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Introduction to journalistic writing


This is a primer to introducing journalistic writing concepts in the classroom. Students will analyze the basic concepts of journalistic writing using professional and scholastic examples.


  • Students will be able to identify the characteristics of journalistic writing.
  • Students will be able to analyze the length of paragraphs in journalistic writing.
  • Students will be able to recognize the importance of using “said” in quotes.
  • Students will be able to list Hemingway’s advice for writing.

 Common Core State Standards

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.9-10.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2c Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
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. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of L.9-10.1-3.)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
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.


Four 50-minute class periods


Handout: Hemingway

Handout: Grab Readers (Communication: Journalism Education Today article by Lori Oglesbee)

Handout: Total Process (Communication: Journalism Education Today article by Janet Ewell)

Teacher-selected stories to read aloud.

Suggested sources:

Poster-sized paper


Quiz: Journalistic Writing Basics and Key

Lesson step-by-step

Day One

1. Introduction — 15 minutes

Read aloud three powerful journalistic stories. Try to make them different in style and content.

2. Quick responses — 5 minutes

After inviting a handful of students to share brief reactions to the stories, read aloud another powerful news story.

3. Reflect — 5 minutes

After the fourth story, ask students to write a reflection on that story only. Each student should answer this question without input from the group: “What made this story powerful/memorable/funny/moving?” (Vary the wording to fit the type of story you selected.)

4. Group sharing — 5 minutes

Divide the class into small groups so students can share their reflections. Move from group to group, listening to responses.

5. Class discussion — 15 minutes

Allow groups to present their findings. They may also reference other stories read.

6.  Closure — 5 minutes

Issue an exit ticket based on this question: “How does journalistic writing differ from writing done in other classes?”

Day Two

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Read a different story aloud to the class.

2. Build skills — 25 minutes

Distribute copies of the stories read aloud the day before (or provide electronic access, if possible). Assign students to answer the following questions in their groups.

  • What information is in the first paragraph of each of these stories?
  • What is the order of importance of each paragraph in each story?
  • How many quotes are used?
  • What is the ratio of quote paragraphs to information paragraphs?
  • How many people are quoted?
  • How many sentences are in each paragraph?
  • How are quotes punctuated?
  • What synonyms for “said” are used? How many times per story is a synonym for “said” used?

3. Follow-up — 20 minutes

After each group comes to consensus on these questions, they will make a poster with their findings. The poster should display the guiding questions and answers.

Day Three

1. Tap prior knowledge — 5 minutes

Ask students what they know about Ernest Hemingway. When they finish, fill in the gaps with some background information.

2. Group work — 30 minutes

Using the Hemingway handout, students will work together to discuss and complete the exercise.

3. Sharing — 10 minutes

One representative from each group will share responses as part of a class discussion.

4. Closure — 5 minutes

Address any remaining questions. You might want to conduct a brief review or do another informal check for understanding, as the following class period includes a quiz.

Day Four

Quiz — 20 minutes