You probably already know that Best of SNO showcases great student journalism from schools in our network. But the site’s usefulness doesn’t end at bragging rights. In fact, many teachers and advisers use Best of SNO as a powerful instructional tool in their classrooms and newsrooms.

We spoke to one such teacher, Natalie Rebetsky, adviser of Linganore High School’s The Lance, to see how she uses the site to inspire, instruct, and engage her journalism students.

STORY IDEAS

Best of SNO helps Rebetsky’s students generate story ideas. By browsing the site, they can see which schools are getting recognized, and for what types of stories and topics. They can also see what isn’t being published that perhaps should be. Students keep special notebooks for jotting down ideas. In fact, they’re graded in part on this task. Editors compile these ideas into one big Google Doc, and at the beginning of each news cycle, the class decides which ideas to keep and which to throw out.

AUDIENCE AWARENESS

Rebetsky encourages her students to keep a close eye on the BoS Twitter–not only our activity, but the activity of those in our network. Who’s retweeting and responding to our posts? Who’s retweeting and responding to their posts? What else are those people sharing and commenting on? What are they interested in? Even if nothing tangible comes of this activity, analyzing and understanding one’s audience is an important skill for journalism students to practice.

MODELING

The essential thing we look for in BoS submissions is solid writing–a great hook, well-organized information, quotes that enhance the story rather than parrot it, and so on.  If a student is writing an opinion piece, for example, Rebetsky directs that student to an opinion piece we’ve published as a model. By using a similar story as a blueprint, students can learn how to successfully construct their own.

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

Getting teenagers excited about anything can be a challenge. Rebetsky’s students love competition, so publication and site badges are a pretty big deal to them. She says they’re also very motivated by positive feedback (shocker, right?). So when a student writes a great story, she makes sure to encourage them to submit to BoS. “I used to submit stories for them,” Rebetsky says, “but now I make them submit their own stories before they leave class.”

How do you use Best of SNO in your classroom? We’d love to know!