Mall Trip Interviewing and Information-Gathering Exercise

Loren Christie
English teacher
Riverhead High School
Riverhead, New York

Objective: Students will be able to design a gripping news story. Time Frame: Two-day lesson or 80 minutes


Day 1

Activator: Role Play

Set the scene:

Using poster board signs and easy listening music, the teacher will transform the classroom into a shopping mall. Each student will receive a stereotypical mall character described on a randomly Selected index card. (For example, shopkeeper, food court worker, shopper, etc.) The more specific the characters are, the better the future interview will be! For the next five minutes, each student will become the character that he/she received. Students must stay in character for the entire five minutes. When students seem to be starting to get into their roles, the teacher drops a heavy book in the middle of the fictitious setting, and says “BOOM!” Then students return to their seats understanding that an explosion has just occurred in the shopping mall.

Next, students write individual journal entries describing the experience from the perspective of their assigned role-play characters. (For example, Suzy Student, who played a security guard, will write down where she was and what she was doing in the mall when the explosion occurred.)


Students prepare a list of questions for the next day’s press conference about the accident.

Day 2

The teacher instructs the students to turn to a blank page. As journalists on the scene, they are waiting for the chief of police to brief them on the incident.

The press conference:

The teacher enters the room wearing a police hat, ready to give information and answer questions about the mall explosion. Students use questions prepared the previous night. Students take notes using the previously taught tips and strategies for questioning and recording facts.

Assignment: Students organize their information using the inverted pyramid. (Teacher provided handout)

The interview:

Following the guidelines and tips previously provided by teacher handouts, students formulate questions for an interview with a character. Then students divide into pairs and interview each other, taking turns as the reporter and the witness. (For example, Suzy Student will act as a reporter when she interviews her partner and as a security guard when she switches to the witness role.)


Finally, using the information gathered from the press conference and the interview, students must produce a news story that meets the expectations of a rubric created by the teacher. Students will be encouraged to use the experience of the witness in their lede to create a more gripping news story.


  • Missouri Group. News Reporting and Writing. Sixth Edition. Bedford: St. Martins, 1999.
  • Teacher-provided handouts on the interview process, writing a great lede and the inverted pyramid.


  • Students have already received instruction on AP style, how to take notes, and how to conduct an effective interview.
  • Activities can be adapted for different grade levels.


A teacher-created news story rubric will check:

  • Organization
  • Clarity/Conventions
  • Relevence
  • Creativity