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Conducting the first interview

This lesson asks students to interview a classmate as preparation for writing the beginning of one of the most basic journalistic forms: a profile story based on interviews of a single source.


  • Students will review the qualities of good interviews.
  • Students will practice writing interview questions.
  • Students will conduct an interview and take notes during it.
  • Students will reflect upon the relative success of the interview.

Common Core State Standards



Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.


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.)


Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.


60 minutes


Lesson step-by-step

1. Review homework and assign partners — 10 minutes

As homework, students should have reviewed their notes on yesterday’s mock interview and written a few follow-up questions for a hypothetical second interview. These questions should have been designed to flesh out a possible angle for a personality profile on the teacher. Now students will share these questions as a way to review the concepts.

After they are done, assign each student an interview partner and review the First 100 words feature profile assignment. Explain that they will have a few minutes to write questions to ask during their interview, then they will take turns interviewing and being interviewed.

2. Individual work: Write interview questions — 10 minutes

Students will write interview questions. If they know anything about their source, they can use this background knowledge to inform their questions, but for this assignment research isn’t necessary. (They’ll conduct follow-up interviews during the next lesson.)

If students will be using cell phones to record interviews, they should test their equipment during this time. (Remind students that they should always take handwritten notes in addition to recording. There are several reasons for this: technology can fail, taking handwritten notes reassures the source that you’re actively listening, and notes allow you to jot down times when there are particularly good quotes that you want to use so that you’ll be able to find the quotes easily rather than listening to the whole recording. Other tips about recording interviews can be found in the Digital dictation tools lesson in the News Gathering curriculum.)

3. Conduct Interviews— 40 minutes

Students will spread out and find a quiet place to interview their partner. Many interviews will take 20 minutes. If partners finish early, ask them if they told some good stories. Hint that they might want to go back and ask some more questions so that they will have good material.


Students should review their interview notes and recording and write follow-up questions for the second interview. These questions should be designed to flesh out an angle for their First 100 words assignment. This would be a good time to quickly review the pointers for success on the assignment sheet. For assessment, let students know that you will use the lead and nut graph section of the feature writing rubric.


When assigning partners, try to pair students who don’t know each other. Aim for the greatest possible diversity: interests, personalities, year in school, gender, role on publication, etc. Encourage students to learn from each other.

If students record interviews and take notes, this will allow for different learning styles and strengths, while still encouraging students to develop skills.