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The right source


This is a lesson on choosing the best sources for a story and preparing questions for each. After choosing a topic and an angle in a previous lesson, students will prepare to write by choosing the right sources, writing appropriate questions and conducting background research with appropriate sources as needed.


  • Students will identify the appropriate sources for a specific news story.
  • Students will determine what they need to know for the news story to be complete.
  • Students will formulate questions for each source.
  • Students will organize and plan ahead to meet deadline.

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.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.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.


50 minutes (or less)


Student-generated story ideas from Finding the news.

Handout: 5W’s questions

Handout: Story prep worksheet

Lesson step-by-step

This lesson usually does not take an entire class period. It may be combined with a warm-up from Lead writing exercises or a current event (See Analyze the pros).

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Explain to students that today they’ll be planning and preparing to write their first news story from scratch. Ask: “Does it matter who you interview?” (If they have already done some of the work in the News Gathering curriculum, they will certainly answer YES, it does matter.) Ask students for examples of good and bad sources. Good sources are experts in the topic because they are involved in an event or they are knowledgeable on the topic because of advanced study or personal experience. Bad sources are those who know nothing about the topic but are being quoted just because the student reporter needs a quote. Remind students of balance: Their sources also should reflect a variety of viewpoints or stakeholders in the topic.

2. Think-pair-share — 20 minutes

Next, ask students to choose a partner or assign partners. Assign students to share their story idea with their partner. Before they share their questions or sources, partners should suggest sources and ask questions related to their partner’s story idea. Students should discuss sources for both partners’ stories and formulate additional questions for each source.

Distribute the “5W’s questions” handout to each pair. Students should continue adding to their lists of questions.

3. Present — 10 minutes

Distribute the story prep handout. Explain that this is preparation for each story they write. Go over the entire form and explain again about the importance of getting the right sources. Provide time for questions. Elicit examples from students. Students should turn in completed Story Prep assignments by the end of class.


Evaluate the story prep assignment according to the rubric below.


Fair(1 point) Good(3 points) Excellent(5 points) Total points
Topic and angle The topic is of interest but the angle is too general to yield an interesting story. The topic is of interest and the angle is timely and specific. The topic is of interest to readers and the angle offers a fresh, unusual or unique approach. ____ / 5
Sources Sources are not all appropriate to the topic or do not all have a clear viewpoint or stake in the story. Fewer than three sources are listed. At least three complete sources are listed. Sources are varied and specific, but a key viewpoint or expert is missing. At least three complete sources are listed. Sources are varied and specific to the topic and angle. Conflicting viewpoints or a variety of stakeholders are listed in the source lists. ____ / 5
Questions Some key questions are missing. Questions are not open-ended. All 5W’s and H are covered and most key questions are open-ended. Key questions are open-ended and designed to elicit information. All 5W’s and H are covered. ____ / 5
Planning Planning is incomplete. Most planning steps have dates assigned. All planning steps have dates assigned and photography is planned. ____ / 5
Total points ____ / 20


Continue to this culminating activity to have students continue with writing their own news story.