Kid Scoop is published every Tuesday only in the print edition of learning post, the Bangkok Post section that brings you features about education plus help to improve your English and your Thai.|
|Vicki Whiting, Kid Scoop creator, makes final adjustments to her weekly column with the help of her "chief assistant", her 7-year-old son, Jake.|
Syndicated in 160 US newspapers, Kid Scoop has finally reached Asia through the Learning Post. Creator Vicki Whiting explains how this popular column is put together and how teachers and parents can make the best use of it with their children
Story by TERRY FREDRICKSON
Pictures courtesy of VICKI WHITING
I first started hearing good things about Kid Scoop as a member of an e-mail forum consisting of newspaper-in-education professionals. I contacted its creator Vicki Whiting Ė by e-mail, of course Ė and this eventually led to Kid Scoop becoming a regular back-page colour feature in the Learning Post. Here is an interview I conducted (guess how) with Vicki late last month in which she explains just about everything a Kid Scoop reader would need to know about her creation.
First of all, Vicki, welcome to Asia and welcome to the Bangkok Post. Iím sure we will very quickly build up an enthusiastic audience for Kid Scoop here. Where does the name Kid Scoop come from?
I wanted a name that said the page was for kids and that referred to newspapers. Since getting the "scoop" means getting a story and getting the facts, I thought this would be a way to communicate that kids could get the scoop too!
How did Kid Scoop get its start?
|A relaxed Vicki sits at her computer work station.|
When my third grade students told me that the best way to learn about the community was to read our local newspaper. As a teacher I believed that my job was to teach children about the world around them. When my students reminded me of where grown-ups go to learn about the world, I thought, "Wouldnít it be great if kids read the newspaper too!" So I went to my local newspaper editor and pitched him the idea of a page for kids. He had been thinking about the same thing, so Kid Scoop was launched.
Something that was important from the beginning was the fact that newspapers are not only a place to get information, they are also places to express thoughts, ideas and views. (Newspapers were interactive long before computers!) Because of this, I wanted Kid Scoop to have a place where children could submit their stories/voices. That is why we have the Weekly Writing Corner. It is rewarding when I see local young people start writing to the Letters to The Editor. I like to think that they got the idea they could submit their thoughts to the newspaper because of the Weekly Writing Corner.
So you were once a teacher?
I taught first, second and third grade over the course of 10 years. Most of those years were teaching third grade.
How many US newspapers now carry Kid Scoop?
As of today, about 160. By January it could be more. We sign up a couple of new customers nearly every week.
Do you have any subscribers from outside the United States?
Montreal, Canada started this past September and now Bangkok! We are currently talking (e-mailing) with newspapers in Australia, Mexico and South Africa.Producing Kid Scoop
|Jake solves a puzzle under his mother's watchful eye.|
How do you get your ideas?
Most of my ideas come from questions kids and readers ask me. The other day my 7-year-old asked me why weathermen always lie. This launched an explanation of how weathermen use tools to make predictions and that sometimes the conditions change, etc. etc. Then I thought, what a great idea for Kid Scoop. The weather page will appear in January 2002.
One page was inspired by my older son's question about why he had to have shots. We did a page on the reasons for immunizations.
One time a little girl wrote to me and told me her puppy had died and asked my how to stop being sad. I spoke with some grief specialists and we did a wonderful page on dealing with a loss.
I could go on and on. Ideas are never in short supply in a world full of children. I hope our Bangkok readers will send in ideas as well.
Do you generally have a US audience in mind or do you also consider the international audience?
Because we now have international customers, I am definitely thinking of an international audience. This opens wonderful possibilities to help all of our children become more global in their thinking. I am very interested in getting ideas from you and your readers!
Could you describe the process of producing a typical issue of Kid Scoop Ė from the idea to how it ends up appearing on the page?
I have piles, files and stacks of ideas. Every couple of months Vivien (Whittington), Jeff (Schinkel) and I talk about the ideas and put them on the schedule. We try to include things that are major events, like the Olympics.
Then, I write the page and it is reviewed by an editor named Caryn Reading. Then it goes to Elena Toscano, a wonderful educator who contributes the academic content standards. The edited copy goes to Jeff who creates a "dummy." Jeff, Vivien and I review the dummy and make any revisions. Jeff then does the final version which is proofed by yet another person. Her name is Jill Boeve. Anything she finds wrong is fixed and then the copy is sent to a person who translates the page for our Spanish-language newspaper customers. Then everything goes to Dawn Brehm in Fargo, North Dakota to be made into full-page, half-page, and black and white versions.
As you can see we have quite a team. What is really great is that we donít all work in the same place. Vivien and I work at the Kid Scoop office. The other people work at their homes. The two editors and our translator live in Sonoma. Jeff lives in Fremont, California which is about two hours south of Sonoma and Dawn lives in North Dakota! The wonders of the Internet!
Do you get much feedback from users?
Because of the Weekly Writing Corner we get a lot of feedback. Teachers write us delightful notes. Sometimes teachers send in ideas for pages as well. Children also write very nice notes. One time I got a letter from a little boy who asked if we could do Kid Scoop on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He said he went to his aunt's house after school each day and the only day that wasn't boring was Tuesday because of Kid Scoop. So could I please put Kid Scoop in the paper the rest of the school week.Todayís column
Could you walk us through a typical issue of Kid Scoop? This week, for example, we are running your dinosaur issue. Could you describe the various parts of the lesson and how they fit together?
I find that kids start Kid Scoop from lots of different places. Many kids go straight to the word search, which is great. Building vocabulary is the first step in decoding new reading material. If kids went there I would have them find the words in the puzzle and then find them on the page. I would ask them to read the words and then to look around the page and see where that word might appear.
Then I would have the child circle all of the words on the page. If the word was new, I would say, "Letís read the words we know in this story and see if we can figure out the new word(s)."
Some children might want to go straight to the mystery questions. But when they try to solve the questions they may be confused because they haven't read the background information on how to study a trackway. So the motivation is created to read that information. Then to go back and solve the mystery questions.
After all that hard work, time to relax with "Dino Duos" and "Name that dinosaur". If they are stumped as to which dinosaurs are sauropods, go back to the top of the page and review the information.
For younger children, they can go straight to the "Dino Duos" Then a parent or learning buddy can read the page to the child and point out the theropod and sauropod. Then do the "Name that Dinosaur" activity.
Once the page has been completed, donít stop there! Go to "Extra! Extra!" and/or "Beyond Kid Scoop" to have some fun with the rest of the newspaper. "Extra! Extra!" is written for younger elementary grades and "Beyond Kid Scoop" is often written for upper elementary and middle school.
One day I showed my son a competitorís kidsí page and asked him to compare what he liked and didnít like about each page. He like "momís" page the best. "Tell me why," I replied.
"You have ĎExtra! Extra!í" was one of the reasons he liked Kid Scoop better. This came as a bit of a surprise as I actually write "Extra! Extra!" and "Beyond Kid Scoop" for teachers. So, I asked him, "Why do you like ĎExtra! Extra!í?"
"Because you GET to read the rest of the paper!" was his reply. The emphasis was on "Get." We certainly donít stop our kids from reading the entire paper here at our house, but somehow "Extra! Extra!" is a passport into something that seems like adult territory.
What are these "standards" that we see in small print below the activities?
In the United States children are being tested on certain skills and content areas called "standards." The scores students get on these tests can greatly affect a schoolís funding and even a teacherís salary. Teachers are reluctant to teach anything that doesnít directly relate to these standards and getting good test scores, so we show them how Kid Scoop promotes student learning in the standards.Advice for teachers and parents
Do you have any advice for teachers using Kid Scoop with their classes?
Have fun! The standards should help your teachers see which academic skills and content areas the stories and activities are providing practice in.
An important purpose to Kid Scoop is to keep learning fun. I believe kids like to learn and that they learn more when they are having fun. They also like to interact with content and the puzzles and games that keep them interested and reinforce vocabulary and content.
The Double Word Search& is a great vocabulary builder. Lots of kids go and do the word search first. Then, because the directions tell them to look for the words on the page (in other words the whole page becomes a word search) they have to read to find those words. Tricky!
Sometimes the puzzles we provide require students to read to be able to the complete the puzzle. I believe children read better and with more comprehension when there is a purpose to the reading assignment. The goal of solving a puzzle provides a fun purpose to the reading.
How about for parents? It seems to me that Kid Scoop would be a very good activity for parents who are helping their children learn English.
You are absolutely right. I would encourage parents to let their children start on any puzzle or part of the page that attracts the child. Then, if the child canít complete the puzzle because he/she needs to read more to find an answer, the parent can direct the child to read the parts of the page that will help.
For the younger children, we also include pre-reading games such as finding differences, matching, mazes, etc. I would let the child do the games and then read the rest of the page aloud to the child. Certain key words can be circled and practiced throughout the week to develop vocabulary.
How important is the Internet to your success? I imagine it has made it a lot easier in dealings with your clients.
The Internet brought us together! This past year we have gained more and more new customers through the Internet. It has certainly helped a small company like mine get the word out about our product in a much more cost-effective way.
As I mentioned above, the internet has also made it possible for me to work with people from all over the country, I hope one day we will have Kid Scoop contributers from around the world!