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Beyond the snore: Covering annual events


This is a two-day lesson on how to find a fresh angle for covering events, occasions and issues that come up every year, using a strategy called story paths. Students will use a brainstorming technique to analyze eight ways to look at a routine story such as homecoming, prom or Valentine’s Day. This lesson is best for advanced students as an alternative to or building upon Finding the news.

Many of the ideas that students generate in this lesson will be features or news features, rather than strictly news stories. To help them understand the flexibility and variety available to them in feature writing, you may want to offer the lesson News reports versus feature writing.


  • Students will analyze a variety of possible approaches to covering a specific topic in the news.
  • Students will apply the concept of story paths to develop ideas for covering routine news.
  • Students will plan and gather information for their own news stories with creative and fresh angles.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.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.W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1d Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Two class periods


Slideshow: Beyond the snore

Handout: Story paths short (student copies)

Handout: Story paths for teachers (teacher-reference only)

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

If you have copies available, distribute samples of previous years’ or other schools’ newspaper homecoming coverage, or use yearbook homecoming coverage. (If you have Internet access, students may access examples online.) Ask students what they like and what they find boring in the homecoming coverage. (This works especially well if the publications are old enough that students don’t know the people covered).

Explain to the students that today they are going to learn a method to look at any event, any issue, any topic or any occasion to find a fresh, different angle that will make their coverage more interesting.

2. Present and interact — 20-30 minutes

Present the eight ways to go beyond the obvious in the beyond the snore slideshow.  Use tips offered in story paths for teachers.  The presentation focuses on homecoming as a topic, as this is one that is usually difficult for students to come up with anything “new.” Go through each of the story paths, discussing each one and soliciting ideas from students for each one. Emphasize that the story paths are useful for any event or topic.

2. Think-pair-share — 20 minutes

(Slide 17 of beyond the snore presentation)

Next, divide students into groups of three. Allow students to pick a task (leader, writer, speaker), and distribute the story paths-short handout. Each group should choose a topic appropriate to your school and publications, including a mix of annual events and popular issue topics. Each group of three should have a different topic if possible. Following the steps outlined in the presentation, have students quickly write down their own five possible angles for the story topic, then share the ideas with the other two members of the group. Groups should work together to find their three best story ideas from all the ideas and begin planning interview sources.

4. Student presentations (Next day)

One presenter from each group should share their group’s topic and three best story ideas, explaining which of the eight story paths they decided to use and why they think these work best for their topic. Invite others to offer any ideas they have.

4. Follow-up — 10 minutes

At this point, each student should have one story idea. Assign students to complete the story prep worksheet for their story, planning who to interview and what questions to ask.


Evaluate the story prep worksheet according to the rubric provided. Ideally, the story prep worksheets will be redone if students score less than 16 points, as mastery is key at this point.

Story prep worksheet rubric

Fair(1 point) Good(3 points) Excellent(5 points) Total points
Topic and angle The topic is of interest but the angle is too general to yield an interesting story. The topic is of interest and the angle is timely and specific. The topic is of interest to readers and the angle offers a fresh, unusual or unique approach. ____ / 5
Sources Sources are not all appropriate to the topic or do not all have a clear viewpoint or stake in the story.Fewer than three sources are listed. At least three complete sources are listed. Sources are varied and specific, but a key viewpoint or expert is missing. At least three complete sources are listed. Sources are varied and specific to the topic and angle. Conflicting viewpoints or a variety of stakeholders are listed in the source lists. ____ / 5
Questions Some key questions are missing. Questions are not open-ended. All 5W’s and H are covered and most key questions are open-ended. Key questions are open-ended and designed to elicit information. All 5W’s and H are covered. ____ / 5
Planning Planning is incomplete. Most planning steps have dates assigned. All planning steps have dates assigned and photography is planned. ____ / 5
Total points ____ / 20

End of unit assessment

Continue to the culminating activity to have students continue with writing their own news story, which you will assess using the news writing rubric.