London Elementary deejays ride the air waves

London Elementary teacher Chad Reeser (left) holds Mia Johns’ script as she speaks into the microphone (a classroom telephone switched to intercom). Students deliver the morning announcements daily in a radio station format.
Gavin Bussey takes a turn with the announcements.
Reed Rinesmith is a regular on WLES.

London Elementary has turned morning announcements into a highly anticipated part of each school day by putting the microphone in students’ hands.

Dubbed “WLES,” the announcements are presented in a radio station format, complete with music, weather reports, news and entertainment. The equipment is simple—iPods and the phone intercom. The deejays are students. The only adult input comes from fifth-grade teacher Chad Reeser, who keeps his organizational role to a minimum.

“I think I’ve only been on one time this year and that was to explain our ‘Name That Tune’ contest. The students do it all,” Reeser said.

Scripts and songs are prepared a day ahead, explained Ryan Pitt, one of seven fifth-graders who serve as the main “staff” for WLES. Members of the core group take turns with content.

Every day, they run through what typically are thought of as school announcements. They then augment the program with weekly jokes, study habits, character words, Web sites, book recommendations, math problems, poems, and the like. The weekly “Name That Tune” contest is the interactive part of the program. Classrooms “call in” with their answers; winners receive prizes.

“We’ll have 50 or 60 classrooms calling in at the same time, just like a real radio station,” Reeser said.

In addition to Pitt, the other core WLES staffers are Nate Dorsey, Mia Johns, Allie Mentzer, Reed Rinesmith, Kara Weaver and Ashtyn Webb. Their fourth-grade teachers recommended them for the job at the end of last school year.

A permanent role on WLES is highly coveted among the school’s fifth-graders.

“There are only seven or eight kids out of 160 who get to do it every week,” Dorsey said.

Mentzer has wanted a spot on WLES since she was in second grade. Now that she has it, she understands the respon-sibility that comes with it.

“Other kids look up to us,” she said.

In addition to the seven WLES mainstays, guest deejays get a crack at the microphone, too. At least half of the other fifth-graders end up in the rotation, and younger students sometimes choose a chance to be on WLES as the reward for meeting a self-determined goal.

In some cases, whole classes are rewar-ded. For instance, 90 percent of Alicia Anthony’s second-grade class turned in their poetry homework with parents’ signatures the week of Dec. 8. As a reward, WLES conducted its Dec. 12 broadcast from Anthony’s room, instead of from a fifth-grade room.

The second-graders got to see their older counterparts tell the school’s 1,100 students and 100 staff members about the success of the student food drive, the scores of pro sports games, and the alliterative phrase for the day’s letter (F)—fuzzy flamingos—among other announcements.

The second-graders also got a chance to be “on the radio” themselves when the deejays asked the same question they ask at the end of every broadcast: “Why are we here?” To which the second-graders responded in unison and at full volume: “To learn.”

Principal Carol Daniels runs the school by those words. Her students and staff live them by turning seemingly mundane things like morning announcements into exciting learning opportunities.

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