Grapevine-Colleyville fifth-graders produce daily TV newscasts

GRAPEVINE -- It's lights, camera, action every weekday morning in a corner of the Heritage Elementary School library. The KHES "studio" is the nerve center of the 450-student K-5 campus; it's community journalism in its earliest stage.

"Let's go from our poppin' fresh lunch to our poppin' anchors," said fifth-grade chef Alexandria Nault during Friday's show, smoothly transitioning to the campus news after announcing the day's lunch menu of popcorn chicken or pinto beans and brown rice.

"It's fun, and I get to say something crazy at the end," she said later.

Each of the Grapevine-Colleyville district's 11 elementary schools offers a student-produced morning news telecast at least a few days a week. Fifth-graders fill the roles of anchors, reporters, editors, photographers and technicians, replacing old-style faculty announcements with style and energy.

"It promotes leadership, makes them poised and articulate in public speaking, and when they write out their cue cards, they have to be grammatically correct," said Heritage Principal Stacey Voigt, who brought the idea with her 10 years ago from Timberline Elementary.

Classroom announcements, meeting notices, football ticket prices and birthday shout-outs are given equal time with science words of the day, wise quotations and character tips on good manners.

O.C. Taylor Elementary's TTN (Taylor Tiger News) airs each morning at 8 a.m.

Bransford Elementary students watch KBEST for their morning updates.

At Cannon Elementary, the format is a little different.

"For five years, it was produced live just like the other elementary schools," faculty adviser Cindy Walling said. "Last year we changed the format to an after-school club where the students plan, film, edit, and create each episode of the morning announcements electronically."

Each episode takes the cast of 15 to 20 students about two hours to complete. Once the episodes are created and saved, the students upload them onto teachers' classroom computers.

"It provides the classroom teacher with flexibility as to when he or she wants to show the announcements," Walling said. "In the past, when we did the show live, if the teacher did not have the TV turned on at exactly the right time, then they missed the announcements for that day."

The educational benefits of creating a multimedia presentation are many, Walling said.

Cannon students learn planning, organization, presentation and technology skills including filming, editing, adding sound, creating transitions and adding text. The class critiques the work after the week's episodes are finished.

"It's a great opportunity for boys and girls to learn self-esteem, but I think the most important thing they learn is responsibility and teamwork," said Mary Graves, a faculty adviser to Grapevine Elementary School's KGES.

KGES' 11-student staff also produces a daily newscast, and Graves spoke with pride of the efficiency of the 10-year-old operation.

"Every job is dependent on every other job," Graves said. "We only have 15 minutes until we go live, every single day."

Heritage librarian Shauna Leonard is the producer, keeping the equipment running and offering behind-the-scenes help.

"By the end of the year they're very comfortable on camera," said Leonard, who prompts students to watch television newscasts. "They become so animated. They're the future Oprahs."

Students simply say they enjoy their turn. Crews are rotated every two weeks so that every fifth-grader gets four weeks of camera time.

Heritage fifth-graders Brett Bostick and Savannah Shapley are the current anchors, a job that their principal says makes them stars to younger students.

And, Savannah pointed out, they also have to read more cue cards than anyone else.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657