PitchIt! FLORIDA Student Essay Contest

Events


Friday, April 19, 2024
11:59 PM EST

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


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].

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