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Start strong, end strong


In this lesson, students will learn how to construct strong leads and endings to their feature stories by exploring leads types and experimenting with different leads and endings for their own features.


  • Students will explain, orally or in writing, how feature leads differ from hard news leads.
  • Students will be able to explain, orally or in writing, a variety of feature lead types.
  • Students will analyze sample leads and apply their understanding of feature lead goals (what they have to do) and discuss the success of various leads.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of feature leads to their own writing and construct several possible leads for their feature story.

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.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.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 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.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3b Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3c Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3d Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3e Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed, or resolved over the course of the narrative.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5 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. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grades 9–10 here.)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.


Two 50-minute periods


Student feature materials from previous lessons (feature story idea, possible source and theme/topic statement)

Literary devices/techniques handout from previous lesson

10-15 scholastic feature examples from included supplementary materials

Lesson step-by-step

1. Connection — 5 minutes

“The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.” (William Zinsser, On Writing Well)

What makes a reader want to continue reading? What types of leads suck you in as a reader and make you want to continue? How do writers draw readers in successfully and make them want to keep reading? Elicit responses.

2. Direct instruction & exploration — 40 minutes

Unlike hard news leads, which are loaded with straight facts and cover as many of the 5Ws as they can pack into one sentence, feature leads come in many shapes and sizes. Some leads are short, sharp and direct, making a contrast or punching the reader in the gut. Others are long and narrative, setting a scene and mood or building suspense through foreshadowing. Leads can also emphasize any of the 5Ws or H. Regardless of type, leads have one purpose: to entice the reader.

Successful leads do one or more (or all) of the following:

  • Put a face on the story (whether this is an individual or a representation of a group)
  • Establish the setting (the place readers want to see)
  • Introduce the conflict (What makes this news? Without it, it’s not.)
  • Set the tone (Do you want to be taken seriously or is it a lighter subject? Or does it tug at the heartstrings? Decide how you want to be heard and match your language accordingly.)

Explore sample leads with the class. For each lead, let the following questions guide discussion:

  • What does this lead do? (e.g. compare, contrast, describe, shock)
  • What does the lead emphasize (who, what, where, when, why, how)?
  • Why does this make you want to read further?
  • Did the writer use any specific literary techniques? (Direct students to see their literary techniques notes.)

Second only to the lead in importance is the ending. Like leads, there are many ways to end a feature. As long as you don’t editorialize, summarize or write an “in conclusion” paragraph, a number of techniques work. A feature may end on a quote or a strong image or it may suggest the future. Some features demand symmetry, especially if they begin by setting a scene. Often writers can set a scene at the beginning of the story and end in a similar scene or refer to the opening as a way to bring the story full circle.

Revisit the feature samples to explore the types of endings used. You may want to include “Rising above ashes” as an example of a circular lead/ending combination (included in scholastic examples for this unit).

3. Assignment — 30 minutes

Construct at least six possible leads for your feature story. Outline at least two possible endings. Students should work with peers as sounding boards. Teacher should assist in evaluating and guiding students through the writing process.

4. Peer feedback and revision — 20 minutes

Have each student share a few of his/her leads. Encourage all students to engage in constructive criticism.