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Alternative formats and polls to enhance the news


This is a lesson introducing students to alternative ways of presenting news using a variety of text features. Students will create text features such as charts, lists, fast facts, how-to guides, maps, quote collections and annotated diagrams to enhance the news. The lesson continues with a step-by-step process for conducting polls that have some validity as news. Students will create valid polls based on appropriate sample size and procedures, testing of questionnaires and accurate reporting of results.


  • Students will evaluate the type of text features that can best enhance a particular news story.
  • Students will create text features of their own.
  • Students will design and conduct a valid poll.
  • Students will analyze the results of a poll they created.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.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.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.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience
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.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.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.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.


Two 50-minutes class periods (additional time to conduct and collate polls)


Slideshow: Polls & other info

Handout: Alternative story formats & polls

Rubric for polls

Lesson step-by-step


1. Tap prior knowledge — 5 minutes

Tell students that every news story does not have to be presented as an LQTQ or inverted pyramid story. Ask them for some ideas of text features they might create to help tell a news story.  What you’re looking for is to try to get students to tap into what they already know: Information can be presented in a variety of ways, not just as text in paragraphs. Get them to suggest ways that they know. Responses might include captions, text boxes, maps, diagrams and so forth. Explain that today’s lesson will provide them with some simple ways to create text features for their own news stories.

2. Present — 15-20 minutes

Present slides 1-16. Distribute the first page of the alternative story forms handout.  This reinforces and provides some examples of what is in the slide show.

3. Activity — Assignment A – 20 minutes

At this point, students should be already working on story assignments for the newspaper, website or TV news.  Assignment A asks them to create a text feature that goes along with the story they are already working on. Provide time in class for students to generate ideas and begin building the alternatives. As an option if there are no active story assignments, students may create a standalone version of one of the items, except the info box or fast facts box, which is really intended as supplemental information to a news or feature story.

4. Closure — 5 minutes

Ask students to share their ideas. Provide a deadline for turning in the alternative story  (with current story assignment or as standalone).


Grade the alternative story forms holistically based on effectiveness and completeness of information provided, graphic format, parallel construction and language conventions (style, spelling, grammar).


1. Introduce polls — 5 minutes

Remind students that polls were not covered in the previous day’s lesson on alternative story formats. That’s because polls have some special rules that are needed to make them valid as news. Just asking a few people a random question does not make an effective poll.

2. Present — 10-15 minutes

Present slides 17-30 and distribute the second page of the alternative story formats and polls handout. Go over the concepts of sampling, creating effective questionnaires and testing the questions before conducting a poll.

3. Assignment B — Create a Poll — 25 minutes

Before giving this assignment, check with other teachers and the administration to gain their cooperation for students conducting polls. To some extent, the sample procedure will be dictated by the level of cooperation you receive from other teachers willing to allow polling during their classes.

Divide students into groups of three, or allow them to choose groups. Ask them to create a poll with one or more questions on a topic that interests them and include the appropriate background questions needed to assure an effective sample. They must work together on questions and interviewing/polling students, but they may divide the following follow-up tasks: Sorting and counting all questionnaires; presenting data in a chart using Excel or other data program; writing a short news story of their findings.

Students will be graded both as a group and individually (see rubric provided).

4. Share questionnaires — 10-15 minutes

Students should test their questions on four other groups in the class. Students should turn in their sample questionnaires at the end of class.


Teachers should check all questionnaires to be sure the questions are appropriate and effectively written, and that all questionnaires include background information.

Use the rubric for polls to evaluate the completed polls.