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Modeling a profile interview

This lesson (first in a three-lesson series) is an excellent way to start writing instruction. The series of lessons will ask students to write the beginning of one of the most basic journalistic forms: a profile story based on interviews of a single source. The later lessons in the series also function as ice-breakers. Today’s lesson focuses on introducing interviewing skills through direct instruction and modelling an interview of the teacher or editor using student-generated questions.


  • Students will describe the qualities of good interviews.
  • Students will practice writing interview questions.
  • Students will practice taking notes during an interview.
  • Students will reflect upon the relative success of the interview. They will rank the best/weakest interview questions based on the response.
  • Students will evaluate the best quotes they heard.
  • Students will develop follow-up questions for a second hypothetical interview.

 Common Core State Standards



Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.


Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.


Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


50 minutes


Lesson step-by-step

 Preparation for lesson: Teacher should adapt the handout “Notes for conducting teacher interview” so that the notes match the interviewing conventions of the district, school and publication. For example, on the handout it assumes that the publication does not print courtesy titles (ex. Mr./Mrs.) but some student publications do use courtesy titles.

1. Learning the basics — 15 minutes

Lead students through the slideshow, taking breaks for questions and explanations.

2. Group brainstorming — 5-10 minutes

Introduce today’s task: they get to interview their teacher. They can ask any question they want. (And he/she can refuse to answer any question he/she wants.) In groups, students will brainstorm questions they’d like to ask. After they’ve finished, take some time to arrange the questions in the best order to create a good flow.

During this brainstorming time, encourage students to whisper and keep the questions as secret as possible. It’s more fun for them and the teacher if the questions are a surprise.

Distribute copies of the handout “Things to consider while listening to interview” and review expectations. Let students know that in a little while they will be listening to an interview. They will need to take notes and listen for these elements.

3. Student-led discussion— 5 minutes

Pick a student from the class who will conduct the interview. If teaching a mixed-level production course, consider choosing the editor.

Give the student the “Notes for conducting the teacher interview” handout. Quietly discuss sheet and make sure he/she understands his/her role in modeling both the good and bad of interviewing.

Leave the classroom for a couple of minutes while the student leads the class in selecting a list of approximately ten questions to ask during the mock interview. You can arrange to have a colleague sit in the room for a couple of minutes, if necessary. If students can type and display questions on a classroom screen, they should do so and arrange the questions for best flow.

4. Mock interview — 10 minutes

Before the teacher returns to the classroom, the students should turn off the screen so the questions aren’t visible. Once the teacher has sat down with his/her back to the questions, they can turn the screen back on so students can more easily follow this first interview and take notes.

Student and teacher conduct interview. The teacher should model some of the more challenging questions/reactions that students might encounter when interviewing a faculty member so that they can watch the student address these reactions. (See “Notes for Conducting Teacher Interview” handout.) Students take notes during interview, according to directions.

5. Whole class discussion— 5-10 minutes

Students share their observations of the interview. Consider starting this with a vote. Which interview question was best? Encourage students to defend their nominations (which can lead to student-developed criteria–excellent for student growth and teacher evaluations). Discuss best direct quotes. Did the interview generate quote-worthy material? Interesting, emotional, detailed responses that couldn’t be easily paraphrased? Draw attention to the difference between material that is best paraphrased (factual data) and sentiments that practically demand a direct quote.


Students should review their interview notes and write a few follow-up questions for a hypothetical second interview. These questions should be designed to flesh out a possible angle for a personality profile on the teacher. Students will share these questions the next day (in the  lesson Conducting the first interview) as a way to review concepts learned today.


For some students/classes, the list of things to consider while watching an interview might be dauntingly large. Consider splitting up the room and giving different rows different focuses. You could even organize it so that each person in the original group has a different focus. Groups could briefly meet after the mock interview to discuss their observations before the large class discussion starts. Groups could rank the top 3 questions and describe what made these questions best. They could also share their direct quotes. This can be an interesting exercise because the quotes may differ somewhat, which can lead to a class discussion about recording interviews (for more on recording interviews see the News Gathering module).