Finding Local Story Ideas

Traci Peugh
North Medford High School
Medford, Oregon

I. Overview

Gathering story ideas in a five-minute walk around school and analyzing those ideas to be sure they have the qualities of good news writing.

II. Rationale

Students need to come up with their own, unique story ideas. Doing this will help avoid plagiarism and make idea proposal time more fruitful.

III. Essential Questions

a.  How can I generate story ideas that are unique, provide plenty of material and interest my reader?

b.  How can I gather story ideas that are specific to my school and the students around me?

c.   How can I propose story ideas that will bring forth quality writing?

IV. Critical Engagement Questions

a.  How can I use my five senses to observe the school around me and come up with story ideas?

b.  What is worth writing about and what is worth disregarding?

c.  How can I be sure my story ideas include the five qualities of good news writing?

V. Overviews and Timeline

                Activity 1 (20 min.)

o  Review why unique, localized story ideas are important. Does the question directly affect and concern my audience in a meaningful way?

o   Model example of using senses to generate questions (what is that smell coming from the science lab? why is there so much trash on the ground? who’s in charge of making the corny student government posters hanging on the walls?). Make sure students have their hall passes, a pad of paper, a writing utensil and a watch.

o   Have students walk on campus for five minutes.  They should walk alone, not with a partner.  In those five minutes, students should observe the world around them and let their senses guide them to asking questions like the teacher modeled.

o   After five minutes, each student should walk directly back to class

                Activity 2 (40 min.)

Students answer the following questions about each of the questions they wrote down:

o   Does the question directly affect and concern my audience in a meaningful way?

o   Does the question provide readers with new information?

o   Does the question target students?

o   Can the question give students a view from a unique perspective?

o   Could the question be interesting and practical now as well as a month or year later?

Based on the above answers, students should circle the questions they think will generate the best story ideas.

In small groups, narrow down to the best three, then share with the group when it’s time for story idea proposals.

VI. Assessment

Students must have at least three strong story ideas to share with the staff when it’s time to propose stories for the new issue of the newspaper.  They will turn in their original notes, answers about their questions and the final three ideas.