PitchIt! TEXAS Student Essay Contest 2024

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.

Contest Deadline: April 15, 2024, 11:59 p.m. CT

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.

TIMELINE:

  • Now through Jan. 31: Educator RSVP is open! It is also the suggested time frame to teach using lessons from Checkology® virtual classroom and other free NLP resources.
  • Feb. 1 – April 15: Suggested time frame to workshop essays for submission.
  • April 15: Essay deadline.
  • May 1: PitchIt! Texas essay winners announced as well as time frame for students to create presentations to “pitch” during Grand Prize event.
  • May TBD: PitchIt! Texas Grand prize event (week of May 13).

ABOUT

Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, the Texas Association of Journalism Educators, in partnership with the News Literacy Project, is hosting a writing contest to empower students in Texas 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.
  • Students develop their 21st century civics and media literacy skills (see our Google Drive documents, academic contexts and connections).

AWARDS for each grade band (6-8 and 9-12)

GRAND PRIZE – PITCH:

$100 gift card scholarship for student winner, gift card for teacher and a school banner celebrating both.

FIRST PLACE – ESSAY

$75 gift card (teacher and student)

SECOND PLACE – ESSAY

$50 gift card (teacher and student)

THIRD PLACE – ESSAY

$25 gift card (teacher and student)

Note: First-, second- and third-place essay winners will prepare a presentation to “pitch” in the virtual PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom (date TBA) and receive feedback from working journalists. The Grand Prize winners will be chosen at this time.

OVERVIEW

Texas middle and high school 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 (6-12).

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. Join the NewsLitNation Facebook Group, for additional tips on how to best blend key news literacy concepts into your existing curriculum.

For this project, 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.

The selected first- through third-place essay contest prize winners (three from middle school and three from high school) then compete at the virtual PitchIt! Grand Prize event, where they receive real-time feedback from journalists on their “pitch,” a presentation about their essay topic. The grand prize winners will be chosen at this time.

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 are encouraged to explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® and 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 handing in a final draft.

STEP 3.

Teachers select up to five student essay finalists per grade, per school, and submit with cover letter to Sara Gonzales, Texas NewsLitNation ambassador: [email protected]

STEP 4.

NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three from middle school and three from high school) to advance to the Grand Prize phase of the contest (the “pitch”!).

STEP 5.

Panel notifies the teacher at the beginning of May. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides, no more than three minutes in length), to compete in the final phase of the contest.

STEP 6.

First-, second- and third-place essay winners make their presentation (“pitch”) to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! Texas Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback. Panelists choose the Grand Prize winners for middle school and high school competitors, who will be awarded during the event.

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

PROMPTS

Students should pick one of the following 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 news 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 does 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.

ESSAY CRITERIA

  • Submission must be original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays are between 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essay is 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! Grand Prize event mid-May (TBD).

SUBMISSION

Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade with cover letter via email to: Sara Gonzales, news literacy ambassador, [email protected]

While not required, we encourage schools to conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Entries must be received by April 15.

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.

Do you have essay tips for the students? Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays. 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.

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 (mid-March).

What document formats are accepted? Please submit the essay as a Google Doc, PDF or a Word document. The “pitch” presentation should be Google Slides or PowerPoint.

How are the finalists announced? Email notifications will be sent to teachers mid-May

Who can participate? The PitchIt! contest is open to all middle and high school students in Texas. If you live in Colorado, Florida, New York or Pennsylvania, please visit the main PitchIt! page for details.

I have more questions! Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Terry Berna, educator success manager, [email protected], or you can submit a request via the NLP Education Help Center or the NewsLitNation Facebook Group. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, at [email protected], and questions about entries can be directed to our Texas ambassador Sara Gonzales, [email protected]

“Our nation will vote in the next presidential election and a culminating issue will be media literacy. By using PitchIt!, as educators, we can exhibit for our students how to break down the news in a way that allows them to become news literate, and see the democratic process come to life through meaningful writing, conversation, research and presentation.” ––Sara Gonzales, journalism teacher and advisor, Patricia E. Paetow High School in Katy, Texas

PitchIt! FLORIDA Student Essay Contest

Florida educators! Enter your students in our essay contest for a chance for both you and a student to win a gift card worth up to $100.

Contest Deadline: April 19, 2024, 11:59 p.m. EST.

TIMELINE:

  • Nov. 1, 2023 – Feb. 16, 2024: Educator RSVP is open! Suggested time frame to teach using Checkology® virtual classroom and other NLP resources. (All free!)
  • Feb. 19 – March 15, 2024: Regular essay submission period. Suggested time frame to teach using Checkology® virtual classroom and other free NLP resources.
  • March 18 – April 12, 2024: Extended entry submission period. Suggested time frame to workshop essays for submission.
  • April 19: Absolute essay submission deadline.

ABOUT

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 Florida students to be civically informed and engaged.

The PitchIt! Florida 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.

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.

Students develop their 21st century civics and media literacy skills (see our Google Drive documents, academic contexts and connections).

“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

AWARDS

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

  • GRAND PRIZE – PITCH:
    $100 gift card scholarship for student winner, gift card for teacher and a school banner celebrating both.
  • FIRST PLACE – ESSAY
    $75 gift card (teacher and student)
  • SECOND PLACE – ESSAY
    $50 gift card (teacher and student)
  • THIRD PLACE – ESSAY
    $25 gift card (teacher and student)

Note: First-, second- and third place essay winners will prepare a presentation to “pitch” in the virtual PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom (date TBA) and receive feedback from working journalists. The Grand Prize winners will be chosen at this time.

OVERVIEW

This contest is open to middle and high school students in Florida who participate with 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).

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. Join the NewsLitNation Facebook Group for additional tips on how to best blend key news literacy concepts into your existing curriculum.

For this project, 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.

The selected first- through third-place essay contest prize winners (three from middle school and three from high school) then compete at the virtual PitchIt! Grand Prize event, where they receive real-time feedback from journalists on their “pitch,” a presentation about their essay topic. The grand prize winners will be chosen at this time.

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 students, 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 are encouraged to use the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® and the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment.More resources are at the M-DCPS library, which includes access to The New York Times, articles on ProQuest or any other available sources.
  • Step 2. Students work with their teacher to select a news article/topic, picking one of the prompts below to follow in writing the essay. Encourage students to use the student planning document* as an outline and review the essay formatting requirements before handing in a final draft.
  • Step 3. Teachers choose up to five student essays per grade, per school, and submit with cover letter via email to Monica Valdes, Florida’s NewsLitNation ambassador: [email protected]. While not required, we encourage schools to conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission.
  • Step 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three from middle school and three from high school) to advance to the Grand Prize phase of the contest (the “pitch”!).
  • Step 5. Panel notifies the teacher by May 6, 2024. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides) no more than three minutes in length, to compete in the final phase of the contest.
  • Step 6. First-, second- and third-place essay winners make their three-minute presentation (“pitch”) to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! Florida Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback. Panelists choose the Grand Prize winners for middle school and high school competitors, who will be awarded during the event.

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

PROMPTS

Students should pick one of the following 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? What are the potential consequences of sharing it online? 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 news 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 does 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

  • Submission must be original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essay is between 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essay is typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages.
  • Submissions must have a title.
  • Students must include at least three credible sources to support their thesis.
  • Proper citation of sources is required.
  • Only five 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. See Purdue Owl Grammar.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: student name, student ID, grade level, student’s complete address, best phone number for student, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, best phone number and email address for teacher and title of essay.
  • Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event, with camera on, and submit a media release form (date TBA).

SUBMISSION:

Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade with required cover letter via email to: Monica Valdes, Florida news literacy ambassador, [email protected]. Entries must be received by April 19, 2024.

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 selection and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must 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.

Do you have essay tips for the students? Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays. 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.

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. 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. Student presentations will be judged for creativity, delivery, impact and accuracy during the event.

Who can participate? The PitchIt! contest is open to all middle and high school students in the State of Florida. If you live in Pennsylvania, Colorado or New York, please visit the main PitchIt! page for details.

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

How are the finalists announced? Email notifications will be sent to teachers by early May.

I have more questions! Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Terry Berna, educator success manager, [email protected], or you can submit a request via the NLP Education Help Center or the NewsLitNation Facebook Group. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, at [email protected], and questions about entries can be directed to our Florida ambassador Monica Valdes at [email protected].

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.

Contest Deadline: April 19, 2024, 11:59 p.m. EST.

TIMELINE:

  • Nov. 1, 2023 – Feb. 13: Educator RSVP is open!   Suggested time frame to teach using Checkology® virtual classroom and other free NLP resources.
  • Feb. 14 – March 13: Suggested time frame to teach using NLP resources or workshop essays for early submission.
  • March 14 – April 18: Suggested time frame to using NLP resources or workshop essays for regular essay submission period.
  • April 19: Essay submission deadline, 11:59 p.m. EST.

ABOUT

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.

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.
  • This project challenges students to develop their 21st century civics and media literacy skills.

AWARDS

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

GRAND PRIZE – PITCH:
$200 gift card scholarship and school banner

FIRST PLACE – ESSAY
$150 gift card scholarship

SECOND PLACE – ESSAY
$100 gift card scholarship

THIRD PLACE – ESSAY
$50 gift card scholarship

Note: First-, second- and third place essay winners will prepare a presentation to “pitch” in the virtual PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom (date TBA) and receive feedback from working journalists. The Grand Prize winners will be chosen at this time.

OVERVIEW

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 (6-12).

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. Join the NewsLitNation Facebook Group, for additional tips on how to best blend key news literacy concepts into your existing curriculum.

For this project, 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.

The selected first- through third-place essay contest prize winners (three from middle school and three from high school) then compete at the virtual PitchIt! Grand Prize event, where they receive real-time feedback from journalists on their “pitch,” a presentation about their essay topic. The grand prize winners will be chosen at this time.

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 are encouraged to use 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 select one of the prompts below to follow in writing the essay. Encourage students to use the essay planning document* as an outline before handing in a final draft.

Step 3. Teachers select up to five student essays per grade, per school, and submit with cover letter via email to Alesha Smith, New York’s NewsLitNation ambassador: [email protected].

Step 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three from middle school and three from high school) to advance to the Grand Prize phase of the contest (the “pitch”!).

Step 5. Panel notifies the teacher by May 6, 2024. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides) no more than three minutes in length, to compete in the final phase of the contest.

Step 6: First-, second- and third-place essay winners make their three-minute presentation (“pitch”) to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback. Panelists choose the Grand Prize winners for middle school and high school competitors, who will be awarded during the event.

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

PROMPTS

Students should pick one of the following 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 news 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 does 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.

ESSAY CRITERIA

  • Submission must be original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essay is between 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essay is typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages.
  • Submissions 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.
  • 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.
  • Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event at the end of May 2024.

SUBMISSION:

Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade with required cover letter to: Alesha Smith, NLP’s New York NewsLitNation ambassador, at [email protected]. Entries must be received by April 19, 2024.

While not required, we encourage schools to conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission.

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 tied in with the student’s knowledge of news literacy concepts. For example, using one of the prompts, consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.

Do you have essay tips for the students? Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays. 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.

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. Students’ presentations will be judged for creativity, delivery, impact and accuracy during the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event, end of May, 2024.

Who can participate? The PitchIt! contest is open to all middle and high school students in New York State. If you live in Colorado, Pennsylvania or Florida, please visit the main PitchIt! page for details.

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

How are the finalists announced? Email notifications will be sent to teachers by May 6, 2024.

I have more questions! Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Terry Berna, educator success manager, [email protected], or you can submit a request via the NLP Education Help Center or the NewsLitNation Facebook Group. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, at [email protected], and questions about entries can be directed to our New York ambassador, Alesha Smith, [email protected].

“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! PENNSYLVANIA Student Essay Contest 2024

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.

Friday, March 1: Deadline

TIMELINE:

  • Nov. 1, 2023 – January 2024: Educator RSVP is open! Suggested time frame to teach using Checkology® virtual classroom and other free NLP resources.
  • January 2024 – Feb. 26, 2024: Suggested time frame to workshop essays for submission.
  • March 1, 2024: Essay deadline.
  • March 4, 2024: PitchIt! Pennsylvania finalists announced.
  • March TBD, 2024: PitchIt! Pennsylvania State Finals (week of March 18).

ABOUT

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 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.
  • Students develop their 21st century civics and media literacy skills (see our Google Drive documents, academic contexts and connections).

AWARDS for each grade band (6-8 and 9-12)

GRAND PRIZE – PITCH:
$100 gift card scholarship for student winner, gift card for teacher and a school banner celebrating both.

FIRST PLACE – ESSAY
$75 gift card (teacher and student)

SECOND PLACE – ESSAY
$50 gift card (teacher and student)

THIRD PLACE – ESSAY
$25 gift card (teacher and student)

Note: First-, second- and third-place essay winners will prepare a presentation to “pitch” in the virtual PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom (date TBA) and receive feedback from working journalists. The Grand Prize winners will be chosen at this time.

OVERVIEW

Pennsylvania middle and high school 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 (6-12).

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. Join the NewsLitNation Facebook Group, for additional tips on how to best blend key news literacy concepts into your existing curriculum.

For this project, 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.

The selected first- through third-place essay contest prize winners (three from middle school and three from high school) then compete at the virtual PitchIt! Grand Prize event, where they receive real-time feedback from journalists on their “pitch,” a presentation about their essay topic. The grand prize winners will be chosen at this time.

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 are encouraged to explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® and 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 handing in a final draft.

STEP 3. Teachers select up to five student essay finalists per grade, per school, and submit with cover letter to Deborah Domingues-Murphy, Pennsylvania’s NewsLitNation ambassador: [email protected].

STEP 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three from middle school and three from high school) to advance to the Grand Prize phase of the contest (the “pitch”!).

STEP 5. Panel notifies the teacher at the beginning of March. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides, no more than three minutes in length), to compete in the final phase of the contest.

STEP 6. First-, second- and third-place essay winners make their presentation (“pitch”) to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! Pennsylvania Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback. Panelists choose the Grand Prize winners for middle school and high school competitors, who will be awarded during the event.

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

PROMPTS

Students should pick one of the following 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 news 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.

ESSAY CRITERIA

  • Submission must be original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays are between 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essay is 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! Grand Prize event at the end of May (TBD).
  • SUBMISSION

Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade with cover letter via email to: Deborah Domingues-Murphy, news literacy ambassador, [email protected].

While not required, we encourage schools to conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Entries must be received by March 1, 2024.

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.

Do you have essay tips for the students? Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays. 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.

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 (mid-March).

What document formats are accepted? Please submit the essay as a Google Doc, PDF or a Word document. The “pitch” presentation should be Google Slides or PowerPoint.

How are the finalists announced? Email notifications will be sent to teachers by the first week in March.

Who can participate? The PitchIt! contest is open to all middle and high school students in Pennsylvania. If you live in Colorado, Florida or New York, please visit the main PitchIt! page for details.

I have more questions! Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Terry Berna, educator success manager, [email protected], or you can submit a request via the NLP Education Help Center or the NewsLitNation Facebook Group. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, at [email protected], and questions about entries can be directed to our Pittsburgh ambassador, Deborah Domingues-Murphy, at [email protected].

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

Contest Deadline: April 15, 2024, 11:59 p.m. MT.

Deadlines:

  • Nov. 1, 2023: Educator RSVP opens! 
  • Nov. 1, 2023-Jan. 28, 2024: Suggested time frame to teach using Checkology® virtual classroom and other NLP resources. (All free!). 
  • Feb. 1, 2024-April 15, 2024: Suggested time frame to workshop essays for submission. 
  • April 15, 2024: Essay submission deadline. 
  • May 1, 2024: PitchIt! Colorado finalists announced. 
  • May (TBD): PitchIt! Colorado State Finals. 

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.

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 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.

Educators are provided with free resources, planning and organizational support for instructional purposes in the PitchIt! Colorado 2023-2024 Resource Folder.

For this project, middle and high school students will write an 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! Colorado State Finals event.

At state finals, each student will “pitch” their essay topic to a select panel of professional journalists and local leaders. Finalists will compete to earn the title of PitchIt! Colorado State Champion (separate titles for middle school and high school).

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).

Essay finalists must be able to attend the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals event either in person or virtually. The event will take place at The Colorado Sun Media Center, Denver, Colorado (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 (Based on Colorado Academic Standards)

  1. Students will be able to conduct research by gathering, organizing, and evaluating the credibility and bias of information from a variety of news media.
  2. Students will be able to critically analyze information, claims, and sources presented to them through news media.
  3. Students will be able to cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  4. Students will be able to evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  5. Students will be able to identify ways in which 21st century media can be evaluated for authenticity, validity, and reliability.
  6. Students will be able to synthesize information from multiple sources to demonstrate understanding of a topic.
  7. Students will be able to process and effectively communicate and present information orally, in writing, and through multimedia presentation.

Task

Students compose an essay (500-1,000 words) 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 inform their audience about the relevancy of news literacy in the world today.

Audience

Educators, professional journalists and state legislators.

Summative Assessment

Students will be evaluated using the PitchIt! Colorado Essay Rubric. 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 will submit each essay using the PitchIt! Colorado Essay Submission 2023-2024 Form.

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 and student finalists on May 1, 2024. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (no more than three minutes in length) to compete in the final phase of the contest.

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

PROMPTS

Students should pick one of the following 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 news 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.

ESSAY CRITERIA

  • Submission must be original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essay is between 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essay is typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages.
  • Submissions 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.

Contest Deadline: April 15, 2024, 11:59 p.m. MT.

Schools/teachers should submit their top essays (no more than five essays per grade) using the PitchIt! Colorado Essay Submission 2023-2024 Form.

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! Colorado Essay Rubric. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story tied in with news literacy skills. 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. 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.

Who can participate? The PitchIt! contest is open to all Colorado students in middle and high school. If you live in Pennsylvania, Florida or New York, please visit the main PitchIt! page for details.

What document formats are accepted? Please submit the essay as a Docx, Word, or PDF file. The “pitch” presentation should be Google Slides or PowerPoint.

How are the finalists announced? Email notifications will be sent to teachers and finalists on May 1, 2024.

I live too far from Denver to attend the State Finals event in person. May I still participate? Yes! The event can be accessed via Zoom, so you can still attend and present your pitch to the live panel.

I have more questions!  Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Terry Berna, educator success manager, [email protected], or you can submit a request via the NLP Education Help Center or the NewsLitNation Facebook Group. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, [email protected], and questions about entries can be directed to our Colorado ambassador, Amanda Escheman, at [email protected].

“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

Harm and Distrust: Honoring Historical Truths in the Classroom

This free webinar for educators, presented by the News Literacy Project on edWeb.net, focuses on tackling difficult classroom conversations about race, equity and injustices.

Teaching historical truths can sometimes lead to difficult conversations in the classroom. It is essential for us to not only meet conversations about race, equity and injustices head-on, but to do so in a way that honors all voices. We need to create a safe environment for students to learn about the past and feel empowered to change the future based on facts.

During this expert panel as part of a free webinar on edWeb.net, participants will learn about:

  • the historical failure of mainstream news organizations to serve all people equally.
  • the legacies of distrust this has caused among specific groups in America — particularly Black Americans.
  • recent efforts by news outlets to improve their coverage.

Hear from education professionals  — Brittany Hogan, educational equity consultant, and K.C. Boyd, a news literacy ambassador and a library media specialist at Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington, D.C. — about how they tackle these conversations in the classroom, and how they draw on their personal experiences to shed light on historical truths. Brittney Smith, NLP’s senior manager of education partnerships (East), will moderate.

In addition, the webinar will highlight some of the resources — including the News Literacy Project’s new “Harm & Distrust” lesson on Checkology® — that are available to support educators as we all work to make progress toward a more equitable and just society.

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 24: 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.

Use this flyer to share contest details with your education community:

Allegheny PitchIt Contest 2023

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, [email protected].

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 24, 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, [email protected].

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, [email protected]. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, at [email protected], and questions about entries can be directed to our Pittsburgh News Literacy ambassador, Deborah Domingues-Murphy, at [email protected].

“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! 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 [email protected].
  • 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 [email protected]

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, [email protected]. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, senior manager of educator engagement, [email protected], and questions about entries can be directed to our New York City news literacy ambassador, Alesha Smith, [email protected].

“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