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.
- November 1 – February 13: Early Essay Submission Period
- February 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, 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. 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.
“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.
The below are given for each grade band in 6-8 and 9-12.
$100 gift cards (for teacher and student winner)
$75 gift card (teacher and student)
$50 gift card (teacher and student)
$25 gift card (teacher and student)
**Finalists will participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom (date TBA), where they will share their essays and receive feedback from working journalists. The winners will be chosen at this time.
This contest is open to middle and high school students located 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).
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 or issue that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop the spread of misinformation about the event. They will answer one of the prompts below.
- 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. Teachers can explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation or 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.
- Step 3. Teachers encourage students to review the article formatting requirements before submitting their essays.
- Step 4. Teachers select up to five student essays per grade, per school, and submit.
- Step 5. An NLP ambassador 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 Grand Prize winners, who receive prizes awarded during the event.
While not required, we recommend schools conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Schools/teachers should submit up to five winning essays per grade with cover letter via email to: Monica Valdes, Florida news literacy ambassador, firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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?
- Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
- Essays must be 500-1,000 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’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.
- Entries must be submitted via email to Monica Valdes, Florida news literacy ambassador, email@example.com.
- Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event (date TBA).
- 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.
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?
Essays will be reviewed by news literacy ambassadors for readability and creativity. Finalist essays will be judged by a panel of journalists for accuracy, readability and creativity, during the PitchIt! Grand Prize event (date TBA). 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.
I am not part of M-DCPS. Can I still participate?
Absolutely! The PitchIt! contest is open to all students in the State of Florida.
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, firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com, and questions about entries can be directed to Florida News Literacy Ambassador Monica Valdes at firstname.lastname@example.org.