Rule of 3 System Gets Refresh To Help More Journalism Staffers Be More Successful

For more than 5 years, I’ve given students choice into what they do on a daily basis in the journalism lab. I’ve found this choice has given them more ownership in what they are working on, they are much more likely to complete their assignments by deadline and, generally speaking, they enjoy what they are doing because they get to choose their areas of focus. You can actually see a form of what I’ve been working with the past few years in this post on the site: Make generating content part of the everyday job of a staffer, not an extra with the Rule of 3 . That post will also give you a bit more background on my Rule of 3.

While I have made some tweaks and adjustments to the Rule of 3 every year, I gave it a bit of an overhaul this past summer. The main reason for the major change is that I wanted a higher percentage of students completing all three items each month. While I averaged 80% of students completing all three items successfully each month, I felt the number should be higher. While I don’t know that I will ever reach 100%, I took some time to step back and look at what might be causing students to be unsuccessful. I looked at the data. I talked to my students. I studied the monthly calendar.

I came to the conclusion that while offering students a choice was a good thing, I was actually offering them too many choices. In one given hour I could have 20 different students working on 20 completely different things from writing a story for the web to announcing livestream ballgames. I was spreading my editors and myself too thin to get around to help everyone even though we had dedicated work time once a week for Rule of 3 work. Too many options were allowing too many students to slip through the cracks. I might have viewed it differently if all these students were wanting to fly under the radar and slip through, but the vast majority didn’t. They just didn’t have the support they needed to be successful and many times didn’t even know the questions to ask to get that help.

So, for this summer’s revision, I did a couple things:

  • I made a different Rule of 3 sheet for different staff hours. Newspaper and Yearbook have a sheet to choose from. My web/social/ads staff has a sheet. The video staff has a sheet and the photo team has a sheet.
  • I limited selections for each hour so that when Rule of 3 time was given weekly, students would have others in the class to team up and work with things on and the editors and I would be able to help each group a bit better.
  • I offered some options for the web where pairs were working on multimedia stories together. I had offered this in the past but I emphasized it with this new rollout.
  • We changed the majority of our web content to focus on preview stories and features. There still will be a breaking news component to things, but the masses will be focused on the former, not the latter.
  • For menu items that needed further explanation, more detailed sheets were provided so students had more guidance.
  • An all-program sports beat was added into the mix (this will be the subject of another post soon on the site).

While the verdict is still out on this new system as the year is young, I’m hopefully it’s going to help the students and the content they are creating. I’ve provided each of the updated Rule of 3 handouts below. Feel free to download and use or tweak and if you have any questions, please ask in the comments below and I’ll respond.

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 26th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He is the 2023 JEA Teacher Inspiration Award Winner and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on X and Instagram @manfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

Aaron Manfull has 868 posts and counting. See all posts by Aaron Manfull

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