Get in the News Habit
- Grades: 9–12
- Unit Plan:
Students explore the features of newspapers and study the journalistic style of writing. The goal is to build habits of lifelong reading geared to student interests. These lessons may be extended indefinitely and can co-exist with other class activities. For example, the student book clubs that are ongoing in my classroom are perfect partners to these ideas on literacy for life.
- Study journalistic style and the signals of bias.
- Use newspapers for grammar lessons, such as locating action verbs.
- Read and summarize articles from the news.
- Write a news article about a school or local event.
- Class set of newspapers (preferably a week's worth). You can print online articles or contact your local newspaper for information on the Newspapers In Education program, which gives free or low-cost papers to schools. Scholastic publishes The New York Times Upfront and Scholastic News for students.
- Copies of the Newspaper Log Form (PDF), if desired
- Highlighters, writing supplies
- The following Scholastic PDFs for teacher reference on journalistic writing:
Set Up and Prepare
- Choose a straight news article and a letter to the editor or op-ed piece from an online newspaper.
- Make copies of the Newspaper Log Form (PDF) for each student (optional).
Display the straight news article for the class to see, highlight how the article answers the Six Journalistic Questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?
Teach grammar in context to improve student writing and use the article you chose as a model. Have students locate the action verbs used in the article and use these as a basis for a mini-lesson on grammar for the journalistic style.
Other great mini-lessons to teach from news articles include active voice, sentence patterns for newspaper writing, or paragraph structure. Extend the grammar lessons with news articles as needed. Students can highlight specific parts of speech for grammar practice each day.
Explain that journalists write with only the facts and attempt to write free of bias. Look for bias in the news article, and then compare it with the letter to the editor (or op-ed piece).
Highlight the features of the second article to show where the writer's opinion is expressed. Discuss the words that reflect bias. Can students brainstorm other words that signal bias? Lead a class discussion on bias in the news.
Model how to write a summary of a news article, including the main idea and important details. Emphasize the importance of students using their own words when writing a summary.
Assign students to choose an article and write the summary. Use the Newspaper Log Form (PDF) if desired. Over the course of a week, the teacher can assign a different section each day so that students become familiar with all sections of the paper. Allow student choice of article and section from time to time to honor their interests. The overall goal is to encourage a lifelong reading habit.
After students have had several exposures to news articles, go back to the Six Journalistic Questions and discuss the style that news writers use to convey information. Model how you would construct a short article on something that happened in your classroom.
Assign students to write a short news article using journalistic style about a school or local event.
Supporting All Learners
Modeling the skills of locating a particular part of speech in a sentence, finding bias in writing, summarizing, and writing in a journalistic style are essential to the success of all learners. Teachers could also partner struggling students with those who are more independent or add a "teacher as editor" segment to conference with those writers needing extra support.
Ask students to search for other articles with signs of bias. This could lead to a debate about the media and whether or not they are biased in either what is reported or what does not get reported.
A favorite extension of these lessons is to study interviews within articles, and then have students interview someone in their family and write an article containing the interview. One class of mine put together a newspaper with articles and interviews about each of their births. I sent copies home to each family and received many compliments from parents on the project.
- Highlight assigned parts of speech in a news article.
- Summarize news articles.
- Write a news article on a school or local event.
Observe your students as they get into the news habit. As you broaden their horizons when you assign an unfamiliar section, ask students to brainstorm how that section might apply to their life or future job. Does the section they turn to, given choice, reflect their interests - and do their interests broaden with exposure to the different sections of the news? Does the news habit lead to discussion between students about current events? Can students reflect on pop culture trends by what is featured in the articles? Your students will provide the best evaluation of this lesson.
Assess the summaries on finding the main idea, including essential details, and putting in student's own words. Create a rubric for the student news articles that would assess on answering the Six Journalistic Questions or on a general journalistic style.