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Finding features: 20 stories about lockers

Feature stories are all around us, sometimes literally in the architecture that lines our walls. This brainstorming lesson demonstrates just how easy it can be to come up with some great ideas. Students will individually brainstorm 20 stories about lockers, share ideas, and develop those ideas into viable story concepts.


  • Students will review types of feature stories (studied in previous lesson).
  • Students will brainstorm a list of at least 20 stories related to lockers.
  • Students will help a classmate develop his/her ideas.
  • Students will present ideas to the class.

Common Core State Standards



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


Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.


Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


50 minutes


Handout: Sample list of locker stories

Handout: Developing a locker story

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction/warm-up — 5 minutes

This lesson should come after the Types of feature stories lesson. Do a quick recap of that lesson at beginning of class (or better yet, ask students to recap). Let students know that today they will be applying what they’ve learned about feature story types to a topic that any school publication can feature: lockers. They’re all around us, these seemingly boring boxes of metal, but what are their hidden stories? It’s time to explore.

2. Individual brainstorming — 20 minutes

Write the simple task on the board: they must come up with a minimum of 20 stories about lockers in 20 minutes. Speed is the mission. Instruct students to write without stopping, to avoid censoring themselves. It’s best if students don’t have access to the internet during this brainstorming time. Handwriting is perfect.

At the end of 20 minutes, ask students to put down their pens/pencils and look up. Wait until everyone has stopped. Now ask students to take stock of their ideas by numbering them. Make a friendly competition out of who was able to come up with the most ideas.

3. Pair-Share-Swap— 10 minutes

Ask students to get out a second piece of paper. Explain that they will be exchanging their brainstorm sheet with another person. For 10 minutes, they will quietly read their partner’s ideas and jot down comments/questions/additional ideas on the second piece of paper. They should number their thoughts to correspond with the number of the original idea that inspired it.

4. Sharing ideas with class — 15 minutes

Students return their partner’s paper, along with their feedback sheet. Give students a couple of minutes to read what their partner wrote.

Depending on time available and the size of the class, ask some/all of the pairs to share an idea with the class. Ask a student volunteer to type the list of ideas. Make it available to the whole class so that they can use it as possible inspiration for their homework.

5. Homework

Each student takes one idea (either their own or one generated by the class or their partner–after all, ideas can’t be copyrighted; they’re free for the taking) and writes about how it could be developed. What are possible interview sources, questions that could be asked, data that could be gathered? Is this a story that could benefit from crowdsourcing?  Describe photos/graphics that could accompany it. Consider sidebars/ infographics too. Share these more developed ideas the next day and let students determine whether they’d like to pursue any of them for the publication.


Some students will start writing immediately; others will need more help letting go of their anxiety and just writing whatever comes to mind. For these students, gently redirect and let them know that writing is a process, not something that people just get perfect from the beginning. Brainstorming is about respecting this process and welcoming messy, undeveloped ideas.

If possible, when pairing people try to pick students who have very different interests and ways of looking at the world.

Extension: Object brainstorms

Lockers, of course, are not the only thing in a school that can inspire many feature stories. Consider periodically picking an object and asking students to brainstorm possible stories for a few minutes. Or better yet, ask student volunteers to pick the school or community-related object/place that will serve as inspiration for the class’s brainstorm. Vary the number of minutes and minimum number of story ideas based on the richness of the item or place.