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Finding the news


This is a three-day lesson on how to find and report the news by being aware of the audience for a publication or broadcast. Students will generate story ideas by answering these questions: Who are you writing for? What do they want to know? What do they need to know? What can your publication tell them that they won’t find in other media? Following a real or virtual tour of campus and Internet research on current issues affecting teenagers and students, students will work in small groups to come up with 10 newsworthy story ideas addressing at least three different constituencies among potential readers or viewers.


  • Students will determine who their potential readers or viewers are.
  • Students will analyze the needs and interests of their potential readers or viewers.
  • Students will apply that knowledge by creating lists of potential news stories that must be factual, interesting and important to their potential audience.

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.


Three class periods of 50 minutes each


Slideshow: Finding the news

Large poster paper

For advanced activity:

Handout: Reader wheel short

Handout: Reader wheel sample

Reader Wheel for teachers

Handout: Reader wheel blank

Lesson step-by-step


1. Set and opener — 5-10 minutes

Use slide 2-8 in finding the news presentation with your opening discussion. Start by asking the class, “How do you know if something is news?” They should be able to recall that news must be factual, interesting and important. They may also go to news elements: timeliness, proximity, conflict, celebrity, oddity.

Then ask: “Can you give me an example of something that might be news for some people but not for others?” They may talk about something current, such as the war in Syria being more newsworthy in the Middle East than it is for them. Draw them toward an upcoming event at their own school. For whom is that news? Explain that news reporters always keep their readers or viewers in mind when generating story ideas and determining what to cover from day to day or even hour to hour. Then ask: “Who are your readers (or viewers)?” They should say students in their school, parents, teachers, staff and maybe alumni. Explain that today they will begin generating ideas for news stories for that audience.

2. Activity Option 1: Four corners activity — 15 minutes

For beginners: In advance, prepare four large sheets of paper to place on four walls where students can move from one to the other. Label the papers with these headers News Makers/ News Places / Internet Sites / News Groups

Divide students into four groups of whatever size is needed to accommodate all of them. Give each group a different colored marker.

Each group must add ideas of places or people to go to for news on each paper,  keeping the ideas specific to your school and their audience. Students will have three to four minutes at each paper. Rotate the groups until each group has had a chance at each paper.

Before they start, go over each “corner,” providing the obvious examples for each.

News Makers are people who make or provide information about  news, such as the principal, the class president or the athletic director.

News Places are locations in the school where news happens, such as the cafeteria or the gym, but also places reporters might go to find out what’s happening, such as the student services office, the athletic office or the activity director’s office.

Internet Sites should include the school calendar or school web site, sites where sports teams’ stats are kept, social media and other places students go for news.

News Groups might be sports teams, the student council, the Key Club, the drama club or other active organizations.

After the activity, save the lists to review later. [Skip Activity Option 2 and go to Step 3.]

*2. Activity Option 2: Reader wheel — 15 minutes

For advanced students: The finding the news presentation (slides 10-14) provides additional instructions for this activity. (See reader wheel handouts from Prof. Jacqui Banaczynski for more detail on this activity).

Distribute plain white paper or the reader wheel blank  to each student. Have each student draw a circle in the middle of the paper and label it with the topic he or she is most interested in writing about. Each student should add a “spoke” to the wheel for each potential reader of a story on that topic. Have students spend five minutes thinking of as many possible readers as they can.

Then, tell them to think of one story idea for one group, tailoring the story to that particular audience. Next, ask them to take the same story idea and think how they would write it for the audience that is the next spoke over.

Or, follow the procedure outlined in the reader wheel for teachers handout, which pushes students to continue thinking of more and more possible reader groups. Use the reader wheel sample handout to show students how many possibilities may exist for just one topic.

3. Present — 10 minutes

Ask for volunteers to read the best, most unusual and most out-of-the-box items from each list. (Do this for either activity option.)

4. Follow-up — 10 minutes

Ask students to begin thinking of news stories they might get from some of the places and people listed. Assign them to have five story ideas by the end of next class; they should start checking and asking people what’s going on in their areas.

DAY TWO –  for beginners or students who are new to the school or new to journalism

A more advanced option to this activity, featuring a self-guided scavenger hunt tour, can be found in this fact finding and observation lesson in the News Gathering module. 

1. Campus tour — 30-50 minutes

Take the class on a walking tour of campus. Make a point to visit areas that students mentioned as well as places they may not have seen, such as vocational program rooms, academies, a greenhouse or garden, music rooms, the activity director’s office, the sports trainer’s office or the treasurer’s office. Line up some cooperative news sources in advance, such as the college counselor, a principal, the student body president or someone else in your school whom you know is likely to have some news. Tell the students before they go that they will have to generate ideas for stories based on what they see or learn on the tour.

If a campus tour is impossible, take students on a virtual tour. You could use a slideshow of photos from different areas of the school or take them through your school’s curriculum and extracurricular activities thematically. Invite a principal, athletic director or other school official to visit your class.

Ask students to complete a wheel-spoke or spider web organizer with the name of your school at the center. On the spokes, they should write down all of the places in your school where they might find something worth writing about in the newspaper or yearbook or recording for a broadcast.

As you go, either physically or virtually, ask students for a ideas of news stories that might arise from each area of the school.

2. Closure — 10 minutes

End the tour back in your classroom. Assign students to begin thinking of story ideas for the newspaper, website, yearbook or broadcast.

DAY THREE (or DAY TWO option if all students have already been on a campus tour)

1. Opener — 5 minutes

Take out the posters from Day One, or have students take out their reader wheels, if using. Ask students to offer an idea or two from their brainstorming. Discuss.

2. Think-pair-share  — 10-25 minutes

Ask students to choose a partner from the group they were in on Day One. Using the lists they generated and ideas from the tour, they must create five newsworthy story ideas. Students may use computers, iPads and smartphones to access the Internet and look up issues facing teenagers to help develop ideas. Encourage them to go beyond the obvious teen sex, pregnancy and drug use to find other issues that affect them (voting rights, immigration, discrimination, the cost of college, etc.)

Ask them to be sure that each idea can be localized for readers or viewers in their high school media, using local sources.

3. Present — 10-15 minutes

Have a leader/speaker from each group present the group’s best idea and explain what news value it addresses (timeliness, proximity, conflict, impact, novelty, etc.). Each pair should turn in one copy of their ideas for a daily grade.

4. Follow-up — Homework

Directions: Choose one idea from the list you generated. Make a list of at least three people who would know something about the story, including at least one adult or expert source. Write five questions for each source.


Each pair should have at least five ideas. Each individual should have three sources and 15 questions on one story.

Additional assessment

Have students move on and complete the story prep worksheet explained in the lesson The right source. Use the story Prep Rubric at the end of that lesson to assess students’ planning.

If you assign the Story prep worksheet at this point, move on to the culminating activity for the lesson. Or you may choose to continue to the next the lesson The right source to have students refine and develop their ideas first.


This lesson contains options for students at all levels, from beginning to most advanced. The reader wheel activity comes with a graphic organizer and example to help ESE, ELL and other students understand what is required.  The campus tour can be teacher-led or a scavenger hunt option from the News Gathering module can be used by more advanced students.  This lesson is ideal for mixed classrooms.