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Journalism versus English class writing


Journalistic writing has some similarities with English class writing. To students, it often seems there are many differences. A key to getting them to understand what needs to be different and how to make it that way is often in getting students to see that each style has a different audience and each has a different purpose.



  • Students will identify the differences between journalistic writing and traditional English class assignments.
  • Students will choose appropriate vocabulary, sentence and paragraph length for the news and features because they understand why it must be that way.
  • Students will begin to think about their audience and its interests and reading comprehension level as they construct their journalistic assignments.
  • Students will explore the way sources can provide information they need for news and features.


Common Core Standards



Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


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.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.



50 minutes



Slideshow: Journalism v. English class writing

Handout: The day everything caught fire

Teacher guide: The day everything caught fire

Computers or pens and paper so students can write a short newspaper article.


Lesson step-by-step

1. Provide a bridge – 10 minutes

Show the slide presentation about journalistic writing and traditional writing in English class — often the five-paragraph essay. Emphasize that this isn’t a contest. Neither is inherently better, but each has a different audience (teacher or entire school/community) and a different purpose (to get an A! Or to inform and entertain people quickly and accurately). Stress that their differences in word choice and approach demonstrate this.

2. Turn a fiction story into news – 20 minutes

Hand out the short story, “The day everything caught fire.” Tell them this is a memoir of sorts, but if the local newspaper thought it was timely and local (two news values), they might want to cover it in a brief news story. Have them attempt to write the news story version, keeping track of the facts that aren’t included here but that would be needed in the news story. Ask them what sources they would have to interview to get additional facts.

3. Pair and share – 10 minutes

Have students in pairs compare news stories and questions they would need to ask a source who has the information. Then, have two pairs meet and make a list of what they need to ask and who they would “interview.”

4. Whole class activity — 10 minutes

With the teacher acting as the sources students think they need (e.g. the fire chief, the mother, maybe the girls), allow them to ask their questions and gather the important information.



Formative assessment

Consider the quality of their responses. Did they know what was opinion or unnecessary details they should leave out. Did they realize they didn’t even know the victims’ last name? Did they know they should ask the fire chief or some fire department representative what the damage estimate is?


Summative assessment

As work at night or as a second day’s assignment, have they write the short news story that could appear in the next day’s newspaper. Remind them of the requirements of a news story they saw in the slide show.



Writing the story the second day in class would allow teacher coaching, or it would enable students to work in pairs to write the news.