New York State educators! Enter your students in our essay contest for a chance to win a gift card worth up to $200.
Nov. 28-Feb. 13: Early essay submission period
Feb. 14-March 13: Regular essay submission period
March 14-April 16: Extended entry submission period
April 17: Absolute deadline, 9 p.m. EST.
Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, the News Literacy Project is hosting a writing contest to empower New York students to be civically informed and engaged.
The PitchIt! New York student essay contest is an opportunity for students to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation or work to protect freedom of the press. Essay finalists receive detailed feedback from a panel of journalists, and the winners receive prizes!
TEACHING AND LEARNING GOALS
- Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
- Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
- Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
- Finalists receive real-time feedback from journalists in the field who report on these issues every day.
AWARDS: The below are given to students for each grade band in 6-8 and 9-12.
Grand prize: $200 gift card
First place essay
$150 gift card
Second place essay
$100 gift card
Third place essay
$50 gift card
**New York State finalists will participate in the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event on Zoom at the end of May 2023, where they will create a presentation on their essay topic (the “pitch”) and receive feedback from working journalists. The Grand Prize winners will be chosen at this time.
This contest is open to middle and high school students in New York State who participate with the support from a teacher and/or school. Participating teachers may choose to adapt the competition curriculum for individual classes or hold a schoolwide event. Each participating school may submit up to five entries per grade band (6-12).
LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC
News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content. Students will write an essay about a local, national or international event of their choice that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop misinformation from being spread about it, using one of the prompts listed below.
Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to their class, the rubric* and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Teachers can explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment. See resources from the New York Public Library, which includes access to The New York Times, or any other available news sources.
Step 2. Students work with their teacher to select a news article/topic of their choice and to select one of the prompts below to follow in writing the essay. Share a copy of the student essay planning document* as an outline and encourage them to review before submitting a final draft.
Step 3. Teachers select up to five student essays per grade, per school, and submit.
Step 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three per each grade band, 6-8 and 9-12), to advance to the Grand Prize phase.
Step 5. Panel notifies the teacher at the end of April. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides), to compete in the final phase of the contest.
Step 6: Essay finalists make their presentation (the “pitch”) to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback and a certificate. Panelists choose the Grand Prize winners, who are awarded during the event.
*Click here for the Google Drive folder with PitchIt! educator resources.
- 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.
- Essays must be typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages
- All essays and presentations must have a title.
- Students must include at least three credible sources to support their thesis.
- Essays must use MLA formatting, complete with in-text citations and a Works Cited page (not included in the word count). See Purdue Owl MLA Guide.
- Organization: students must include an introduction with a thesis statement, multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays.
- Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing. See Purdue Owl Grammar.
- Plagiarism: any submission that is in part or wholly plagiarized will be disqualified from the PitchIt! competition. See Purdue Owl Plagiarism.
- A cover page MUST be included with the following information: title of essay, student name, grade level, student’s complete mailing address, student’s email address, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, and best phone number and email address for the teacher.
- Only five essays from each grade may be submitted per school.
- Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event at the end of May (TBD), 2023.
STUDENT ESSAY TIPS
- Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), middle and end (closing or conclusion).
- Hook the reader with a strong opener. Readers will use the first few sentences to decide whether they will read the whole essay.
- Keep your paragraphs short. Popular essays tend to average three sentences per paragraph.
- Submit thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays. Originality is also important.
- In the conclusion, include a call to action. Encourage readers to take some positive steps. For instance, if you’ve given them a list of tips, prompt them to put some of the tips into practice.
While not required, we recommend schools conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade with required cover letter via email to: Alesha Smith, NLP’s New York news literacy ambassador, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there a submission fee? No fees! Better yet, there is no catch. All our educator resources are free, including Checkology!
What does “teacher support” mean? Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.
How are the essays judged? During the first phase of the contest, essays are reviewed by news literacy ambassadors for readability, accuracy and originality, using the PitchIt! Rubric. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop the spread of misinformation. For example, consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.
How is the “pitch” judged?
The first-, second- and third-place essay winners advance to the Grand Prize event phase of the contest. To prepare, they must create a visual presentation based on their essay theme (PowerPoint or Google Slides). They will each have three minutes to “pitch” their essay idea to the journalists and will receive real-time feedback from the panel. Students’ presentations will be judged for creativity, delivery, impact and accuracy during the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event at the end of May 2023.
I am not part of the New York City Department of Education. Can I still participate? Absolutely! The PitchIt! contest is open to all students in the State of New York.
What document formats are accepted? The following formats are accepted: Microsoft Word, PDF, Google doc.
How are the finalists announced? An email notification will be sent to the teacher by late April.
I have more questions! Do you have contacts? Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Kim Bowman, senior associate of user success, email@example.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and questions about entries can be directed to our New York news literacy ambassador, Alesha Smith, Aleshasmith292@gmail.com.
“I once read that the belief in misinformation can result in adverse physical and psychological consequences. Our learning goals for this contest are for students to learn how to hone their skills in identifying, researching, analyzing and synthesizing information from credible sources that can be verified; this is an essential trait of news literacy. Guiding students to be successful in news literacy equips our scholars with the ability to analyze any issue through a more critical lens, which encourages higher-level thinking in their current roles as students and beyond. This expertise will be impactful in their daily academic and practical lives. For the stated reasons, we are hopeful that teachers and students from across the district and state will participate in this unique opportunity.”
—Alesha Smith, ELA lead teacher-coach/ social studies teacher, NYC DOE
“Participating in PitchIt! NYC was a great experience for me! I enjoyed the combination of essay writing and the oral pitching components in the competition. I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in the contest and compete as a finalist—I would definitely recommend this contest to my fellow students!”
-Patricia, winning essay student