PitchIt! Miami Student Essay Contest
Florida educators! Enter your students in our essay contest for a chance for both of you to win an Amazon gift card worth up to $100. Deadline extended: May 13, 2022.
Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), in partnership with the News Literacy Project, is hosting a writing contest to empower students to be civically informed and engaged.
The PitchIt! student essay contest is an opportunity for students to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation or work to protect freedom of the press. Essay finalists receive detailed feedback from a panel of journalists, and the winners (student and teacher) receive prizes!
TEACHING AND LEARNING GOALS
- Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
- Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
- Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
- Finalists receive real-time feedback from journalists in the field who report on these issues every day.
AWARDS: for each grade band 6-8 and 9-12
Grand prize: $100 Amazon gift cards (for teacher and student winner)
$75 Amazon gift card (teacher and student)
$50 Amazon gift card (teacher and student)
$25 Amazon gift card (teacher and student)
**Finalists will participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom at the end of May (TBD), where they will share their essays and receive feedback from the journalists. The winners will be chosen at this time.
This contest is open to middle and high school students participating with the support from a teacher. Schools are encouraged to conduct their own internal essay competition to coordinate, and teachers submit their top three essays per grade band (6-8 and 9-12).
LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC
News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content. Students will write an essay about a local, national or international event that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop misinformation from being spread about it. They will answer one of the prompts below.
Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to students and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Explore the free educator resources on NewsLit Nation or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment. See resources from the NLP, M-DCPS library, which includes access to The New York Times, articles on ProQuest http://virtuallibrary.dadeschools.net/#, or any other available sources.
Step 2. Ask students to pick one of the prompts below to write about.
Step 3. Encourage students to review the article formatting requirements before submitting their essays to you.
Step 4. Teachers select up to three student essays per grade, per school, and submit.
Step 5. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays per grade band (6-8 and 9-12), to advance to the finalist stage.
Step 6: All finalists pitch their stories to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback and a certificate. Panelists choose the winners, who receive prizes awarded during the event.
- 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?
- Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
- Essays must be 500-1000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
- All essays must have a title.
- Proper citation of sources is required.
- Only three essays from each grade may be submitted per school.
- Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing.
- A cover page MUST be included with the following information: student name, student ID, grade level, student complete address, best student phone number, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, best teacher’s phone number and email address and title of essay.
- Entries must be submitted via email to Monica Valdes, Miami news literacy ambassador, [email protected].
- Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event at the end of May (TBD).
- Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), middle and end (closing or conclusion).
- Hook the reader with a strong opener. Readers will use the first few sentences to decide whether they will read the whole essay.
- Keep your paragraphs short. Popular essays tend to average three sentences per paragraph.
- Submit thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays. Originality is also important.
- In the conclusion, include a “call to action.” Encourage readers to take some positive steps. For instance, if you’ve given them a list of tips, prompt them to put some of the tips into practice.
- Essays should be typed in 12-point, easily readable font (such as Times New Roman), double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages.
Contest Deadline: May 13, 2022, 5 p.m. EST.
While not required, we recommend schools conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Schools/teachers should submit their top three winning essays per grade with cover letter via email to: Monica Valdes, Miami news literacy ambassador, [email protected]
Download the PitchIt! student essay contest flyer (PDF).
- What does “teacher support” mean?
Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.
- How are the essays judged?
Essays will be reviewed by NLP’s news literacy ambassadors for accuracy, readability and creativity. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop misinformation from being spread about it. For example, students should consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.
- I am not in Miami, can I still participate? Absolutely! The PitchIt! contest is open to all middle and high school students in Florida.
- If my student becomes a finalist, what’s the next step?
Teachers are notified and each student finalist will be required to create a slide presentation illustrating the issues raised in their essay. Finalists then pitch their ideas to the PitchIt! judges, journalists Rose Monique Varela Henriquez of el Nuevo Herald and Carolina Rosario of Univision, during the PitchIt! grand prize event via Zoom at the end of May (TBD). During this event, finalists will share their presentation. The judges will provide real-time feedback on the finalists’ pitches and select winners based on the pitch and idea that would have best prevented misinformation from being spread. The grand prize-winning students and teachers will each receive $100 gift cards. First-place awardees receive $75, second-place winners will receive $50 and third-place finalists will be awarded $25.
- What document formats are accepted?
Whatever format is easy for you and your student: Microsoft Word, PDF, Google doc.
- How are the finalists announced?
Email notification will be sent to the teacher by mid-May.
- I have more questions! Do you have contacts?
Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Jordan Maze, senior manager of educator network operations, [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 Miami News Literacy Ambassador, Monica Valdes, at [email protected]
“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.