Thursday, January 22, 2015

Journalism Lesson - “Analyzing Front Page Stories”

Newspaper Front Page
Before Middle and High School journalism students write their first news, feature, sports story or editorial...
Before Middle and High School journalism students even write a lead...
Before Middle and High School journalism students compose that mind-catching headline, they need to understand what they need to know to compose an effective news story.

The 6 Primary Points of Journalism Stories form the foundation of any journalism piece and are the bait that hooks readers.  They are
Location –where the story takes place
Timeliness - the relevance of the story to its publication date
Notable People/Places – the people/place(s) that make the story newsworthy
Conflict - the issues that make the story newsworthy
Extraordinary Elements – the details that make the story Front Page worthy
Arouses Emotions - the details that hook people into reading the story

No matter how powerful, how evocative a story might be, though, readers will ignore it if the newspaper editorial staff didn't pay attention to what their readers want. The how and why newspaper editors choose the stories that they print along with the 6 Primary Points of Journalism Stories create a winning newspaper that keeps people reading and asking, "More, please".

Analyzing Front Page Stories cover
This 6-page activity for Middle and High School journalism students, Journalism - Analyzing Front Page Stories speaks to both of these concerns.An essential for beginning journalism students, it also makes an excellent reinforcement tool for advanced journalism students.

These budding journalists will use the Front Pages section found on the Newseum site to choose front pages of newspapers from around the United States to analyze.

Here are the directions for the students
Activity Directions
  1. To begin this activity, go to and then scroll down the main page to Today's Front Pages and click on VIEW ALL. You should be on
  2. Under Gallery – go to Sort by Region, and then click on USA.
  3. Choose five Front Pages from newspaper around the country.  Select newspapers from a variety of states and from places of different sizes. 
  4. Complete one numbered Analyzing Front Page Stories Outline for each Front Page headlined story.
  5. For the Notes section under each Headline, just include the Basic: Who, What, Where and When information.  Because only the Front Page for each newspaper is shown and not complete stories, these notes will be brief.
  6. NOTE- space for 5 Headlines is included. Depending on the newspaper, anywhere from 3 to 5 headlines will be present.
  7. Each of you will share your headlines with the class.
  8. Closure, analyze your findings and summarize them in the What Does This Mean? space.

Analyzing Front Page Stories student handout
This activity encourages students to explore what stories newspapers choose for the Front Page and why. Also, students will develop their analytic and critical thinking skills which are essential in both print and broadcast journalism.

Download this 6-page activity that includes detailed Teacher Notes and the necessaryhandouts for the students from

Happy Teaching,

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Secondary Smorgasbord - "Out of the Deep Freeze with Activities that Sizzle"

Secondary Smorgasbord - Out of the Deep Freeze

One of the first lessons that we teachers learn on our side of the desk is –Always Expect the Unexpected.

  • Planning Periods we set aside for creating tomorrow’s character activity is preempted by an emergency meeting.
  • Sunday afternoon, one of our children is flattened by the flu, leaving the writing activity we were typing in Sleep Mode on the computer.
  •  On that dreary Friday afternoon we had designated as Independent Reading Day we have to scramble through our lesson files for a dynamite activity because the Principal has strolled in for an unannounced observation.
When the Unexpected barged into my best-laid teaching plans, I always feared that my brain would freeze and fizzle instead of swell and sizzle when I desperately needed an engaging activity that addressed reading comprehension, writing and critical thinking skills.

This trio of objectives-

  • Be prepared the unexpected,
  •  Save my weekends for my family and me, and
  •  Keep a folder of flexible and sizzling activities
The House of Comprehension
led me to create a packet of activities that focused used the elements of literature as my vehicle to explore the basic benchmarks I mentioned in the last paragraph. Originally called Get R.E.A.L Reinforcing Elements for Literature, Compass Publishing saw it and asked me to turn it into a complete teaching program, The House of Comprehension (HOC), so my colleagues in the classroom would always be ready to Expect the Unexpected.

The sizzle starts with three charts that I always find crucial to planning a unit that will engage students and hook any administrative observer.

Timing of Activities

The House of Comprehension Timing of Activities p. 1The House of Comprehension Timing of Activities p. 2


Unit Structure Chart
This is a Sample; the book offers a blank chart for teachers.

The House of Comprehension Unit Structure

Activities Plan
This is a Sample; the book offers a blank chart for teachers.

The House of Comprehension Activities Plan

These three charts, along with the Common Core Anchor Standards and Bloom’s Taxonomy suggestions detailed on every Teacher Notes page, form the foundation to any literature unit I create. Once I detail the particulars on them, I choose the activities that I will use from the 40 printables offered in HOC.  Each activity includes a Teacher Note page that explains the Who, What, When, Why and How for each lesson. The open-ended aspect of the activities offers challenges to all secondary students. The Contents page shows the complete structure of the book.

The House of Comprehension Table of Contents

Even when I don’t need to plan a unit, I know that on a day when an unexpected cold settles in my head, or the period is shortened due to a sleet storm, I can open The House of Comprehension and find an activity that will pull my students and me from the literal and figurative deep freeze and into the warmth of learning.

Also, not only are the activities in HOC flexible enough to fit any text-fiction or narrative non-fiction- but they also  coerce my brain to leave the deep freeze for the heat that comes while creating a new lesson.

Thank you Pamela Krantz and Darlene Anne Curran for showing The House of Comprehension the way out of the deep freeze.

Happy Teaching,

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

English Language Arts: "Martin Luther King Day Activity - 'Dare to Dream'"

Teaching across the curriculum has always been a focus of mine. After all, reading comprehension, writing and higher-level thinking skills are not exclusive to English classrooms. Having students examine why a piece is endemic to the time period when it was written is crucial. When they study the social, political and spiritual mores as well as the traditions of a period they can understand the characters, their choices and the events that occurred more readily.

"Martin Luther King Day Activity - 'Dare to Dream'"
This pairing can be just as effective when starting with an event from a previous period and showing it through the eyes and minds of a literary or narrative non-fiction person.  With this Martin Luther King Day Activity- Dare to Dream, students use Mr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech as the podium for a character of their choice to voice his/her thoughts, beliefs and feelings.

To complete this activity, the students are to:

  • Read and or view and listen to Rev. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Two URLs are included-one to read and the other to listen and view.

  • Explain what aspects of his speech have come true in the 40+ years since it was delivered
    "Martin Luther King Day Activity - 'Dare to Dream'" Activity
  • Choose a character from the story that they are currently reading and summarize what he/she would say about the speech.
  • Write an "I Have a Dream" speech from the point of view of that character. This speech must show the societal values and beliefs of the time period in which the story takes place.

With this lesson, students will exhibit their range of thinking skills from knowledge through evaluation. These activities allow them to show their understanding of their reading from various texts as well as  to reveal their analytic and critical-thinking skills in their writing and speaking.

The speech writing aspect of this lesson helps students to understand Voice because the thoughts, beliefs and feelings that they express are not theirs, but are owned by the character they have chosen to speak. In order to compose this speech, the students show how clearly they can analyze this literary person.

On the due date, students have the opportunity to share a portion of their writing with their peers.

"Martin Luther King Day Activity - 'Dare to Dream'" Teacher Notes
Download this highly-rated activity that continues to develop students' reading, writing, speaking and listening and language skills from Complete with detailed Teacher Notes, it's a $1.25 bargain.

Happy Teaching,