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Analyze the pros: Reading news from a news writer’s perspective


This is a lesson in analyzing current news to help students understand how to put facts in a logical order and how basic news is structured. Students will evaluate examples of news stories from disasters to see how the facts are presented in order of importance (using inverted pyramid style).


  • Students will analyze breaking news to see how facts are presented.
  • Students will formulate “fast facts” lists from the news stories.
  • Students will organize paragraphs of a news story into inverted pyramid structure.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Two 50-minute class periods (optional second day)


White board, markers

Copies of different breaking news stories about disasters (fire, hurricane, tornado, etc.)

Slideshow: Current event

Handout: Current event form

One local news story covered in the newspaper and local TV

Handout: News puzzle sample (copied and cut into strips)

Lesson step-by-step


1. Building background — 10-15 minutes

Choose a recent disaster, such as a hurricane, tornado, fire, flood, mass shooting or bombing. Pick something the students will be familiar with, even if they don’t know details, and something that’s not so close to them that they get emotionally sidetracked.  Ask: “What would you expect from the journalists who are assigned to cover this event?  What do you want or need to know?” Write their answers on the board, or have a student write while you moderate.

When it seems like they have pretty well exhausted the topic, stop and take a look at what you wrote. Ask them to find the 5W’s and H on the board. All they all there?

Ask them what are the most important facts or questions. Circle those. Explain that this is the process reporters really go through when deciding how to cover an event. Explain that finding the facts in a story – whether one you read or one you are reporting – is an essential skill for a journalist.

2. Think-pair-share — 20 minutes

Before class, find and make copies of two or three short breaking news stories about disasters. Distribute the stories, one for each pair. Ask students to read the story they have been given and then create a “fast facts box” – a list facts of the story bulleted in order of importance. Each person should create a list. Then students should share their lists with each other and discuss any differences they have. Students also should discuss sources. Have each pair record two or three ways the reporter got the information that they are reading.

3. Present — 20 minutes

Ask each pair to present their top two most important facts and explain why they chose those facts as most important. Remind them to rely on their news judgment (timeliness, proximity, impact, conflict, oddity, novelty, etc.) and use those terms in their presentation.

4. Follow-up — Take-home exercise

Distribute the current event worksheet. Assign students to choose one news story from the local or regional newspaper’s website and complete the form to turn in the next day, or assign a specific news story for all to use the first time they work with this form. The form is self-explanatory, but teachers may want to emphasize that sources are not the reporters themselves, but the people they interview for their stories.


Grade the current event homework according to the rubric provided within the handout. Students should outline the 5Ws and H correctly and provide at least one correct source.  This assessment can be repeated weekly or as a daily “do now” or warm-up assignment (see current event slideshow for shorter daily format).


1. Building background — 5 minutes

Review a breaking news story from your local or regional newspaper that students may have used for the current event assigned the previous day. Read the story as written in the newspaper and then show the TV news version from the news station’s website. Ask students to identify the 5W’s and compare the two reports.

2. Think-pair-share — 20 minutes

Before class, copy and cut the news story sample into strips, or use a similar simple breaking news story of your own. Ask students to work in pairs to put the strips in order of importance (they are listed in order of importance on the news story sample).

Make it a competition to see who can get the items in correct order most quickly.

4. Follow-up — 25 minutes

Have students individually write the shortest possible inverted pyramid story containing all the facts.


Evaluate the writing exercise holistically, with a focus on whether the facts remained in inverted pyramid order and all facts were present. The best examples will combine facts into compound sentences where appropriate.

Additional assessments, ongoing

The current event form or the shorter form presented in the slideshow presentation can be used as a weekly assignment.