Search Menu


This site is available only to JEA members. Please log in below.

Generating stories for online beat coverage


Building upon student understanding of online beat coverage, students will generate beat story ideas for one beat.


  • Students will be able to identify a variety of angles for online coverage.
  • Students will be able to evaluate their ideas and brainstorm different methods of reporting and storytelling.
  • Students will be able to plan out three sequential stories for one beat.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.7 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.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.


2-3 days

Materials / resources

Lesson step-by-step

1. Beat coverage analysis — 40 minutes

This lesson builds on the previous lesson, “Beat Coverage and the Web: Why it makes sense.” If students have not had that lesson, you should begin by briefly defining a beat and explaining the purpose of online beat coverage.

Students should have either the packet of printed beat stories or a collection of links they can easily access. They should also have the Beat Coverage Analysis Exercise handout.

Individually or with a partner, ask students to take a look at the stories (or links) provided and complete the handout. The goal is for students to see how one topic/beat can generate several story ideas.

After they have finished, ask for volunteers to share out their story ideas. Provide verbal feedback.

2. Generating stories for a beat — 20 minutes

Ask students to look back at their list of beats from yesterday and select one campus organization for which they have a contact (e.g. a friend in band, a class with the football coach, etc). They should select only one and write in the name of their beat at the top of the Beat Story Planning sheet.

Next, they should generate a list of questions and curiosities about the beat they have selected. Here’s a sample list using the music department as an example:

  • How many students begin playing an instrument in their freshman year? What’s that like?
  • What is the hardest part about managing a band class?
  • What are the music department’s big goals this year? What is it doing to reach them?
  • Are there any band students this year who are facing unique challenges?
  • What doesn’t the average person know about cleaning instruments?

Some of the story ideas should be timely, others more like features. Ideally, the questions are targeted to cover more than just the teachers and the “stars.”

3. Gathering ideas from the source — approx. 20 minutes outside of class

Explain to students that, while it’s a good idea to generate some questions on their own, strong beat reporters go to the key stakeholders within their beat to find stories.

Students should now take their Beat Story Planning sheet to their source(s) and ask their sources the questions they generated as well as follow-up questions. NOTE: They will need at least one day and as many as three days to do this, so the follow-up should be planned for a later date.

Developing a slate of stories — 25 minutes, longer if presenting in class

After gathering ideas, students will select three ideas to present as a slate of beat stories. Their pitches can be presented orally or in writing. Either way, their pitch should include the following for each pitch:

  • Story idea with angle
  • Driving question(s)
  • Why it’s timely and relevant
  • Key sources

If presenting orally, student audience members should provide feedback to the writer, either orally or in writing using feedback slips (which may include suggestions or critique).

If submitting in writing, teacher could lead small groups to provide feedback to writers or could collect and provide individual feedback to students. If collecting pitches in writing, the teacher may choose to provide global feedback to the class rather than individual feedback to each student.

In assessing the story pitches, the teacher may use the following:

  • Story ideas, variety and originality
  • Timeliness/Relevance
  • Breadth of coverage
  • Appropriateness of planned sources


There are several ways this lesson could be modified to fit the learning situations of your students. First, if you are in a 1:1 setting, students should be able to explore blog stories and complete handouts online. If students are presenting their pitches to the class, consider having them create a short presentation using Google’s slideshow creation tool.

Students who need more guidance or do not have computer access should be provided with the four beat blog stories for analysis.