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What’s in the middle of your feature?


In this lesson, students will learn how to organize the middle of a feature story and maintain a thematic connection throughout.

For additional information on using quotations in writing, see the lesson Using quotes.


  • Students will be able to explain, orally or in writing, how features can be tied together thematically.
  • Students will analyze a variety of features and explain how those features are constructed/organized and how the author wove a theme throughout.
  • Students will apply their understanding of thematic development to their own writing.

Common Core State Standards

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.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
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.9-10.4 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.9-10.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.


Two 50-minute periods


Student feature materials from previous lessons (feature story idea and possible source from building background lesson, theme/topic statement from finding the theme lesson)

Literary devices/techniques handout

Lede and ending drafts from start strong, end strong lesson 

Lesson step-by-step

1. Connection — 5 minutes

Review the last lesson by eliciting responses: What is one thing you learned in our last lesson about feature ledes? What did you learn about feature endings?

Shift the focus to today’s lesson: the middle of the story.

2. Direct instruction & exploration — 30 minutes

The middle of a feature needs to be carefully constructed. In addition to facts, you must build in descriptions, explanations, anecdotes and quotes to give your reader the repetition he needs to understand the story or concept. You must then organize all of those things in a way that makes sense to your theme.

Explore the following features. Have students work independently or in pairs. Divide feature among pairs or individuals so each has four to five to work with and each piece is being analyzed by more than one person/pair in the class. Students should skim and label the examples, looking for how information is grouped. Ideas are broken into sections. What are the sections, and what is the purpose for the grouping? Direct each group to annotate their examples. They should label sections and note the purpose of each section.

Samples to analyze:

“Slowly chipping away”

“For the love of the game”

“Tracking every move”


“Tradition and Trouble: Gotcha”

“Dying to be thin”

“A budget divided”

“An evil addiction”

“Expression in Hiding”

“Sedaris Fever”

“A look behind the curtain”

“Paving the way”

“Rising above the ashes”

“Stepping up the sound”

3. Discussion — 10 minutes

Go through each feature, asking those who analyzed each to comment on the following:

  • How was the feature organized?
  • How did that organization aid understanding?
  • How did that organization serve to support theme or topic?

4. Direct instruction & exploration — 15 minutes
nce you’ve decided how to organize your story, you can load in the information. A good format is fact – example – quote. Layer these throughout your story. A general outline for your feature may look something like this:

  • Narrative lead – News stories typically use a summary lede. Features may block out the first two or three grafs to set the scene and invite the reader into the story.
  • Big quote #1 (the best quote you’ve got)
  • Nut graf – The third or fourth graf should tell the reader why this story is important. It answers “So what? What’s this story got to do with anything? Why should I care?” A graf or two of background should be placed high up in the story to get the reader up to speed. It should lay out what the story is all about while it connects the reader to the story.
  • Body – Avoid lengthy and complicated grafs. Instead, use the following:
    • Transition (fact)
    • Additional information (example)
    • Quote
    • [Repeat the T-A-Q pattern as many times as necessary]
  • Ending – Features typically end with a quotation (Big Quote #2 – This is your clincher if you choose to end on a quote. It’s your second best.) or a surprising climax. Or they may end where they started by circling back to the lede with a similar situation or event or even the same person.

5. Assignment — 35 minutes

Students should continue working on their feature stories, focusing today on structure – both the overall organization (grouping ideas) and the finer structure of layering fact, example, quote.

6. Exit ticket — 5 minutes

Report out: What did you learn about organization in the past two days that you applied to your feature? What did you do with your story, and how has what you learned helped you? Be specific.