Students learning on deadline

Soroco middle schoolers face newsroom realities to publish school newspaper

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The questions whizzing through the air Wednesday in a class at Soroco Middle School would sound familiar to anyone who has spent time inside a newsroom.

"Do we have a good article that can go up front?"

"Who knows anything about rock 'n' roll?"

"How do you spell mangy?"

"Who has a story done?"

"Can someone please name me a rock 'n' roll song?"

The queries piled on top of each other along with answers provided only sporadically. Some of those answers were right, and some were wrong, but all were given loud enough to be heard over the clatter of fingers typing on keyboards.

The room's atmosphere was on target: Working on the next edition of the Bighorn Blabbity, Valerie Ambrosetti's eighth-grade communications class has the proper newsroom environment down pat.

"The kids seem to really enjoy it," said Ambrosetti, 27, a new teacher at Soroco Middle School. Ambrosetti teaches English -- in addition to her communications class -- to seventh- and eighth-graders.

The first-quarter class published two editions of the Blabbity, she said. The second-quarter class has just begun.

"They started last week, so they're still working out a lot of the kinks," Ambrosetti said. The students use Microsoft Publisher to create the paper and a photocopier to make about 70 or 80 copies of each edition.

Student Danielle Donald--son, 13, has jumped right in. She and Matt Watwood, 13, are co-editors of the paper. On Wednesday afternoon, Danielle busily planned page layouts, marking story placements with a series of yellow sticky notes.

"We just try to get (issues) out as often as we can," she said without taking her eyes off the pages. She then walked around the classroom to check on stories.

"Amber, is your war and politics story done?" Danielle asked Amber Larsen, 13, who is writing a story about the war in Iraq. Amber said she still had some work to do.

"It's hard to write about -- things change every day," Amber said.

"Can you for sure get it in here by tomorrow?" Danielle pressed, like a true editor.

Ambrosetti, who has a master's degree in education from Regis University in Denver, said she has had success with student newspapers at other middle schools and decided to try one in Oak Creek.

A project she did while at Regis showed that students become more interested in writing when they can choose material that is relevant to their lives, Ambrosetti said.

Students working on the Blabbity -- named by eighth-grader Sean Price -- mostly pick their own story ideas.

"Since our audience is mainly the middle school, I figure the kids probably have a better idea of what's going on," Ambrosetti said.

Fourteen-year-old Sarah Buck, for example, is writing a story about a recent trip she took to Chile and Argentina. While there, she saw a volcano.

"It was unbelievable," she said.

Chareese Trugillo, 13, is profiling the new students at Soroco Middle School this fall. There are several of them, and Chareese got an idea Wednesday of what it means to work for a newspaper.

"Am I the only one working on this?" she asked Ambrosetti.

"Yep, you sure are," Ambrosetti replied with a smile.

Chareese paused.

"Umm...OK," she said, with a slightly shocked look that many reporters know all too well.

The class is planning a field trip to the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@stemboatpilot.com

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