The Basics of Journalism: A Little Preview

Dee Baltic
John Marshall Metro High School

Title: The Basics of Journalism: A Little Preview


Overview and Rationale

Students will become familiar with journalism terms to write a lead and a short article.

Goals for Understanding

  • Essential Questions
    • What is journalism?
    • Where do we get our news?
    •  What do a lead and other parts of an article look like?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • What components must be included in a successful lead?
    • Who should be interviewed based on the angle of a story? Why?

Overviews and Timeline

Activity 1 (One 50-minute class)

  • Opening discussion (answers should be written on the board during discussion):
    • “What is journalism?”  (Answers should include reporting, news/newspapers, purpose of journalism, facts., truth, investigation, sources, etc.)
    • What is some of the more recent news you’ve heard?
    • Where do we get out the news?
    • Which news sources are more likely to cover a story on Usher? A natural disaster?
  • Teacher passes out a news article from a local/national paper to each student.
  • Break the article into parts, pointing out the beginning (lead), the middle, and the end.
  • Students will come up with two characteristics for each section of the article. For example, the lead is about 20-30 words, contains 5 W’s, a hook, etc. The middle contains the action, details of the story, quotes, etc. The end contains a quote, a finite ending, etc. These are to be pointed out as a class.
  • Repeat this process for another article and point out similarities between article formats.

Activity 2 (One 50-minute classes)

  • Review previous day’s introduction (Activity 1).
  • Read pg. 143 Workshop 11 from School Newspaper Advisor’s Survival Guide together. As a class, complete pages 144-5 to model and practice identifying 5 W’s in a lead. Answer any questions students may be confused about.
  • Count off students by an even number of As and Bs. Each student should partner with someone from the other group: an A pairs with a B.  Give As  a news article from a local paper and give Bs a different article.
  • Individually, students will read their articles and make a list on a separate sheet on paper of the who, what, where, when, and why of their story.
  • Students from Group A will switch that list with their partners from Group B so they have only the list of the 5 W’s. They will then write a lead of no longer than 30 words based on the list in front of them and without seeing the original article. Remind them to make it interesting.
  • Once students are finished, they will read their leads to their partners. Then they should compare their leads with the professional articles.
  • Students volunteers will read their leads to the class as professional leads are shown on an overhead. Class will discuss the differences in how the same information can be written as well as quality of each lead.
  •  Homework: Revise personal leads.

Activity 3 (One 50-minute class)

  • Review past days’ lessons briefly, including lead, etc.
  • Assign students to go to cafeteria (as a class) and research a story to write a 2-3 paragraph article about the day’s lunch using their own angle.
  • Class will brainstorm possible “lunch” angles: actual lunch, events in cafeteria, etc. Class will also brainstorm various people they could interview on each angle.
  • Reminders before reporting: angle concerning school lunch, strong lead including 5 W’s, 1 person to interview, no longer than 2-3 paragraphs, etc.
  • Students should report back to class after 20-25 minutes in cafeteria.
  • Homework: Full article on lunch topic.



Homework assignments:

  • Writing and revising personal leads based on 5 W’s
  • Full article on lunch topic.


  • Osborn, Patricia. School Newspaper Advisor’s Survival Guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1998.

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