SchoolJournalism.org

Straight News

Regina Lichtenstein
Boone High School
Flushing, New York

Note: This is a short “straight news” lesson. It’s good to use when you need half the period to review homework, previous assignments, etc.

Goal
How does the Inverted Pyramid work for “”straight”” news stories? Students will review the Inverted Pyramid and show their ability to outline it in a published news story.

Materials needed
Select a recent news story (at least 8 paragraphs). Cut out each paragraph, change the order, tape on an 8 1/2 x 11 paper and make copies. (I usually use a second story, perhaps 5 paragraphs, in case I have extra time at the end of the lesson).

Activity
Review Inverted Pyramid with fast questions (and hopefully fast answers!), such as:

  • What is the shape of a straight news story?
  • Are the three traditional parts of an essay present in a new story (intro, body, conclusion)?
  • If no, name the parts of a news story.
  • What information is included in the lead?
  • What does the lead tell the reader?
  • Give me another word for a news lead.
  • What information is included in the body?
  • How do I know what information to put after the lead, in the middle of the story and at the end?
  • If I have a 400-word article and there’s only room for 350 words, how do I edit a news story?

Distribute copies of a news story. Tell students it’s a recent story — out of order. Their assignment is to decide which is paragraph 1 (the lead), paragraph 2, 3, etc. Have a student read all the paragraphs. Remind students to watch out for transitional words, chronological order, etc. as clues. Working in pairs is OK.

When I do this assignment, I tell students to call me over if they have the correct order. If they don’t have the correct order, I will tell them which paragraphs are in the correct order. I give “stickers” to those who complete the assignment. After one student/pair has the correct answer, I allow the others 3-4 minutes to also get a “”sticker.””

Summary
First student/pair to figure out the correct order tells the class the correct answer and explains how he/she/they figured out the answer (obvious lead, least important information, order of occurrence, transitional words, etc.).

I will use the shorter assignment, perhaps five paragraphs, as “back-up” just in case this exercise ends early.

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