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Lesson: News Reports Versus Feature Stories

Title

News Reports Versus Feature Stories

Description

A lesson introducing feature story characteristics and categories

Summary

Students will discuss the concept that everyone has a story. Then, students will learn the differences between news and features. This is the first of two lessons introducing feature writing.

If you haven’t already taught news writing, this introductory lesson would be helpful.

Objectives

  • Each student will be able to explain, orally or in writing, the differences between news stories and features.
  • Each student will be able to explain, orally or in writing, the categories into which features usually fall.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grades 9–10 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)

Partnership for 21st Century Skills — Student Outcomes

Skills P21 outcomes
Creativity and Innovation Brainstorm original story ideas
Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Discriminate between news and feature story ideas
Global awareness, Media literacy Evaluate stories in the news and sharing examples with the class
Communication & collaboration Work with partners and within small groups

Length

50 minutes

Materials

Class set: Features – Categories & Types

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Introduce the concept – “Everybody has a story.” Can students agree? If this is true, then how many stories are in our school? How many people might have multiple stories? How does what happens every day (what we report as news) affect different people/groups differently? Should we ever accept that there’s “nothing to write about”?

Explain that feature stories can help to broaden, emphasize and amplify the news. Features can tell those multiple stories in a variety of ways that appeal to readers and engage them in ways traditional news stories may not.

2. Direct instruction and exploration — 30 minutes

Explain the following differences between news and features stories. Students should take notes and may find a T-chart helpful to compare news and features.

News reports what happened. It is timely and public, and it is often written in a manner that is straight to the point.

Features focus more on the personal, and sometimes they are less timely than traditional news stories. In fact, sometimes the issues features stories discuss or reveal are timeless. Features can reveal trends, discuss relationships and provide entertainment, advice, ideas and emotions.

Features delay information to keep the reader curious and engaged. Here are some catch-phrases that might help you to distinguish between different story types:

When a dog bites a man, that’s news.

How fast the dog was running is sports.

The litigation (or lawsuit) that follows the attack is business.

How the man tasted when the dog bit him, why dog attacks are on the rise, first aid tips for treating dog bites – those are features.

Sometimes, this distinction is called “hard news” versus “soft news.” Hard news versus soft news describes both the topic and treatment of a story. News is typically a serious, somber topic in inverted pyramid format while features are lighter, friendlier and more casual. Features are written in ways that hook the reader into the story.

3. Distribute handout and activity— 10 minutes

Students should take notes on the worksheet while the following concepts are introduced.

Features usually fall into the following categories: lifestyles, health, science & technology, entertainment, food, sports and specialized topics. Direct students to look at the first chart on their handout (Feature Categories). Direct them to work individually or with a partner to brainstorm 2-3 examples of topics that would be covered in each category. They should write these into their charts in pencil.

Have students share their ideas with the group and make corrections as needed. Sample topics might include:

  • Lifestyles – issues/trends affecting mind (goals, relationships, jobs, family) and body (fashion, fitness)
  • Health – diet, exercise, medical advice
  • Science & technology – environment, tech advances, tech advice – all easy-to-understand
  • Entertainment – movies, concerts, art galleries, theater, books, recordings, computer games, apps, restaurants
  • Food – how to buy, cook, grow things – again, all easy-to-understand
  • Sports
  • Specialized – pages for kids, golfers, bowlers, seniors, (freshmen, etc.)

3. Follow-up — take home exercise

Directions: On your own (for homework), find an example of three features, each from a different category. You may use a newspaper, magazine, TV or online resource. Bring your ideas to class tomorrow. Include the source of your feature story, the title, a 2-3 sentence summary of what it was about and which category it falls under.

(This work will be the introduction to the next lesson.)