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Sidebars and supplemental design formats


In this lesson, students will learn about the different types of alternative story forms, also called sidebars, alts or charticles. After studying samples from student media, they will suggest alternative story forms for a common topic. Then students will have the opportunity to sketch their own alternative story form idea to improve an existing page or spread in student media.


  • Students will analyze a news article to determine possible sidebars to create.
  • Students will produce a sidebar for a news article to enhance the story.
  • Students will apply visual design concepts to create a sidebar.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA.Literacy.W-9-10.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of a subject.
CCSS.ELA.Literacy.L.9-10.3 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.
CCSS.ELA.Literacy.L.9-10.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
CCSS.ELA.Literacy. L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.


90 minutes


Slideshow: Alternative story forms

Optional note-taking handout: Types of sidebars

Optional handouts to combine: Pie chart, Q&A, map

Colored pencils


White paper

Lesson step-by-step

1. Build vocabulary — 25 minutes

Using the handout Types of sidebars, students will look up samples of each of the following types of sidebars. They will make notes on the handout defining each one, and the type of information presented (graphs, stats, etc.)

After discussing the handout in class, students will look at the school newspaper (or local paper if a school newspaper is unavailable). Students will choose a story from the newspaper, and will brainstorm a list of additional information that could be included about the story.


Based on the content of the story chosen, students will sketch or design an inforgraphic using the theories introduces during the presentation.


Alternative story form


(3 point)
(6 points)
(9 points)
Total points
Content The design is not relevant to the information included in the sidebar, and/or does not give enough information to clearly understand the topic of the sidebar. The design is somewhat relevant to the information in the sidebar. However, the choice of sidebar may not be the most effective for the information presented. The design is relevant to the information in the sidebar and to the related news article. The content is complete and gives a clear picture about the topic to the reader. ____ / 9
Visual appeal The sidebar is visually unappealing, the colors distract from the content of the data, and does not maintain the interest of the reader. The sidebar is visually adequate, uses colors but not seemingly with a purpose, but could get lost when surrounded by other content because of its lack of appeal. The sidebar is visually appealing, uses purposefully chosen colors, and draws a reader’s attention. ____ / 9
Variety of information The information appears to have come from one source, and does not connect to the news article. It does not adequately inform the reader. The information given comes from a few sources, and connects to the news article. However, the content does not give a variety of information for the reader. The information given comes from several sources, connects to the news article, and gives a variety of information for the reader. ____ / 9
Focus of information The data presented in the sidebar, while varied, does not have a specific purpose or focus. The information is too general or broad. n/a The data presented in the sidebar, while varied, still has a specific purpose or focus. The information is not too general or broad. ____ / 9
Total points ____ / 36