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Introduction to vignettes


This is a lesson introducing vignettes. Students will take a quiz over feature types and then read and discuss a vignette and what the reporter needed to do to write the piece. This is the first of three lessons focused on vignettes.


  • Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of a variety of feature types on a quiz.
  • Students will be able to explain that vignettes are based on both observation and interview.

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.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.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.


50 minutes


Quiz: Feature types

Class set: Stepping up the sound

Highlighters in two different colors (per student)

Lesson step-by-step

1. Quiz and reading — 15 minutes

Distribute quiz and allow students time to complete it. Upon completion, students should read “Stepping up the sound.” Direct them to annotate the piece by marking what information presented in the piece was likely based on pure observation and what was based on interviewing. You may wish to have them highlight these sections in different colors (i.e. pink = observation, yellow = interviewing).

2. Discussion and direct instruction — 5-10 minutes

Ask students to share what they marked on the example.

What was reported through direct observation? How do you know? What did the reporter have to do to get that information? To convey it accurately?

What was reported through interviewing? Whom did the reporter interview? What questions did he/she ask?

How do both direct observation and interviewing contribute to this piece? How do they create and support mood of the piece?

Why did the writers select the details they did? Are they the right ones? Why or why not?

What else do you notice about this piece? Its organization? Its overall effect? What makes it successful? In what media forms would it be most appropriate?

3. Assignment — 25 minutes

Students will go someplace and observe for 25 minutes, taking notes on everything they see, hear, feel, smell, etc. They should observe and record a small scene and hand in their observations tomorrow (and in the next lesson begin a 150-175 word vignette in class). Advise students to select a scene in which they are likely to observe dialogue, and record that dialogue as accurately as possible. (Suggestion: Students could take notes of their observations by hand while recording dialogue and ambient sounds with a digital recorder or smartphone. They will then use both notes and recording to write their vignettes.)


  • You may only write down what you see or hear.
  • You may not ask questions.
  • You may not make anything up.
  • Avoid all opinion in your notes.