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The human touch: Humans of Your School


Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York epitomizes why we all want to be journalists — a strong belief everyone has a story. This lesson discusses Stanton’s ability to build rapport with strangers and how you will adapt his model to your own interviewing style.


  • Students will demonstrate the ability to gather and critically evaluate in-depth information from diverse sources.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of types of interview questions.
  • Students will describe a good interview atmosphere and how it impacts the interview.
  • Students will analyze and evaluate an interview experience.
  • Students will analyze and evaluate the difference between a conversation and an interview.
  • Students will analyze the “escalating levels of intimacy” in interview experience.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.C Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.D Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.


50-90 minutes for presentation, 50 minutes for follow up discussion, multiple days for homework


Slideshow: “Only Human” presentation

Handout: “Only Human” presentation worksheet

Video: How I Approach Strangers on the Street – Full video from University College Dublin

Handout: Humans of New York video worksheet

Handout: Humans of Your School project

Rubric: Humans of Your School project rubric

Handout: Humans of Your School self-evaluation

Handout: HONY project examples

Resource: Brandon Stanton’s book

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

Warm up and lecture — 50 to 90 minutes

1. Start the lesson by asking the class how many students follow Humans of New York on social media. For those students who are aware of HONY, ask them to share their favorite posts, reasons they like to follow, and what they think is the appeal of HONY. B.Y.O.D. schools can take this opportunity to allow students to pull up HONY posts and do a pair-share with classmates.

2. Show the Humans of New York website to the class. (suggestion: visit the website beforehand to pre-select a few examples to share with the class.) Ask students what they think is the appeal of HONY. Ask students how HONY-style personality profiles could be used in their media. Ask students to infer how they think Brandon Stanton goes about getting the interview and photos for posting.

3. Show the “Only Human” slideshow to the class. The presentation reviews basic interviewing, a brief overview of Brandon Stanton and HONY, and the provides information of his approach to interviewing. The main discussion point from the presentation is “the energy” of the interview. Use the “Only Human” Presentation Worksheet to help guide students through the presentation. Following the presentation discuss with students how their energy can play a role in approaching a potential interview subject.


4. Encourage students to watch full University College Dublin video as homework, How I Approach Strangers on the Street. The video is a forum interview with Brandon Stanton explaining his approach to talking with potential subjects. The “Humans of New York video worksheet” may be used as video review worksheet or assessment.

Day 2

Discussion and practice — 50 minutes

5. Instruct the class to practice the interview methods with their peers. Before the class activity, ask students to to review and share the tips and ideas they have learned from Brandon Stanton’s style of interviewing. Have the class break up into partners and tell the students to have  one person be the interviewer and one person to be the subject. Instruct the subject to share an image from their camera roll on their personal device. The interviewer should use the photo to think of questions on the fly and let the conversation develop from the photo. Encourage the students to go beyond the image into the reasoning behind the image and it’s importance to the subject.  Give the students about five minutes for the interview. Afterwards, have the partners share their exchange. Ask the interviewers to share the story they learned from the interview. Ask the subject to share what type of questions were asked they helped them provide more narrative to their story. A second rotation of partners can provide the students with additional practice.

Project — class time or homework

6. Distribute and explain the handouts for the “Humans of Your School project.”  Make a deadline schedule with students. Based on your school schedule, one subject per day is a reasonable timeline. Establish an expectation for interview lengths; 5-15 minutes is a good range. Too short usually means lacking depth and too long could be difficult for new students to process.  This assignment should focus on building interviewing skills. An extension activity to this lesson is examining portrait photography from the JEA Photojournalism Curriculum.

7. Once the project is complete, ask students to complete the self-evaluation handout for their project. Use “HONY project rubric” to assess the project.

8. Extension activity: have the students present their HONY project to the class.

Follow up

9. Pace the assignment with daily deadlines. Follow up and discuss daily interactions to help students to reflect and revise their approach.


Ways to differentiate this assignment:

1. Use a set list of interview questions (David Lynch’s Interview Project has a good sample list of questions). Have students follow the set list as a guide for consistent interviews so they can evaluate their interpersonal skills. This will help students be able to concentrate more on the interview rather than trying to think of follow up questions while their subject is talking.

2. Team up a photographer and reporter together to complete this project. The photographer should listen in on the interview and then follow up with the subject afterwards to create an environmental portrait reflective of the interview tone.