Lincoln Academy English teacher Patti Sims (seated, bottom right) with her Honors English 1 Class and their class newspaper based on the life of Cyrano d Bergerac.
Patti Sims has been teaching English a long time, but this was the first time she tried turning the classic play Cyrano de Bergerac, written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand, into a journalism project. The play tells the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, a nobleman serving as a soldier in the French Army. Though he is a talented swordsman and gifted poet, Cyrano doubts himself and his ability to be loved because he has an extremely large nose. This classic story has been retold in many forms since it was first published, and Ms. Sims chose to recreate it in the form of a newspaper.
As part of the assignment, students divided into teams and took on a different piece of a newspaper editorial team: news, sports, features, advertising, and design. Then they looked at the play and came up with stories that could be told in a journalistic manner, as if the dramatic events were unfolding as current news.
Over the course of about a month, students wrote, edited, designed, and printed a newspaper that serves as a full reporting of the life and death of Cyrano de Bergerac. The final product reflects work from each member of the class.
Both students and their teacher felt the project was a success. “It was a great way to use what we learned in the book, but also go deeper into a topic we found interesting,” said Arden Carleton, who wrote a “Fashion and Food” column for the project.
“It was imaginative because we could take our own thoughts and put them into writing, but the book gave us the guidelines,” said Sage Kosky, who worked on the Personal Profile team.
Most students agreed that the journalism project challenged them to delve more deeply into the literature than they might have otherwise, because they really had to understand their subject in order to write knowledgeably about it. Katie Sanborn said the biggest challenge was starting with such an old text and making it fresh for readers. “Taking something complex like Cyrano and turning into journalism, which is more relatable to people today was really hard, and interesting.”
Alton Coolidge wrote a sports column about one of the many dramatic sword fights in the play. He said, “It was interesting taking a theater piece, which was just the script, and not all the description, because all the thought processes were your own. You weren’t guided into what the action scenes were… you had to think it out and imagine everything that happened step by step.”
Addie Brinkler, who wrote an Op-Ed said, “it was kind of cool to get a taste of what it would be like to be a journalist. You need to take what you know and turn it into something that would interest other people.”
Ms. Sims was happy with the experiment, and said, “it was an awesome way for students to blend their creative and literal side into a functional piece of society, a news journal that other people can read and learn about Cyrano. I was amazed at their writing and design abilities, and the confluence of all of their ideas.”
A link to the Cyrano Newspaper produced by Ms. Sims’ ninth grade honors English class can be found here.