping all the students physically close together and encouraging them to work as a team," he said.

    Sav Kyriacou said: "People are more forgiving about how a news piece looks, but when it comes to sound, they'll switch off if they can't hear it properly. Then you've lost your audience completely."

    He explained that some popular microphones have three settings: Off, 90 degrees and 120 degrees. The 90 degree setting is the best option for conducting interviews, as it cuts out background noise, while the 120 degree setting is more appropriate for collecting atmospheric sounds.

    Steve added: "It's a good idea to rotate the roles but if you have a particularly vocal pupil in the group, I would recommend making them the sound person to begin with. They will make sure everyone else is quiet while practising their listening skills."

    Katy Harrington explained that she would give the directing role to a student who was perhaps lacking in self esteem.

    She said: "This role carries a big responsibility and yet it is manageable, which could help to boost a pupil's confidence."

    Basic error

    BBC Cameraman Steve Walker with teachers from Longsands College and Our Lady's Convent High School in London
    Once the camera is recording it is better to step away so you don't knock it by accident
    Teachers were happy to learn from their mistakes which included the most basic of errors - forgetting to turn on the camera.

    ICT facilitator at Lewisham City Learning Centre, Ian Miller, said: "Tape is cheap. It's better to ensure the camera is running, and cut out unwanted film, than to have no footage of your interviews. Once your guest has gone, you can't gather the material you need."

    Professional tutor at Fort Hill Community School, Shanti Quail, explained her group's continuity error.

    She said: "We were all swapping roles and ended up with two presenters, one in front of the camera and one voicing the script. It sounded like some stranger had started speaking."

    Science teacher at Fort Hill Community School, Lyndsey Montgomery, spotted a mistake in her group's script. She said: "Our presenter used the phase 'as I mentioned earlier' but what she was referring to was actually said off camera."

    For the same reason BBC journalists avoid using "today" in their reports. Were someone to read, watch or listen to such a news report the following day, it would no longer be correct.

    Editing tips

    Teachers from Fort Hill Community School in Basingstoke
    Editing a one-minute TV report can take more time than you imagine
    Having gathered the news, the groups used a piece of editing software to assemble their reports.

    Website manager and geography teacher at Fort Hill Community School, Sebastian Ballard, said: "It wasn't until we reached the editing stage that we realised the mistakes we had made, by which point we couldn't undo them. That's why it's a really good idea to practise first."

    ICT enrichment co-ordinator at St Marylebone School, Maria Parks, reminded her group to avoid damaging the video camera by switching it off before plugging it into the computer.

    Art and Design teacher at Villiers High School, Peter McGonigle, explained the editing process.

    He said: "We started by laying down the shots in the order they appeared on our story-board. Then we listened to the film and selected the interviewees' most important statements, concentrating on what they said, rather than how the film looked. Finally we refined what we had."

    Peter and three other teachers sat around one computer terminal during the editing stage of the news-making process. However, he envisaged a more appropriate set up for his students.

    He said: "It would work well with two listeners, noting down the time code of the important sections to use and two video editors manipulating the film, according to the timings. This would work particularly well if the editors were taught the necessary skills beforehand. Without practice it can be quite a slow process."

    Audience

    Teachers from schools in and around London at the BBC's Twenty-first Century Classroom
    Teachers evaluate their finished news reports
    Presenting their reports to the whole group at the end of the day's training gave the teachers a flavour of what their students will experience on 22 March, when the BBC aims to link the websites of the participating schools, generating a huge audience for students' work.

    Head of IT at Camden School for Girls, Clifford French, said: "School Report gives pupils a real audience, which ties in with the Key Stage 3 curriculum.

    "In a normal classroom environment, the audience is the teacher and students often think 'who cares' but broadcasting their work makes it a much more grown-up and purposeful exercise."




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