Types of Feature Stories
A lesson introducing and exploring feature story types
This is a multi-day lesson. First, students will examine examples from their Lesson 1 assignment and review the different categories of features. Then, over the course of several days, students will learn about the different types of features and examine examples from each category.
- Students will be able to explain, orally or in writing, a variety of feature types.
- Students will be able to examine, identify and categorize different features by type.
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.9-10.1c||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.9-10.2||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.|
Four-five 50-minute periods
Materials / resources
Student assignments from Lesson 1 (examples of features that fall into different categories)
Class set: Features – Categories & Types (started in Lesson 1)
1. Building background and making connections — 10 minutes
Ask students to share their homework from Lesson 1. Review different categories of feature stories (lifestyles, health, science & technology, entertainment, food, homes & gardens, specialized) and direct students to add their classmates’ examples to their charts from Lesson 1.
Review the concept that feature stories can help to broaden, emphasize, amplify the news. Features can tell those multiple stories in a variety of ways, and we will spend the next few class periods exploring the most common types of features.
2. Direct instruction — approximately 10 minutes per type (exploration of examples later in the lesson)
**Note: Direct instruction and exploration will take several class periods (4-6 50-minute periods). It is suggested teacher closes each class period with an exit ticket (5 minutes). Have each student respond to the following: What are three specific things you learned about feature writing today? Begin the next class period by eliciting responses to those tickets – What did you learn about feature writing today? – and review briefly what types were taught the following day.
So, use the following information to teach students about these different types of feature stories, providing and soliciting examples when helpful and available. Again, depending on your students, this might take several class periods to get through. Students should take notes on their handout from Lesson 1 (Features – Categories & Types).
What: reveals an individual’s character and lifestyle; exposes different facets of the subject so readers feel they know him/her.
Why: readers love to learn about other people – famous, remarkable, unusual.
How: combines quotes, details, facts, descriptions to show more than tell.
Note: Emphasize the importance of a news peg here. It is important to relate the profile to something currently going on in the news, whether local, national or global to heighten reader interest. Readers will ask “Why should I care?” or “Why does this matter to me?” The news peg answers that question for them and makes the profile relevant.
HUMAN INTEREST STORY
What: discusses issues through the experiences of another.
Why: readers like good stories to make them laugh or cry.
How: use storytelling skills – set scene, establish mood, describe characters, conflict.
Note: All features benefit from a human interest angle. Human interest stories discuss issues through the experiences of another.
BEHIND THE SCENES (LIVE-IN, COLOR) STORY
What: inside views of events, issues, unusual occupation, unique location or subculture; reporter becomes part of the culture and writes from first-hand experience.
Why: it gives readers the feeling of penetrating the inner circle or being a fly on the wall. They’re privy to unusual details and well-kept secrets about procedures or activities they might not ordinarily be exposed to or allowed to participate in.
How: captures mood and experience through observation, describing sights/sounds, interviewing participants.
Personal narrative: while discouraged, sometimes the best way to share an unusual experience – trauma, disaster, illness, once-in-a-lifetime happening – is in a personal narrative, recreating the drama. However, the experience must be dramatic and one that wouldn’t be given justice if conveyed any other way.
ANALYSIS PIECE (SPOT NEWS/BACKGROUNDER)
What: focuses on an issue or event in news; covers same subjects as hard news but in greater depth and detail; focus on individuals more than hard news stories (which focus on numbers and statistics); usually hung on an “individual’s story” peg.
Why: explain how something happened, why it matters; gives readers all they need to know about a complex topic quickly and in easily accessible format.
How: thorough research and interviews; may begin with person and tells human side of story.
Spot feature: focus on breaking news event (on deadline); often used as sidebars
Ex: main news story is tornado in town (number of casualties, extent of damage, rescue efforts, etc.). Sidebar spot features might be scene at emergency shelter, reflection on past tornadoes in town, weather conditions that led to storm, etc.
Reaction piece: provides sampling of opinions.
Note: teach news and spot and reaction pieces together. Give students an example of a breaking news peg and help them think of possible spot features and reaction pieces to accompany the breaking news as well as news analysis ideas to run as follow-ups. This may be its own separate activity if time permits (15-20 min.).
What: covers what’s fresh and new and current – people, places, things, ideas (art, fashion, film, music, high-tech, fads, lifestyle).
Why: keep readers up-to-date on what’s affecting culture.
How: bright, light, tight; quick and easy to read, capture spirit of whatever trend is being discussed.
Seasonal themes: stories about holidays and change of seasons at specific times of the year (life milestones, social/political/cultural cycles, business cycles).
What: commemorate historical anniversaries or turning points in social, political or cultural development. Juxtapose then vs. now.
Why: take reader back to revisit event and issues surrounding it. Explain significance and why it still matters.
How: Combine facts, photos, interviews to explain.
Variation: this date in history (short, reminds of significant events on particular date).
What: explains how to do something or how something works; detailed description that makes it easy for the average person to understand the entire process; often uses similes, metaphors; a step-by-step explanation to help a reader accomplish a particular job or task.
Why: teaches readers how to do something.
How: writer learns about topic through education, experience, research or interviews with experts.
What: tells readers where to find best food, clothing, tech, music – anything they want to buy.
Why: readers want to get the best quality at lowest cost and want research done for them.
How: do research and rate items, list pros/cons, provide options, include when/where/how much info.
3. Small group work & discussion — 20 minutes
Once students have learned about these different types of feature stories, they will work in small groups to discuss which feature types work best in different publications (online, yearbook, broadcast, newspaper-weekly, newspaper-monthly, newspaper-quarterly). If you have students who work with different media at your school, group them together, and then have each group provide the best forms for their given type of publication. Each group must have at least three types that would work best and one type that would work poorly in their publication and justifications for their choices.
After 10 minutes, call on each group to share with the class their decisions for types and reasons why those would/would not work in their given publication.
4. Exploration of feature examples — 30 minutes
Hand out examples of different kinds of feature stories (scholastic examples provided; see master list). Provide at least one of each to each student.
Direct students to label each piece based on type descriptions. Students should use pencil in case they’re wrong. They may work with partners or small groups and should be able to explain their decisions by pointing out specifics in each piece.
Give students 15-20 minutes to label each piece, then review which piece is each form and direct students to make corrections and add the examples to their charts. Ask students if they feel confident they could match feature types to descriptions on a quiz tomorrow.
3. Exit ticket (see note above in #1) – 5 minutes
What are three specific things you learned about feature writing today?