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NOTE: This page was formerly titled “Curriculum Preview.” Those links and lessons are still available at the bottom of this page.

Welcome to the weekly Journalism Education Association curriculum newsletter. Each week the JEA Curriculum Specialist plans to connect a timely topic to a fully researched and vetted lesson within the JEA curriculum page. These lessons are FREE TO EVERYONE for the stated duration of the newsletter. After that, past lessons will only be available to current JEA members at the Weekly Newsletter Archives page. JOIN JEA NOW to retain access to those older newsletters as well as to the entire JEA curriculum library.

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Questions? Contact Jim Streisel, MJE


This week’s lesson

JEA Curriculum Newsletter Issue 35 (May 13 to 19, 2024) <<Click here to download the interactive PDF
Weekly lesson: Get help for next year; JEA lesson: Planning and end-of-year staff banquet; Team builder: Slime time with Katie Moreno, MJE, Organized Adviser founder, Houston, Texas; Style help: New AP stylebook


Introduction to the weekly newsletters

JEA Curriculum Newsletter Welcome (<< link for downloadable interactive PDF)

Curriculum Preview

The JEA curriculum features hundreds of complete lessons in 11 module areas. Lessons include assessments, activities, ideas for differentiation and more. While the full curriculum is only available to members, we offer the following lessons as a preview:

  1. News Values—What Makes It News?
  2. Overview of the First Amendment
  3. Deciding on a Storytelling Medium
  4. Creating a Staff Manual

Scroll down to see the lessons in full or click on a title above to be taken directly to the lesson.


LESSON: News Values—What Makes It News?




Students will define and provide an example for eight elements of news (timeliness, proximity, impact, conflict, prominence, oddity, human interest, currency), and four other considerations (audience, policy, competition, presentation) based on a slideshow presentation and a Vocabulary Self-Awareness Chart.


  • Students will learn the key elements to decide what is interesting or important to readers/viewers.
  • Students will become familiar with the terms that news editors use to make news judgments.
  • Students will begin to consider who the audience is (where they live, how old they are, what matters to them), their own news organization’s policy, its competition and the presentation constraints.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
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.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

50 minutes


YouTube video “What Makes News News”  by Rachel  Zidon (3:01)

Slideshow: News Values: What Makes It News

Handout: Vocabulary Self-Awareness Chart

Test: Values of News

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Play the YouTube video linked above or any other short video in which students and/or professionals discuss their ideas about what news is. After viewing the video, open a discussion about what elements might go into deciding whether something is news.

Distribute the Vocabulary Self-Awareness Chart. Students are provided 12 terms that are elements of news judgment. To begin, they will look over the list and rate each word according to their understanding, using the procedure outlined at the top of the handout.

Choose one of the terms to provide an example from current news and definition.

2. Lesson on news values — 20 minutes

Present the slideshow “What Makes iIt News,” providing a definition and up-to-date example of each. Ask students for additional examples from current news as you go along.

3. Complete the vocabulary sheet — 10-15 minutes

If you have journalism textbooks available, require students to read the chapter about how news is defined and use that to complete their vocabulary charts. Otherwise, set the slideshow to run automatically through all of the definition slides. Students should use newspapers, news magazines or news websites to help them find current examples. Students will move their checkmarks from the middle and minus columns to the plus column as they find examples and definitions of each term.

4. Reflection and closure — 2 minutes

Ask for one or two original examples from students. Ask them for ideas about how they can generate news stories at school using the news values they’ve learned.

Collect the completed charts or have students add them to their student manuals.


In addition to discussion responses, students should have fully completed the Vocabulary Self-Awareness Chart with correct definitions and appropriate examples.

End of unit assessment

After Lessons 1 and 2, administer test: Values of News. (Key provided)


LESSON: Overview of the First Amendment




Students will learn the Five Freedoms as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Students will collaborate on what they know about the First Amendment and its relevance to their lives. Students also will examine how this document has remained relevant. This is the first lesson in the law and ethics unit.


  • Students will learn and understand the Five Freedoms outlined in the First Amendment.
  • Students will begin to see how these Freedoms are present in their lives.
  • Students will understand how the First Amendment, which was written more than 200 years ago, has withstood the test of time.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9 Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.


45-60 minutes


First Amendment

Butcher paper and markers

Small slip of paper to be used as an exit ticket

Answer key: Possible Answers

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 4 minutes

While students enter class, ask them to name as many First Amendment freedoms as they can. Then, tell them how many they have correct. Ask students to remember this number. Open class discussion by asking students to represent, using fist-to-five, how many of the freedoms they remembered. (For example, if they knew two, they would hold up two fingers.) Ask students to look around the room. Then, together brainstorm and write all five on the board, so they are listed at the front of the room.

2. Text reading — 1 minute

Either ask students to silently read or have a member of class read the First Amendment. (Teachers could either have this written on the board or displayed using the enclosed First Amendment.)

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

3. Large group discussion —  application of the First Amendment (10-15 minutes)

Teacher should tell students this document has been relevant for the last 220 years.

Teacher should then ask students to list the technological advancements that have happened since the First Amendment was adopted Dec. 15, 1791? (Teacher could list these as students provide answers. These answers will vary.)

Teacher should ask students why is this longevity important to understand. (Answers may range from the First Amendment still being able to withstand the test of time to the forethought of the creators to make the 45-word document general enough for future interpretation.)

4. Small group discussion: What does each freedom mean? — 15-20 minutes

Put class in groups of four to five students. Hand out large paper (butcher paper) if possible.  Students should divide the large paper into five sections and label each with the Five Freedoms. Students should use markers to write what each Freedom means in their own words and provide at least one example for each freedom. (For example, Freedom of the Press means having a press free of governmental intervention. One example might be having a free high school press in which the students make content decisions.) Student groups should have one person who reports and one who scribes the main points of the discussion on the paper. Another member will report to the large group in the next lesson segment. The remaining member(s) will be responsible for keeping the group on task.

5. Small group reports — 10-15 minutes

Each group should present one of the freedoms as discussed. When one group finishes, the other groups should discuss and add their definitions as the groups cycle through. They also should share the real-world examples they found. This will continue until five groups have discussed what they found. (Please see included answer key for possible answers.)

6. Exit slips — 5 minutes

Students should put everything away except a writing utensil, and teacher should erase the board. Teacher should pass out exit slips and instruct students to write down as many of the Five Freedoms as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Teacher collects the slips as students leave the room.

7. Extension

Teacher could post the papers around the room as a reminder of today’s work.


LESSON: Deciding on a Storytelling Medium



Twenty-first century journalism gives students dozens of ways to tell stories. This lesson will help students decide the right method for telling the stories of the year and create deliverables to help the whole staff make the best decision.


  • Students will examine different ways to tell one story.
  • Students will create a set of criteria for decision making.
  • Students will create a deliverable for the decision-making process, selecting a medium that best fits their objectives.
  • Students will use test the deliverable during story-planning sessions.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
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.9-10.1 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.


Two 90-minute blocks/four 45-minute blocks

Materials / resources

Projector and speakers


Handout: Conveying Purpose Effectively

Handout: “Students Participate in Day of Silence”

Online version:

Rubric: Designing a Storytelling Medium Deliverable

Udvar-Hazy Museum stories:



Cultural Food Taste Test:

tjTODAY: (pages 12-13) NOTE: has changed its terms of service and this link may not work.

TJTV: Cultural Food Taste Test: Pani Puri:

Black History Month:

tjTODAY: (page 16) NOTE: has changed its terms of service and this link may not work.

TJTV (promotional video):

tjTODAY: (page 14) NOTE: has changed its terms of service and this link may not work.

TJTV (promotional feature): (:49-1:40)

Academic Integrity:

tjTODAY: (pages 12-13) NOTE: has changed its terms of service and this link may not work.

TJTV (PSA): (1:11-1:55)

Lesson step-by-step

Introduction and Brainstorming – 15 minutes

1. Teacher (or editor, depending on class level) should lead the class in an initial brainstorm to refresh students’ memory of the different types of written stories they can utilize. Responses include (but are not limited to):

  • News
  • Opinion
  • Feature
  • Entertainment

Once the initial list has been created, put students in small groups and have them discuss why they would choose one mode over another. Have them make a list of the different criteria and let them know that they will return to that list.

2. Conduct the same brainstorm with multimedia modes of communication. Make sure that students know that there is no right or wrong answer. Responses include (but are not limited to):

  • Broadcast feature
  • Broadcast news
  • Public service announcement
  • Snap Story
  • Live Tweet
  • Live Stream

Once this list has been created, put students back in their groups and have them discuss why they would choose one mode over another. Have them make a list of the different criteria and let them know that they will return to that list.

Examining Examples – 30-40 minutes

 3. Hand out printed copies of the text of “Students Participate in Day of Silence” (included). This handout should include ONLY the text. Give students ten minutes to read and annotate the article.

4. Teacher should lead a brief discussion of the article, focusing on its purpose. What message is the author trying to get across? How are they attempting to achieve this purpose? Is the purpose achieved? How effective is the article? What could make this article even more effective? If there is a lull in conversation, have the students go back to their multimedia brainstorm lists. Are there any mediums on that list that would help make this article more effective? As readers, what would they like to see included?

5. Pull up the online version of the article. The first thing students will see is art that accompanies the online article. As you scroll down, students will seen an embedded video. As students watch the video, have them make a list of the ways the it enhances the article. They should mark specific places in the article where the video makes the text more effective. Discuss the effectiveness of the combination of the two pieces as a class.

6. Project on a screen the Udvar-Hazy article from Have a student read the article aloud. Have the same discussion as above:

  • What message is the author trying to get across?
  • How are they attempting to achieve this purpose?
  • Is the purpose achieved?
  • How effective is the article?
  • What could make this article even more effective?
  • As readers, what would they like to see included?

7. Following the discussion of the article, show students the Udvar-Hazy vlog (video blog). What does the vlog add to the story that the article did not get across? What message is the vlog trying to get across? Is it effective? Why or why not? Which piece is more effective? The article or the vlog? Why? What would have happened if the two had been paired together?

8. Project on the screen pages 12-13 from the tjTODAY December 2016 issue. What kind of story is this? Continue to discuss purpose and effectiveness. Point out the note at the bottom of the spread that sends readers to for a video on how to put together Pani Puri, a traditional Indian treat.

9. Project Pani Puri video and play for students. What does the video add to the print piece?

10. This next step could either be homework or a continuation of the class discussion depending on timing/class length.

In small groups, using either laptops or mobile devices, students should examine the three remaining examples from the materials list and complete the “Conveying Purpose Effectively” handout.

 Creating a Decision-Making System – 90 minutes

 11. Once students have examined multiple convergent examples, the teacher should put students into small groups to analyze their notes and come up with a list of criteria that will help journalists make decisions regarding story form.

12. After compiling the list of criteria, students should make chart that will help reporters decide what form of media they should use in order to achieve their desired purpose. This chart could take any number of forms:

  • Poster
  • Video
  • Infographic
  • Any other medium students might find effective

13. Once the deliverables are complete, groups will switch and the teacher will hand out slips of paper with different story ideas on them. Students will use the deliverables to develop a coverage plan for their topic.


 For classes of mixed ability levels, consider creating heterogeneous groups where more advanced and/or experienced students can demonstrate leadership skills and mentor students who are new to the class and/or broadcast.

For students who might need more support in the assignment, consider modifying the “Conveying Purpose Effectively” handout, limiting the exercise to one or two examples for analysis rather than three.

For students who are advanced, consider an extension activity where students can analyze professional publications in order to explore new and creative ways that professional journalists are incorporating multimedia into their stories. If they come across an example that they would like to implement into their publication, have them come up with a pitch presentation for the editors and/or producers.


LESSON: Creating a Staff Manual



Students will research other media staffs around the country to see how they structure their staff manuals. They will secure staff manuals from other staffs and compile a list of policies they feel should be included in their staff manual and then write sections of their own staff manual based on their needs and their research.


  • Students will research staff manuals from around the country.
  • Students will examine the different staff structures they discover in staff manuals.
  • Students will select the structure/policies they think will work best for their staff and complete their staff manual policies.

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.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
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.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Two 50-minute class blocks and 1-2 weeks for independent research


Copy of current staff manual (if you have one – access available for each student)

Access to computers for research (one per each student if possible)

Copies of staff manuals from media staffs around the country

Staff manual rubrics

Slideshow: Basics of Beginning a Staff Manual

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Explain to students that the staff manual is the ultimate resource and guide for all student publications.  It should be the first place we all turn when we have a question about policies, procedures or duties.

Explain that students are going to find another school’s staff manual, examine the contents of their manuals and then develop/revise our own staff manual.

Watch the attached presentation by Travis Feil entitled Basics of Beginning a Staff Manual. Discuss with students the four components of this slideshow and elaborate on how they might focus their initial efforts at coming up with these four components for the staff.

Add the four true/false assessments that correspond with staff manual contents. These can be utilized by teachers as they develop/teach the contents of a staff manual and can be adapted to individualized staff needs. They are labeled Group 1 Staff Manual QuizGroup 2 Staff Manual QuizGroup 3 Staff Manual Quiz and Group 4 Staff Manual Quiz.

2. Small group work — 30 minutes

Divide the class into six different groups. Each group will find at least five different staff manuals that cover the topics in their respective groups. In this initial group meeting, group members will develop a strategy for collecting staff manuals from around the country and how they will tackle the elements listed for their group. Each group will be responsible for researching policies/contents in the following areas:

Group 1 – Organization and Introduction and specific school information

–       Table of contents

–       Introduction/opening (letter from student editor(s), adviser, mission/vision)

–       Staff organization (listing of all staff members, job titles/descriptions, flow chart)

–       Important school information including address, phone numbers, personnel info, demographic data, performance data, important facts

–       List of schedules (sports and academic events) – school calendar

–       List of all coaches and club/activities sponsors (room numbers, emails, phone)

–       AP style mini-guide and school specific style items that need to be consistent

Group 2 – Content/Editorial Policies

–       statement of forum status, purpose of the publication, who determines content, intended audience

–       obituary policy

–       content and coverage – explain how content is decided

–       letters to the editor – guidelines and requirements for submitting

–       guest writers/columnists

–       conflict of interest policy – explain how writers don’t write about things they are involved in and how they don’t accept gifts

–       corrections policies – explain what the staff will do when they need to correct prior mistakes

–       staff editorials – explain what they are, why we have them and who writes them

–       advertising policy – explain any restrictions and the process for design and sales

–       anonymous sources – explain any circumstance where anonymous sources will be permitted

Group 3 – Specific Staff Policies

–       grading – explains how students will receive their grade on the publication staff

–       deadlines – explains why it is necessary to have deadlines and any process for getting a deadline extended as well as penalties for missing deadlines

–       interviewing – tips for background research, how to set up and conduct an interview and what to do after an interview

–       working outside the classroom – during school hours, after school hours, using a press pass responsibly

–       work nights – explain the purpose and requirements and exceptions

–       staff communication – explain how staff members should be communicating with each other

–       plagiarism/dishonesty – explain what happens if a staff member is caught

Group 4 – Technology policies

–       cell phone use – in class and out of class expectations for staff members

–       social media – explain appropriate use for staff members both on behalf of the publication and individual usage

–       online media – who has authority to be posting on the staff site and how that is done

–       copyrighted material – explains what needs to be done in order to use copyrighted material and how it is to be cited

–       equipment checkout procedures – explains how students can check out equipment that they need and what happens if equipment is lost or damaged

Group 5 – Production Cycle

–       story ideas – explain how staff members come up with story ideas to present to the editors/editorial board

–       list of evergreen story ideas for all sections

–       assignments/ladder – explains how the editors make story assignments and keep track of deadlines/drafts throughout the writing/design process

–       writing/photography/graphics/design/editing flow charts – explains the process that each of these elements goes through in a production cycle

Group 6 – Business and Advertising

–       Ad sales – explains staff expectations for ad sales and earning a grade (if this applies)

–       Possible script for approaching a business to buy an ad

–       Possible letter for approaching a letter to buy an ad

–       Rate card for ad sizes

–       Business ad contract and Patron ad contract (includes publication dates and ad copy submission dates)

–       Payments/billing – explains the policy for invoicing a business and follow-up billing

–       Advertising policies –  explains the publications advertising policies

–       Circulation – explains who we send our publication to, deadlines and subscriptions sales

3. Independent research — one week

Each student will be responsible for finding staff manuals that have the items they have been assigned in their group.

Students should contact the adviser at the school they choose to make sure they are willing to share the contents of their staff manuals and should get information to contact the adviser/student editors at the school for any clarification.

As an end result, each student should design a chart that lists verbatim the policy they have found in each respective area from staff manuals so they can be compared.  The sixth column on the chart should represent a proposed policy for your staff manual in that area.

5. Group presentations to class — one class block (potentially more depending on how your staff wants to approve new content for a staff manual)

Each group will mesh their charts with their five examples and their proposed policy for our staff manual.  Group members will then present their findings from other schools and their proposed policies for our staff manual.

6. Some sample assessments you can use when covering your staff manual

Attached you will find four quick and easy assessments that correlate with the sections of your staff manual you’ve created according to this plan. Feel free to download and edit them to reflect your needs and your staff manual