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Developing a pitch for an honors journalism program at your school


Students will research other media staffs around the country to learn how they earn honors level credit in their journalism programs. They will interview other staff members and compile a list of pros and cons from that staff’s point of view and then analyze from their own point of view. Finally, students/staff will create a presentation to pitch the idea to their administration, superintendent and/or school board.


  • Students will interview peers from around the country.
  • Students will examine the pros and cons for different honors level journalism programs they discover.
  • Students will develop a presentation to pitch adding an honors level journalism program to their program of studies.

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.9-10.1d 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.9-10.2 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.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.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.


Two 50-minute classes one to two weeks for independent research


Class set: Current journalism program curriculum

Class set: Sample programs curricula for journalism programs from other schools

Access to internet and computers (1:1 if possible)

Presentation rubric

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Explain to students that today they’ll begin a research project to find how other high school media staffs around the country are able to offer honors credit for a portion or all of their journalism programs.  The purpose of doing this research is to gather information in order to make a proposal to your school system if you’d like to try to get honors credit for your journalism courses.

Explain that students are going to find another school, make contact with the student editors at that school (possibly through their adviser), interview the student editors and/or advisers, gather information about honors journalism programs they have, and describe what the editors/advisers you interviewed feel are the pros and cons of that honors level status.  In a separate analysis, students will evaluate how they feel adding a honors level distinction could be either positive, negative or both.

(Hand out a a copy of our current course of studies description. Do all students realize this is the way you operate? What do they think is working well or not working well now?)

2. Think-pair-share — 10 minutes

Next, group students into groups of three. Allow students to pick a task (reader, writer, speaker). Instruct all students to look over the list and to write down their individual thoughts as to what is working and what isn’t with your current course of studies. Then, the group members should spend a few minutes discussing their notes. The writer should keep notes on the group’s ideas.  Finally, the group should come to a consensus about what it thinks is working and what is not working and prepare to present to the entire class.

3. Present — 30 minutes

Have each group explain its pros and cons to the class (the speaker talks – one writer can write on white board all pros and cons that are suggested.) See what ideas all groups had in common and discuss as a class what students feel is working/not working and why it is important to see what other schools are doing.

4. Independent research — one week

Each student will be responsible for finding another similar publication staff from somewhere else in the country. (Use resources like the publications you exchange with; a list of similar publications that have won awards like Pacemakers, Gold Crowns, Gallup Awards; a list of high school publications found on, etc.)

Students should contact the adviser at the school they choose to make sure they are willing to be interviewed and have time to share info about how the curriculum was developed at their school.  Students should also try to get contact information for the editors at the school they choose.

Students should develop a list of interview questions to prepare for their interview and decide how they will conduct the interview. It might be good to conduct a series of interviews so that some rapport can be developed between staff members.

As an end result, each student should create a detailed description of how an honors curriculum came into existence at that school. A written report should include both the positive and negative results of adding the honors designation. Distinction should be made between comments of an adviser and those of students.

Finally, the written report should include an analysis by the author of what could work for our staff and what might not work for our staff.

5. Individual presentations to class — 50 minutes

Students will present their research findings to the class by providing us all with a copy of the fun/motivational activities they have discovered from the school they researched, describing briefly the results of their interviews, listing the pros and cons as reported by the students/advisers at that school, as well as the analysis of their findings and how they might work for our staff.

6. Collaboration to create a staff presentation to be given to administration, superintendent and/or school board – 50 minutes

Either the members of each class you teach or the members of your editorial board (or both?) should work together to create a presentation to pitch the idea of adding an honors designation to your existing journalism curriculum.

Don’t forget to do your research. Consider:

– What does your school system require in order to consider a new class or designation of honors credit?

– What does your state department of education say about having honors level journalism courses?

– What do other schools in your system, neighboring systems or state currently have in place?

– Who do you need to present this request/presentation to and by when (what’s the school system’s deadline each year for adding new courses the following year?)

– How do you make an appointment to give your pitch/presentation?

– How long will the presentation take?  Who will do what portion of the presentation?

Make a concerted effort to NOT just read from slides. Be sure students:

– Practice what they’ll say.

– Write out a script in advance so everyone knows his or her role.

– Anticipate questions your audience might ask and practice developing sound responses on your feet.

– Make sure you’ve covered all your bases. What other programs in your school similar to your journalism program already have an honors designation? How can parents/alumni help your effort?