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Improve beats by adding GIFs and featured images


Students use simple tools to add multiple media elements to their beats.


  • Students will be able to explain how and when to use a GIF within a beat (as opposed to a full video or other multimedia).
  • Students will be able to convert a short video that captures and conveys appropriate emotion, action and tone into a GIF.
  • Students will write a new beat and supplement the coverage by including a strong featured image and GIFs in the body of the text.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning and evidence and to add interest.


One 60-minute period and review time in follow-up lessons


  • Slideshow: Photo Composition (for review)
  • Slideshow: Creating GIFs using GIPHY
  • Sample video
  • A generic account created for GIPHY.
  • Rubric: Featured Photo and GIF
  • Students will use smartphones for taking the picture and shooting video for conversion into a GIF.
  • This lesson is designed for students who have smartphones and know how to shoot basic video with them. If necessary, students can work in groups and/or check out a DSLR with video capability.

Lesson step-by-step

  1. Introduction — 20 minutes

Students should already have an established beat assignment.

  • As a warm-up discussion to capture students’ interest, consider taking an informal poll to see how many students visit BuzzFeed and how they would describe the content on the site. Use a projection device to show a current BuzzFeed article. As a class, discuss the use of GIFs to engage the audience. (Here is an example.)
  • Have students read this NY Times article.
    • (It is best to deliver this electronically so students can see the animation).
    • Pair students to discuss the use of GIFs: When, where, why, and how.
    • Use a polling device like Poll Everywhere (or use equity cards) to ask students the following questions:
      • How does a GIF differ from a traditional video clip?
      • When would it be appropriate to include one?
      • Why would it be better to use one instead of traditional video?
      • When would it be better to use a full video?
  • Review this example article to see how GIFs can be incorporated in student media.
  1. Survey of expectations — 25 minutes

Review elements of photo composition using the photo composition slideshow.

Explain that students will be responsible for submitting a strong featured photo with their next beat that meets the criteria from the slideshow presentation. Additionally, students should create at least one complementary GIF for the beat.

Review the presentation on creating a GIF using GIPHY.

  1. Activity — end of Day 1 (15 minutes)
  • Have students download the short diving sample video for practice. (Feel free to substitute your own video. You can even take a short video of your class for them to use.)
  • In partners or groups of three, students will use computers to sign up for an account on GIPHY and create a GIF from the source video.
  • Students should submit their work for teacher feedback through email, electronic dropbox or shared network space as assigned based on the technology available.
  • Review GIFs as a class.
  1. Practice — after Day 1 (during beat schedule)

Students will be responsible for creating a short GIF and including one with their next beat assignment.

As students are covering their beat, they have two additional tasks to complete with their smartphones:

  • Take a strong featured photo that meets composition standards and has a complete caption.
  • Create a short (less than 15 second) video that complements the subject of their article and will be converted into a GIF.
    • GIF should be short and capture an appropriate action/emotion that complements the topic.
    • The tone conveyed by the GIF should match that of the writing.
    • Video should be shot well enough for viewer to see the action.

Students write their beats and add the two elements within the CMS (using the “Add media” option in WordPress, for example).

  1. Sharing — 5 minutes after publication

At the beginning of each class, students will present their published work and explain how and why they chose to add the two elements they did. Students should share the published beat on social media.

  1. Assessment

Return graded rubric to students.

Have students reflect on their learning experience in a written response.

  • What added value will readers get from this story format?
  • Why might readers be more engaged with the story when presented in this format?
  • What challenges did you encounter during this assignment?