PitchIt! ALLEGHENY Student Essay Contest 2023

Educators! Give your students the opportunity to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation and work to protect the freedom of the press.

PitchIt Allegheny 2023

Feb. 13: Early essay submission period
Feb. 14-March 13: Regular essay submission period
March 14-April 16: Extended entry submission period
April 17: Absolute deadline

Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU3), in partnership with the News Literacy Project, is hosting a writing contest to empower students in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, to be civically informed and engaged.

TEACHING GOALS

  • Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
  • Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
  • Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
  • This project challenges students to develop their 21st century civics and media literacy skills (see our Google Drive documents, academic contexts and connections).
  • Finalists virtually receive real-time feedback from journalists in the field who report on these issues every day.

AWARDS: For each grade band, 6-8 and 9-12

Grand prize: $100 gift cards (for teacher and student winner)

First place
$75 gift card (teacher and student)

Second place
$50 gift card (teacher and student)

Third place
$25 gift card (teacher and student)

OVERVIEW

Participating teachers may choose to assign the competition curriculum for individual classes or hold a schoolwide event. Each participating school may submit up to five entries per grade.

Educators are provided with free resources, as well as planning and organizational support for instructional purposes in the PitchIt! Student Essay Contest folder on NLP’s Google Drive.

For this project, middle and high school students will write a 500- to 1,000-word essay in response to one of the news literacy writing prompts, using a news article as inspiration. Submitted essays will be judged by NLP ambassadors. Selected first- through third-place essay contest finalists (three from middle school and three from high school) will earn the opportunity to compete at the PitchIt! Grand Prize Event, where they will receive real-time feedback from journalists.

Finalists will participate in the PitchIt! Allegheny Grand Prize event on Zoom at the end of May, during which they will share their essays and receive feedback from the journalists. The grand prize winners will be chosen at this time.

ELIGIBILITY

This contest is open to middle and high school students in Allegheny County, participating with the support from a teacher. Schools are encouraged to conduct their own internal essay competition to coordinate, and teachers submit their top five essays per grade (6-8 and 9-12). Winners of the essay component must be able to attend the PitchIt! Grand Prize Event via Zoom in May (exact date and time TBD).

LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC

News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content to identify different types of information and to use the standards of fact-based journalism to determine what to trust, share and act on. Being news literate also means recognizing the critical role of the First Amendment and a free press in a democracy and interacting with news and information in ways that promote engaged participation in civic life.

Objective
Students will be able to develop critical thinking and news literacy skills to find reliable information to make decisions, take action and responsibly share news through social media.

Task
Students compose an essay in response to one of the news literacy writing prompts below, discussing how it relates to a local, national or international news article of their choice. They should form a thesis based on their chosen prompt and aim to convince their audience that the thesis is accurate and valid.

Summative Assessment
Students will be evaluated using the PitchIt! rubric found among the PitchIt! Student Essay Contest documents in Google Drive. Teachers should provide students with a written copy of the rubric and relevant supporting materials.

PROCESS

Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to their class, the rubric* and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Teachers can explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment.

Step 2. Students work with their teacher to select a news article/topic of their choice and to select one of the prompts below to follow in writing the essay. Encourage students to use the student planning document* as an outline before submitting a final draft.

Step 3. Teachers select up to five student essay finalists per grade, per school, and submit them to Deborah Domingues-Murphy, domingues-murphy@cityhigh.org.

Step 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three from middle school and three from high school) to advance to the Grand Prize round. 

Step 5. Panel notifies the teacher at the end of April. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides), to compete in the final phase of the contest.

Step 6. Essay finalists make their presentation (the “pitch”) to a panel of journalists and state legislators during the PitchIt! Grand Prize Event. Panelists choose the first-, second- and third-place champion titles for middle school competitors and high school competitors, who will be awarded during the event.

*Click here for the Google Drive folder with PitchIt! educator resources.

PROMPTS

  • The First Amendment has five freedoms, and in many ways, they are dependent on one another. Explain how other freedoms of the First Amendment are required to protect the freedom of the press.
  • What steps should someone take to fact-check false statements by a well-known figure and what problems might arise as a result (either from the false statements or from the fact checking)?
  • People have responsibilities — things that they should do but are not required to by law. Why would providing reliable information be a responsibility?
  • Imagine you heard a rumor about a public figure, but you’re not sure if it is true or not. What are the potential consequences if you share it online?

CRITERIA

  • Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays must be 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essays must be typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1-inch margins and numbered pages
  • All essays and presentations must have a title.
  • Students must include at least three credible sources to support their thesis.
  • Essays must use MLA formatting, complete with in-text citations and a Works Cited page (not included in the word count). See Purdue Owl MLA Guide.
  • Organization: Students must include an introduction with a thesis statement, multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays.
  • Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing. See Purdue Owl Grammar.
  • Plagiarism: Any submission that is in part or wholly plagiarized will be disqualified from the PitchIt! competition. See Purdue Owl Plagiarism.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: Title of essay, student name, grade level, student’s complete mailing address, student’s email address, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, and best phone number and email address for the teacher.
  • Only five essays from each grade may be submitted per school.
  • Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event at the end of May (TBD).

STUDENT ESSAY TIPS

  • Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), middle and end (closing or conclusion).
  • Hook the reader with a strong opener. Readers will use the first few sentences to decide whether they will read the whole essay.
  • Keep your paragraphs short. Popular essays tend to average three sentences per paragraph.
  • Submit thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays. Originality is also important.
  • In the conclusion, include a call to action. Encourage readers to take some positive steps. For instance, if you’ve given them a list of tips, prompt them to put some of the tips into practice.

Contest Deadline: April 17, 2023.

While not required, we recommend schools conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade with cover letter via email to: Deborah Domingues-Murphy, news literacy ambassador, domingues-murphy@cityhigh.org.

FAQs:

Is there a submission fee? No fees! Better yet, there is no catch. All our educator resources are free, including Checkology!

What does “teacher support” mean? Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.

How are the essays judged? Essays will be reviewed by news literacy ambassadors using the PitchIt! rubric. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop the spread of misinformation. For example, consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.

How is the “pitch” judged? The first-, second- and third-place essay winners advance to the Grand Prize Event phase of the contest. To prepare, they must create a visual presentation based on their essay theme (PowerPoint or Google Slides). During the event they will each have three minutes to “pitch” their essay idea to a panel of journalists and will receive real-time feedback from the panel. Student presentations will be judged for creativity, delivery, impact and accuracy during the event (end of May).

What document formats are accepted? Please submit the essay as a Google doc, PDF or a Word document.

How are the finalists announced? Email notification will be sent to the teacher by the end of April.

I am not in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Can I still participate? Sorry, not at this time. This year, the PitchIt! contest is open to all Allegheny County students in middle and high school.

I have more questions! Do you have contacts? Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Kim Bowman, senior associate of user success, kbowman@newslit.org. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, at network@newslit.org, and questions about entries can be directed to our Pittsburgh News Literacy ambassador, Deborah Domingues-Murphy, at domingues-murphy@cityhigh.org.

“I want my students to want to be involved in their community, hold our elected officials accountable. To do that, they need to know what is happening and that requires them to be smart consumers of news information. I also want them to have a voice and to empower them to be confident in engaging with the adults in their community and be able to challenge them on what they say and do. As Dan Rather said, “No one has a monopoly on the truth, but the whole premise of our democracy is that truth and justice must win out.”  —Deborah Domingues-Murphy

PitchIt! New York Student Essay Contest

New York State educators! Enter your students in our essay contest for a chance to win a gift card worth up to $200.

Deadlines:

Nov. 28-Feb. 13: Early essay submission period

Feb. 14-March 13: Regular essay submission period

March 14-April 16: Extended entry submission period

April 17: Absolute deadline, 9 p.m. EST.

Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, the News Literacy Project is hosting a writing contest to empower New York students to be civically informed and engaged.

The PitchIt! New York student essay contest is an opportunity for students to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation or work to protect freedom of the press. Essay finalists receive detailed feedback from a panel of journalists, and the winners receive prizes!

TEACHING AND LEARNING GOALS

  • Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
  • Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
  • Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
  • Finalists receive real-time feedback from journalists in the field who report on these issues every day.

AWARDS: The below are given to students for each grade band in 6-8 and 9-12.

Grand prize: $200 gift card

First place essay

$150 gift card

Second place essay

$100 gift card

Third place essay

$50 gift card

**New York State finalists will participate in the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event on Zoom at the end of May 2023, where they will create a presentation on their essay topic (the “pitch”) and receive feedback from working journalists. The Grand Prize winners will be chosen at this time.

ELIGIBILITY

This contest is open to middle and high school students in New York State who participate with the support from a teacher and/or school. Participating teachers may choose to adapt the competition curriculum for individual classes or hold a schoolwide event. Each participating school may submit up to five entries per grade band (6-12).

LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC

News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content. Students will write an essay about a local, national or international event of their choice that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop misinformation from being spread about it, using one of the prompts listed below.

PROCESS

Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to their class, the rubric* and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Teachers can explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment. See resources from the New York Public Library, which includes access to The New York Times, or any other available news sources.

Step 2. Students work with their teacher to select a news article/topic of their choice and to select one of the prompts below to follow in writing the essay. Share a copy of the student essay planning document* as an outline and encourage them to review before submitting a final draft.

Step 3. Teachers select up to five student essays per grade, per school, and submit.

Step 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three per each grade band, 6-8 and 9-12), to advance to the Grand Prize phase.

Step 5. Panel notifies the teacher at the end of April. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides), to compete in the final phase of the contest.

Step 6: Essay finalists make their presentation (the “pitch”) to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback and a certificate. Panelists choose the Grand Prize winners, who are awarded during the event.

*Click here for the Google Drive folder with PitchIt! educator resources.

PROMPTS

  • The First Amendment has five freedoms, and in many ways, they are dependent on one another. Explain how other freedoms of the First Amendment are required to protect the freedom of the press.
  • What steps should someone take to fact-check false statements by a well-known figure and what problems might arise as a result?
  • People have responsibilities — things that they should do but are not required to by law. Why would providing reliable information be a responsibility?
  • Imagine you heard a rumor about a public figure, but you’re not sure if it is true or not. What are the potential consequences if you share it online?

CRITERIA

  • Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays must be 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essays must be typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages
  • All essays and presentations must have a title.
  • Students must include at least three credible sources to support their thesis.
  • Essays must use MLA formatting, complete with in-text citations and a Works Cited page (not included in the word count). See Purdue Owl MLA Guide.
  • Organization: students must include an introduction with a thesis statement, multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays.
  • Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing. See Purdue Owl Grammar.
  • Plagiarism: any submission that is in part or wholly plagiarized will be disqualified from the PitchIt! competition. See Purdue Owl Plagiarism.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: title of essay, student name, grade level, student’s complete mailing address, student’s email address, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, and best phone number and email address for the teacher.
  • Only five essays from each grade may be submitted per school.
  • Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event at the end of May (TBD), 2023.

STUDENT ESSAY TIPS

  • Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), middle and end (closing or conclusion).
  • Hook the reader with a strong opener. Readers will use the first few sentences to decide whether they will read the whole essay.
  • Keep your paragraphs short. Popular essays tend to average three sentences per paragraph.
  • Submit thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays. Originality is also important.
  • In the conclusion, include a call to action. Encourage readers to take some positive steps. For instance, if you’ve given them a list of tips, prompt them to put some of the tips into practice.

While not required, we recommend schools conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade with required cover letter via email to: Alesha Smith, NLP’s New York news literacy ambassador, at aleshasmith292@gmail.com

FAQs:

Is there a submission fee? No fees! Better yet, there is no catch. All our educator resources are free, including Checkology!

What does “teacher support” mean? Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.

How are the essays judged? During the first phase of the contest, essays are reviewed by news literacy ambassadors for readability, accuracy and originality, using the PitchIt! Rubric. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop the spread of misinformation. For example, consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.

How is the “pitch” judged?

The first-, second- and third-place essay winners advance to the Grand Prize event phase of the contest. To prepare, they must create a visual presentation based on their essay theme (PowerPoint or Google Slides). They will each have three minutes to “pitch” their essay idea to the journalists and will receive real-time feedback from the panel. Students’ presentations will be judged for creativity, delivery, impact and accuracy during the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event at the end of May 2023.

I am not part of the New York City Department of Education. Can I still participate? Absolutely! The PitchIt! contest is open to all students in the State of New York.

What document formats are accepted? The following formats are accepted: Microsoft Word, PDF, Google doc.

How are the finalists announced? An email notification will be sent to the teacher by late April.

I have more questions! Do you have contacts? Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Kim Bowman, senior associate of user success, kbowman@newslit.org, or you can submit a request via the NLP Education Help Center. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, at network@newslit.org, and questions about entries can be directed to our New York news literacy ambassador, Alesha Smith, Aleshasmith292@gmail.com.

“I once read that the belief in misinformation can result in adverse physical and psychological consequences. Our learning goals for this contest are for students to learn how to hone their skills in identifying, researching, analyzing and synthesizing information from credible sources that can be verified; this is an essential trait of news literacy. Guiding students to be successful in news literacy equips our scholars with the ability to analyze any issue through a more critical lens, which encourages higher-level thinking in their current roles as students and beyond. This expertise will be impactful in their daily academic and practical lives. For the stated reasons, we are hopeful that teachers and students from across the district and state will participate in this unique opportunity.”

—Alesha Smith, ELA lead teacher-coach/ social studies teacher, NYC DOE

“Participating in PitchIt! NYC was a great experience for me! I enjoyed the combination of essay writing and the oral pitching components in the competition. I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in the contest and compete as a finalist—I would definitely recommend this contest to my fellow students!”

-Patricia, winning essay student

PitchIt! Colorado Student Essay Contest

Educators! Give your students the opportunity to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation and work to protect the freedom of the press.

PitchIt Colorado

Deadlines:

Nov. 28-Feb. 13: Early essay submission period

Feb. 14-March 13: Regular essay submission period

March 14-April 16: Extended entry submission period

April 17: Absolute deadline

Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, the Colorado Language Arts Society and The Colorado Sun, in partnership with the News Literacy Project, are hosting a writing contest to empower Colorado students to be civically informed and engaged.

TEACHING GOALS

  • Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
  • Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
  • Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
  • This project challenges students to develop their 21st century civics and media literacy skills as outlined in the Colorado Department of Education’s Academic Standards resource (see our Google Drive documents for the Colorado English and Social Studies academic contexts and connections).

AWARDS

The PitchIt! Colorado State Finals Event will be a hybrid (in person and Zoom) format. Students will present live for the chance at claiming the title PitchIt! Colorado State News Literacy Champion. An awards ceremony will be held and first-, second- and third-place trophies will be provided for both middle school and high school competitors, along with a school banner for display.

OVERVIEW

Participating teachers may choose to adapt the competition curriculum for individual classes or hold a schoolwide event. Each participating school may submit up to five entries per grade band.

Educators are provided with free resources, planning and organizational support for instructional purposes in the PitchIt! Student Essay Contest folder on NLP’s Google Drive.

For this project, middle and high school students will write a 500- to 1,000-word essay in response to one of the news literacy writing prompts. Submitted essays will be judged by NLP ambassadors. Selected first- through third-place essay contest finalists (three from middle school and three from high school) will earn the opportunity to compete at the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals Event, where they will receive real-time feedback from journalists.

At state finals, each student will “pitch” their essay (via their slide presentation) to a select panel of professional journalists and state legislators. The winner of the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals will earn the title of PitchIt! Colorado State Champion.

ELIGIBILITY

This contest is open to middle and high school students in Colorado who participate with the support from a teacher and/or school. Participating teachers may choose to adapt the competition curriculum for individual classes or hold a schoolwide event. Each participating school may submit up to five entries per grade band (6-12).

Winners of the essay component must be able to attend the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals event either in person or virtually. The event will take place in the Denver Metro area in May of 2023 (location, date and time TBD).

LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC

News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content to identify different types of information and to use the standards of fact-based journalism to determine what to trust, share and act on. Being news literate also means recognizing the critical role of the First Amendment and a free press in a democracy and interacting with news and information in ways that promote engaged participation in civic life.

Objective

Students will be able to develop critical thinking and news literacy skills to find reliable information to make decisions, take action and responsibly share news through social media.

Task

Students compose an essay in response to one of the news literacy writing prompts below, discussing how it relates to a local, national or international news article of their choice. They should form a thesis based on their chosen prompt and aim to convince their audience that the thesis is accurate and valid.

Audience

Educators, professional journalists, and state legislators.

Summative Assessment

Students will be evaluated using the PitchIt! Rubric found among the PitchIt! Student Essay Contest documents in Google Drive. Teachers should provide students with a written copy of the rubric and relevant supporting materials.

PROCESS

Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to their class, the rubric* and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Teachers can explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment.

Step 2. Students work with their teacher to select a news article/topic of their choice and to select one of the prompts below to follow in writing the essay. Encourage students to use the essay planning document* as an outline before submitting a final draft.

Step 3. Teachers select up to five student essay finalists per grade, per school, and submit them to amanda_escheman@dpsk12.net.

Step 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three from middle school and three from high school) to advance to the Colorado State Finals.

Step 5: Panel notifies the teacher at the end of April. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides), to compete in the final phase of the contest.

Step 6: Essay finalists make their presentation (the “pitch”) to a panel of journalists and state legislators during the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals Event. Panelists choose the first-, second- and third-place state champion titles for middle school competitors and high school competitors, who will be awarded during the event.

*Click here for the Google Drive folder with PitchIt! educator resources.

PROMPTS

Prompt #1: Explain how the First Amendment protects freedom of the press. Use a recent local, national or international news story to illustrate the importance of freedom of the press and how other freedoms are required to protect it.

Prompt #2: What steps should someone take to fact-check statements by a public figure? Consider a recent event in the news to analyze the ways in which the press can hold public figures accountable for what they say and share publicly.

Prompt #3: People have civic responsibilities, things they should do but are not required by law. Explain which news literacy skills are essential to responsible civic participation by example of a recent event in the news.

Prompt #4: Social media platforms are under increased public pressure to fact-check online content generated and shared by users. Which news literacy standards should social media platforms adopt to evaluate fact from fiction? Support your answer with real-world examples in the media.

Prompt #5: What is the role of the media in our society, and how can we become responsible consumers and producers of news and information in the digital age? Support your answer with real-world examples in the news.

Prompt #6: How do confirmation bias, stereotyping and other cognitive biases impact how we interpret events, news and information? What are potential consequences of not verifying the accuracy of such information? Analyze a current news event with these multiple issues in mind for your essay.

CRITERIA

  • Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays must be 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essays must be typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages
  • All essays must have a title.
  • Students must include at least three credible sources to support their thesis.
  • Essays must use MLA formatting, complete with in-text citations and a Works Cited page (not included in the word count). See Purdue Owl MLA Guide.
  • Organization: students must include an introduction with a thesis statement, multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays.
  • Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing. See Purdue Owl Grammar.
  • Plagiarism: any submission that is in part or wholly plagiarized will be disqualified from the PitchIt! competition. See Purdue Owl Plagiarism.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: title of essay, student name, grade level, student’s complete mailing address, student’s email address, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, and best phone number and email address for the teacher.
  • Only five essays from each grade may be submitted per school.

Contest Deadline: April 17, 2023, 11:59 p.m. MT.

Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade band with cover letter via email to the Colorado News Literacy Ambassador: amanda_escheman@dpsk12.net

FAQ:

Is there a submission fee? No fees! Better yet, there is no catch. All our educator resources are free, including Checkology!

What does “teacher support” mean? Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.

How are the essays judged? Essays will be reviewed by news literacy ambassadors using the PitchIt! rubric. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop the spread of misinformation. For example, consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.

How is the “pitch” judged?

The first-, second- and third-place essay winners advance to the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals phase of the contest. To prepare, they must create a visual presentation based on their essay theme (PowerPoint or Google Slides). During the event they will each have three minutes to “pitch” their essay idea to a panel of journalists and state legislators, and will receive real-time feedback from the panel. Student presentations will be judged for creativity, delivery, impact and accuracy during the event at the end of May 2023.

Who can participate? The PitchIt! contest is open to all Colorado students in middle and high school.

What document formats are accepted? Please submit the essay as a Google doc or a Word document.

How are the finalists announced? Email notification will be sent to the teacher by the end of April.

I live too far from Denver to attend the State Finals event in person. May I still participate? Yes! We plan to offer a way to participate via Zoom, so you can still attend and your student can still present their pitch to our panel of journalists.

I have more questions! Do you have contacts? Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Kim Bowman, senior associate of user success, kbowman@newslit.org. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, network@newslit.org, and questions about entries can be directed to our Colorado news literacy ambassador, Amanda Escheman, at amanda_escheman@dpsk12.net.

“I see no greater threat to democracy than media illiteracy. The democratic process can only thrive when thoughtful citizens interrogate the media that informs them.”
––Amanda Escheman, Colorado News Literacy Ambassador

PitchIt! NYC Student Essay Contest

New York City educators! Enter your students in our essay contest for a chance to win a gift card worth up to $200. Deadline: May 13, 2022.

nyc department of education logoStudent voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, New York City Department of Education, in partnership with the News Literacy Project, is hosting a writing contest to empower students to be civically informed and engaged.

The PitchIt! NYC student essay contest is an opportunity for students to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation or work to protect freedom of the press. Essay finalists receive detailed feedback from a panel of journalists, and the winners receive prizes!

TEACHING AND LEARNING GOALS

  • Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
  • Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
  • Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
  • Finalists receive real-time feedback from journalists in the field who report on these issues every day.

AWARDS: for each grade band 6-8 and 9-12

Grand prize: $200 gift card

First place

$150 gift card

Second place

$100 gift card

Third place

$50 gift card

**NYC Finalists will participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, where they will share their essays and receive feedback from the journalists. The winners will be chosen at this time.

ELIGIBILITY

This contest is open to middle and high school students in New York City’s five boroughs, participating with the support from a teacher. Schools are encouraged to conduct their own internal essay competition to coordinate, so teachers submit their top three essays per grade (6-8 and 9-12).

LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC

News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content. Students will write an essay about a local, national or international event that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop misinformation from being spread about it. They will answer one of the prompts below.

PROCESS

Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to students and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Explore our free educator resources on NewsLit Nation or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment. See resources from the New York Public Library, which includes access to The New York Times, or any other available sources.

Step 2. Ask students to pick one of the prompts below to write about.

Step 3. Encourage students to review the article formatting requirements before submitting their essays to you.

Step 4. Teachers select up to three student essays per grade, per school, and submit.

Step 5. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays per grade band (6-8 and 9-12), to advance to the finalist stage.

Step 6: All finalists pitch their stories to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback and a certificate. Panelists choose the winners, who receive prizes awarded during the event.

 PROMPTS

  • The First Amendment has five freedoms, and in many ways they are dependent on one another. Explain how other freedoms of the First Amendment are required to protect the freedom of the press.
  • What steps should someone take to fact-check false statements by a well-known figure and what problems might arise as a result?
  • People have responsibilities – things that they should do but are not required to by law. Why would providing reliable information be a responsibility?
  • Imagine you heard a rumor about public figure, but you’re not sure if it is true or not. What are the potential consequences if you share it online?

CRITERIA

  • Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays must be 500-1000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • All essays must have a title.
  • Proper citation of sources is required.
  • Only three essays from each grade may be submitted per school.
  • Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: student name, student ID, grade level, student complete address, best student phone number, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, best teacher’s phone number and email address and title of essay.
  • Entries must be submitted via email to Alesha Smith, NLP’s New York City news literacy ambassador, at Aleshasmith292@gmail.com.
  • NYC Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event on June 1, 2022.

STUDENT TIPS

  • Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), middle and end (closing or conclusion).
  • Hook the reader with a strong opener. Readers will use the first few sentences to decide whether they will read the whole essay.
  • Keep your paragraphs short. Popular essays tend to average three sentences per paragraph.
  • Submit thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays. Originality is also important.
  • In the conclusion, include a “call to action.” Encourage readers to take some positive steps. For instance, if you’ve given them a list of tips, prompt them to put some of the tips into practice.
  • Essays should be typed in 12-point, easily readable font (such as Times New Roman), double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages.

Contest Deadline: May 13, 2022, 9 p.m. EST.

While not required, we recommend schools conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Schools/teachers should submit their top three winning essays per grade with cover letter via email to: Alesha Smith, NLP’s New York City news literacy ambassador, at Aleshasmith292@gmail.com

Download the PitchIt! student essay contest flyer (PDF).

FAQs:

  • What does “teacher support” mean?
    Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.
  • How are the essays judged?
    Essays will be reviewed by NLP’s news literacy ambassadors for accuracy, readability and creativity. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop misinformation from being spread about it. For example, students should consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.
  • If my student becomes a finalist, what’s the next step?
    Teachers are notified and each student finalist will be required to create a slide presentation illustrating the issues raised in their essay. Finalists then pitch their ideas to the PitchIt! judges, during the PitchIt! grand prize event via Zoom on June 1, 2022. During this event, finalists will share their presentation. The judges will provide real-time feedback on the finalists’ pitches and select winners based on the pitch and idea that would have best prevented misinformation from being spread.
  • What document formats are accepted?
    Whatever format is easy for you and your student: Microsoft Word, PDF, Google doc.
  • How are the finalists announced?
    Email notification will be sent to the teacher by mid-May.
  • I have more questions! Do you have contacts?
    Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Jordan Maze, senior manager of educator network operations, jmaze@newslit.org. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, senior manager of educator engagement, network@newslit.org, and questions about entries can be directed to our New York City news literacy ambassador, Alesha Smith, Aleshasmith292@gmail.com.

“I once read that the belief in misinformation can result in adverse physical and psychological consequences. Our learning goals for this contest are for students to learn how to hone their skills in identifying, researching, analyzing and synthesizing information from credible sources that can be verified; this is an essential trait of news literacy. Guiding students to be successful in news literacy equips our scholars with the ability to analyze any issue through a more critical lens, which encourages higher- level thinking in their current roles as students and beyond. This expertise will be impactful in their daily academic and practical lives. For the stated reasons, we are hopeful that teachers and students from across the district will participate in this unique opportunity.”

Alesha Smith – ELA teacher/ social studies teacher- NYC DOE

PitchIt! Miami Student Essay Contest

Florida educators! Enter your students in our essay contest for a chance for both of you to win an Amazon gift card worth up to $100. Deadline extended: May 13, 2022.

Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), in partnership with the News Literacy Project, is hosting a writing contest to empower students to be civically informed and engaged.

The PitchIt! student essay contest is an opportunity for students to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation or work to protect freedom of the press. Essay finalists receive detailed feedback from a panel of journalists, and the winners (student and teacher) receive prizes!

TEACHING AND LEARNING GOALS

  • Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
  • Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
  • Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
  • Finalists receive real-time feedback from journalists in the field who report on these issues every day.

AWARDS: for each grade band 6-8 and 9-12

Grand prize: $100 Amazon gift cards (for teacher and student winner)

First place
$75 Amazon gift card (teacher and student)

Second place
$50 Amazon gift card (teacher and student)

Third place
$25 Amazon gift card (teacher and student)

**Finalists will participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom at the end of May (TBD), where they will share their essays and receive feedback from the journalists. The winners will be chosen at this time.

ELIGIBILITY

This contest is open to middle and high school students participating with the support from a teacher. Schools are encouraged to conduct their own internal essay competition to coordinate, and teachers submit their top three essays per grade band (6-8 and 9-12).

LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC

News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content. Students will write an essay about a local, national or international event that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop misinformation from being spread about it. They will answer one of the prompts below.

PROCESS

Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to students and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Explore the free educator resources on NewsLit Nation or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment. See resources from the NLP, M-DCPS library, which includes access to The New York Times, articles on ProQuest http://virtuallibrary.dadeschools.net/#, or any other available sources.

Step 2. Ask students to pick one of the prompts below to write about.

Step 3. Encourage students to review the article formatting requirements before submitting their essays to you.

Step 4. Teachers select up to three student essays per grade, per school, and submit.

Step 5. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays per grade band (6-8 and 9-12), to advance to the finalist stage.

Step 6: All finalists pitch their stories to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback and a certificate. Panelists choose the winners, who receive prizes awarded during the event.

 PROMPTS

  • The First Amendment has five freedoms, and in many ways they are dependent on one another. Explain how other freedoms of the First Amendment are required to protect the freedom of the press.
  • What steps should someone take to fact-check false statements by a well-known figure and what problems might arise as a result?
  • People have responsibilities – things that they should do but are not required to by law. Why would providing reliable information be a responsibility?
  • Imagine you heard a rumor about public figure, but you’re not sure if it is true or not. What are the potential consequences if you share it online?

CRITERIA

  • Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays must be 500-1000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • All essays must have a title.
  • Proper citation of sources is required.
  • Only three essays from each grade may be submitted per school.
  • Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: student name, student ID, grade level, student complete address, best student phone number, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, best teacher’s phone number and email address and title of essay.
  • Entries must be submitted via email to Monica Valdes, Miami news literacy ambassador, mdvaldes@dadeschools.net.
  • Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event at the end of May (TBD).

STUDENT TIPS

  • Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), middle and end (closing or conclusion).
  • Hook the reader with a strong opener. Readers will use the first few sentences to decide whether they will read the whole essay.
  • Keep your paragraphs short. Popular essays tend to average three sentences per paragraph.
  • Submit thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays. Originality is also important.
  • In the conclusion, include a “call to action.” Encourage readers to take some positive steps. For instance, if you’ve given them a list of tips, prompt them to put some of the tips into practice.
  • Essays should be typed in 12-point, easily readable font (such as Times New Roman), double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages.

Contest Deadline: May 13, 2022, 5 p.m. EST.

While not required, we recommend schools conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Schools/teachers should submit their top three winning essays per grade with cover letter via email to: Monica Valdes, Miami news literacy ambassador,  mdvaldes@dadeschools.net

Download the PitchIt! student essay contest flyer (PDF).

FAQs:

  • What does “teacher support” mean?
    Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.
  • How are the essays judged?
    Essays will be reviewed by NLP’s news literacy ambassadors for accuracy, readability and creativity. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop misinformation from being spread about it. For example, students should consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.
  • I am not in Miami, can I still participate?Absolutely! The PitchIt! contest is open to all middle and high school students in Florida.
  • If my student becomes a finalist, what’s the next step?
    Teachers are notified and each student finalist will be required to create a slide presentation illustrating the issues raised in their essay. Finalists then pitch their ideas to the PitchIt! judges, journalists Rose Monique Varela Henriquez of el Nuevo Herald and Carolina Rosario of Univision, during the PitchIt! grand prize event via Zoom at the end of May (TBD). During this event, finalists will share their presentation. The judges will provide real-time feedback on the finalists’ pitches and select winners based on the pitch and idea that would have best prevented misinformation from being spread. The grand prize-winning students and teachers will each receive $100 gift cards. First-place awardees receive $75, second-place winners will receive $50 and third-place finalists will be awarded $25.
  • What document formats are accepted?
    Whatever format is easy for you and your student: Microsoft Word, PDF, Google doc.
  • How are the finalists announced?
    Email notification will be sent to the teacher by mid-May.
  • I have more questions! Do you have contacts?
    Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Jordan Maze, senior manager of educator network operations, jmaze@newslit.org. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, senior manager of educator engagement, network@newslit.org, and questions about entries can be directed to our Miami News Literacy Ambassador, Monica Valdes, at mdvaldes@dadeschools.net.

“Our learning goals for this contest include helping students analyze different types of misinformation and showcasing their ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information. When we fail to teach news literacy, we actively disempower students from being engaged members of their communities. That’s why we hope students and teachers from across the district will enter and participate.” –Monica Valdes, social studies and film teacher, M-DCPS.

Educators! Enter your students in our essay contest for a chance for both of you to win an Amazon gift card worth up to $100. Deadline now extended to May 15.

Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, in partnership with the News Literacy Project, is hosting a writing contest to empower students to be civically informed and engaged.

LEARNING GOALS

  • Students who want to be part of the misinformation solution can use this contest to strengthen their news literacy skills.
  • Students will analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
  • Students will have access to, and real-time feedback from, journalists in the field who report on these issues every day.

AWARDS: for each grade band 6-8 and 9-12

First place
$100 Amazon gift card (teacher and student)

Second place
$50 Amazon gift card (teacher and student)

Third place
$25 Amazon gift card (teacher and student)

**Winners will participate in an official Pitch It! session where they will share their article and receive feedback from a journalist.

ELIGIBILITY
Only students in grades 6-8 and 9-12 may participate with the support from a teacher.

LEARNING TASK AND ESSAY TOPIC
Students will review local and/or national headlines. See resources from the M-DCPS library which provides access to The New York Times, and articles on ProQuest. Or use any other available resources.

CONTEXT
News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content.

Think about a widely reported current event and how news literacy skills could have been applied. Now, write a 500-1000 word article about a local, national or international story where having news literacy skills would have prevented misinformation from being spread. Use reputable sources to support your claim. Articles will be judged by a panel of journalists for accuracy, readability and creativity. Choose a prompt from below.

PROMPTS

  • Explain how the First Amendment protects freedom of the press.
  • How can citizens fact-check well-known figures (journalists, celebrities, influencers, athletes, etc.)?
  • Citizens have responsibilities. Why would consuming or sharing reliable information be a responsibility?

 CRITERIA

  • Clearly addresses the prompt.
  • Proofread.
  • Observation of rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing.
  • Recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), middle and end (closing or conclusion).
  • Make sure you open strong. Readers will use the first few sentences to decide whether they will read the whole article.
  • Keep your paragraphs short. Popular articles tend to average three sentences per paragraph.
  • Thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays.
  • Originality.
  • End with a “call to action.” In the conclusion to your piece, encourage the reader to take some positive steps. For instance, if you’ve given readers a list of tips, prompt them to put some of the tips into practice.
  • Proper citing of sources.

ARTICLE FORMAT

  • 500-1000 words.
  • Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student. Only the top two essays from each school for each of the permitted grade levels may be submitted. Schools should conduct their own essay contest to establish the top two articles for submission.
  • All articles must have a title.
  • All articles must be written in English.
  • Articles should be easily readable, 12-point font (such as Times New Roman) and double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: Student name, student ID, grade level, complete student address, best student phone number, the school’s name, the principal’s name, the teacher’s name, and best teacher’s phone number.

Consult the complete contest rules before entering.

Contest Deadline: May 15, 2021, 5 p.m. EDT 

Schools should submit their top two winning essays per grade band via email to: Ms. Monica Valdes, Miami Newslit Ambassador, mdvaldes@dadeschools.net