The Craft of Magazine Writing
By Angela Bunyi
Students will identify nonfiction features, discuss why those features are used, and apply some of these features in a class-created magazine.
- Observe and record nonfiction features found in various children's magazines
- Create a nonfiction features booklet
- Discuss the importance of certain nonfiction features
- Apply nonfiction features in a class-created magazine
- Chart paper and markers
- Ample magazine examples for each student
- A scanner
- Nonfiction feature flip booklet
- Magazine craft sheet
- Optional publishing materials include: binding combs, laminating, www.mixbook.com, or www.studenttreasures.com
Set Up and Prepare
- First discuss the differences between fiction and nonfiction text features.
- Gather various magazine examples for your students. This should include multi-genre, levels, and interest.
DirectionsPart I — What are Nonfiction Text Features?
- Spend time analyzing and discussing various nonfiction text features. This may include the use of big books, magazines, picture books, and textbooks. This component alone could be spread out as a unit of study.
- Using information learned from discussions of nonfiction features, create a chart that holds information about the features learned in class. This may include the following:
- cross sections
- table of contents
- font sizes and type
Part II — Why Do We Use/Need Nonfiction Text Features?
- Place students in groups of 2 or 4 around the classroom. Each group should be provided with several magazines. Catering to your groups' interests would be beneficial (American Girl vs. Sports Illustrated for Kids).
- Remind your students that they have been learning about the various nonfiction text features, but that the important question is "why"? Ask groups to discuss why it is important to use and know about nonfiction text features.
- Discuss this together as a group and record responses on chart paper.
- Inform your students that you would like them to take some time to read like a writer. Ask them to focus in on all they have learned and think about the ways experienced writers apply these features in their writing.
- Using the magazine craft sheet (PDF), model how a writer may look at magazines and record their observations.
- Working in the small groups created, students will spend some time filling out the magazine craft sheet. Inform groups that they should be ready to discuss this with their peers.
- Create a chart together to demonstrate your observations. This may include font size, catchy titles, article layouts (two-page layout with a photo spreading across both pages), and charts, to name a few.
- Conclude your discussion with the fun elements of writing nonfiction and how this type of writing may be best practiced on typing paper.
Part III — Can We Try Incorporating Nonfiction Text Features in Our Own Writing?
- Using previous charts, bulletin boards, and flip booklets, remind students that a lot has been learned and discussed in regards to nonfiction text features. Inform students that you believe they are ready to have a real try at applying these features in a class-created magazine.
- Depending on the time you have in your schedule, this may be the beginning of a regular student-run magazine. If you are working on a limited schedule, simply consider binding student work together to make a class-copy magazine.
- Ask students to take a moment to think about a topic they know a lot about. Use the pair-share method to have students demonstrate five or more things they know about that subject.
- Inform students that they may have discussed the perfect magazine topic with a partner. Allow time to discuss your writers' areas of interests, and take some time to help narrow possible nonfiction features that may work for this topic. For example, "Oh, with the topic of famous baseball players I bet it would be easy to incorporate some charts and graphs, right?"
- Using all the resources provided, have your students attempt a rough-draft of a magazine article.
- Using either a class-created rubric or state-level rubric, have your students use this to guide them. First, as they complete the rough-draft. Secondly, as they work with a partner for peer-editing.
- Share some of the rough-drafts with your class. Make sure to focus on areas of strength, allowing your students time to go back and incorporate new ideas and features.
- Students will then create a final draft on typing paper. This can include typing, printing, gluing photos, and drawing.
- Collect and scan student work to create a unique class-created magazine. Our class scanned work and made a magazine using http://www.mixbook.com/. Decide on a magazine cover for the class. You can visit my blog to learn how to create an authentic magazine cover here.
Supporting All LearnersUsing a variety of magazines will allow you to tailor the type of writing your students will produce. Depending on your writer's capabilities, you may direct students to easier or more challenging magazine text selections.
- Promote this genre of writing by creating a monthly class-created magazine. This can include an application and interview process of applying for specific positions under the magazine. Our class had a student-run magazine last year. It was great fun and required little management on my part.
- This can easily become a 4-5 week unit plan, as there are so many things to learn about nonfiction text features used in magazines.
- Continue your focus on nonfiction by starting a unit on nonfiction formats. Explain that nonfiction writers have to decide how to organize their thoughts and information. This could include: problem/solution, cause/effect, compare/contrast, description, and sequencing.
- During the study you can ask for parents to spend some time looking over magazine features at home.
- You can also encourage parents to subscribe to a magazine of interest to further promote reading and writing outside of class.
- Depending on your method for publication, you can invite family members to order or read your finished products.
- Nonfiction text features booklet
- Magazine Craft Sheet
- Finished magazine reports/articles
- Have your students successfully incorporated a variety of nonfiction text features?
- Looking at the finished products, are any features "left out"? If so, you can use this information to go back and re-teach specific text features.
- Observe understandings during class discussions
- Analyze completed nonfiction text features booklets. Are there any common areas of misunderstanding?
- Completed magazine reports/articles