Search Menu


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

How to find new stories


This is a lesson on the origins of features. Students will learn about ways to brainstorm feature story ideas and then, working in small groups, use current news to brainstorm ideas they might write about. This is the first in a series of lessons on writing extended-length feature stories.


  • Students will be able to explain, orally or in writing, a variety of sources for feature story ideas.
  • Students will work collaboratively with peers to discuss and brainstorm ideas for stories.
  • Students will be able to apply knowledge of feature story types and categories to their discussion to develop topic ideas.
  • Students will be able to evaluate ideas to select those that are appropriate for story development.

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.9-10.1a Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1b Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
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.9-10.4 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.SL.9-10.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grades 9–10 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
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.



Two 50-minute periods


Scholastic examples (from included supporting materials)

6-8 current news stories

Lesson step-by-step

1. Connection — 10 minutes

Choose 4-6 scholastic examples from the supporting materials included with this unit. Ask students where they think the ideas for these features came from. Elicit responses.

2. Direct instruction — 20 minutes

There are a number of ways to develop feature story ideas.

  • Keep an idea file. Where might these ideas come from? What is the benefit of keeping a file of ideas and continually adding to it? How might you use it for your publication?
  • Read a lot about things you know little. Why is this important? How will it help you as a writer? How will it help your readers?
  • What does your publication cover? What is undercovered? Why is it important to maintain balanced coverage?
  • Be a tourist in your own town. What features might we write about our local area?
  • Look for the “why” of a news story (extrapolation).
  • Look for ways to broaden a news story’s impact (synthesis by looking at common threads within a news story or series of stories). Why is it important to broaden a story’s impact?
  • Localize. Take a state/national/global story and find an angle that brings it home and shows your reader how he/she is affected. How does localizing a national/global story benefit our readers?
  • Consider how one story can affect a person or group. Look beyond the news story to project consequences and build a story around that.
  • Reporters must dig deep to report and write well. They must do lots of research and interviewing.

3. Assignment — 15 minutes

Divide students into small groups (2-4 students each) and assign each group two current news stories. Stories may be local or national. Direct students to brainstorm feature angles based on those stories. Have them refer to their lists of feature types from earlier in this unit and to brainstorm at least one idea for each type of feature listed except profiles. (Those will be covered later in this unit.)

4. Exit ticket — 5 minutes

Students should write down their ideas and hand them in before the end of class. Students will continue working with these ideas in the same groups in the next lesson.