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News gathering for a profile story


This lesson focuses on news gathering strategies to write an effective profile story. Emphasis is given to choosing subjects, performing background research, using observation as a key news gathering technique, live interviewing and fact checking. This lesson begins with an analysis of a student-written profile story and a short slideshow on news gathering techniques for profiles, including how to find and focus upon the subject of a profile and how to use research, observation and interviewing to gather facts and details.

A series of lessons on how to plan, gather information for and write personality profiles can be found in the Writing module. Please see the following lesson plans:

In the Introduction to the personality profile, students read and analyze published student-written profiles and begin planning their own, similarly to this lesson.

The Personality profile: Finding a theme and gathering information lesson presents the same information as this lesson through discussion and analysis of a student-written profile.

Developing questions for a profile covers the same material as this lesson using teams and discussion to help students develop questions for profiles.

Critiquing the interview and drafting the profile takes students through the post-interview steps and writing a first draft. This lesson is an appropriate follow-up to this one.

Finally, the What’s in the middle of your profile lesson takes students through an analysis of profile writing using student examples to help them decide for themselves what needs to be added to their first drafts. This lesson follows Critiquing the interview.


  • Students will learn best practices for writing a profile.
  • Students will understand how the profile differs in content and approach from other story types.
  • Students will evaluate profile stories for technique and approach.
  • Students will create their own plan for a profile story.

Common Core Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


Three 50-minute classes

*Note: This lesson spans 2-4 weeks.

The introduction of this less should last two class meetings. Allow one class meeting to view and discuss a profile story and use the slide presentation. Allow one class meeting to view and discuss another profile story before assigning students a printed profile story for them to analyze and evaluate. Provide students a time frame to pursue a profile story using suggested research and interviewing techniques (2-4 weeks).


Slideshow: News gathering for a profile story

Class set: Profile story planning sheet

Class set (x2): Analyzing and evaluating profile stories

Class set: A printed profile story example

Rubric: Personality profile rubric

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Analyze – 25 minutes
Open by asking students what they think a profile is. Ask what makes a good one, why journalists write them, why readers like them. Students should answer that profile stories have human interest, touch hearts, tell readers something interesting about a person they didn’t know, inspire others, etc.

Pass out copies of one of the student-written profiles from the examples provided. Ask students to mark passages that interest or speak to them as you read aloud.

Discuss why this profile worked. Ask students how the reporter got the information in the story. Draw attention to instances of background research and observation as well as interviewing.

Ask what ideas about what or who might make a good profile at their school. Ask them to jot those ideas down on the back of the story handout.

2. Slideshow — 20 minutes
The slideshow begins with ideas for profiles. Students should continue brainstorming through this portion. Use the slideshow to discuss the techniques in gathering information for a profile story. End the slideshow on Slide 11.

Have students turn in their marked up profile example and profile ideas as an exit ticket.

Homework: In the next week, assign students to have a conversation with five people they don’t know well. They should try to find out one or two things about them that make them different from everybody else. List due in one week.

OPTIONAL EXTENSION:  If students need more practice understanding what a profile is or need practice in text analysis, assign them to find a professional profile online, or choose one for them using one of the other student-written samples. If needed, assign the Analyzing and Evaluating Profiles handout.  This handout can also be used for video or audio interviews.

Day 2 – Give this lesson after students have had a chance to find some potential profiles, ideally not the next day.

Before presenting this portion of the lesson, remind students that they should find five good profile ideas by talking, asking and listening to others.

1. Slideshow – 20 minutes

Continue with the slideshow, starting with Slide 12. This portion of the slideshow reviews the basic reporting process: research, observe, plan questions, conduct interviews, check facts.

2. Choose stories – 10 minutes
Pair-share:  Have students share their ideas with at least one other person, or divide them into groups. They should each share their five ideas and have their partner or group help them to choose the one they find most interesting.

3. Plan and research – Remainder of class
In the remaining class time, and as homework, students should use the “Profile story planning sheet” to conduct research and plan their own profile. Then, allow at least one week for them to execute the story, checking in to see how things are progressing.

Assessment: Use the rubric provided within the “Profile story planning sheet.” If a daily grade is needed, teachers could collect the five story ideas as exit tickets.

This lesson ends with the story planning. You may continue by making the assignment. You can using the later lessons in the Writing Module or simply assign students to write the profile. Use the “Profile writing rubric” to assess the profiles.


Options are provided for beginning students and those who need reteaching on the use and structure of profiles. Optional lessons can be added. For more advanced students, the slideshow is divided so that it may be used as a mini-lesson for quick reteaching of the reporting process. Graphic organizers and rubrics are provided to help students track and organize their work.