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Writing news briefs


This is a lesson on how to write effective briefs and short news stories. Based on their understanding of the 5W’s and H, students will write short news items or briefs from existing school news.


  • Students will gather information through interviewing appropriate sources and conducting research on the Internet as necessary.
  • Students will use facts and quotes they have gathered to write a short news story.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5 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.
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.WHST.11-12.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1d Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
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.9-10.7 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.


Two partial class periods. This lesson can be used on a shorter day or in combination with a follow up from a previous lesson.


Handout: News brief rubric

Information from daily announcements, school calendar, fliers, etc.

Lesson step-by-step
1. Tap prior knowledge — 5 minutes
Ask students what they know about writing a lead. Students should be able to answer that they need the 5W’s and H and that the lead should grab readers or draw them to the story. Explain that writing briefs isn’t much different than writing a lead. Briefs need to tell the 5 W’s succinctly and clearly, in as few words as possible. Briefs are written in inverted pyramid style. They may or may not require quotes, but it’s best to always have a quote available. Ask: “What kinds of stories are best as briefs?” Answers should be club news, game recaps, event announcements. Briefs are excellent for including a great deal of “small” news in a newspaper or website. The challenge is to make them interesting.

2. Present the assignment — 5-10 minutes
Before class, collect as many current calendar items, club reports, athletic reports and school announcements as possible. You may need to ask coaches and club sponsors to send you items, or save some from your publication’s beat reporters if you are using this activity for a beginning journalism class. Announce to students that they will write briefs based on current school news. It is likely that all of the information they need will NOT be available from the announcements, calendar items and coaches’ reports.

3. Write for publication — 20 minutes
First, have students list the 5 W’s and H for their story.  They also should list at least two people who would know any missing information and could provide context or background. Then they are ready to write. Students must turn in a complete, publishable double-spaced short news story of 50 to 100 words based on the information.

3A.  Alternative activity
If students need more practice writing short items, go to the Lead writing exercise presentation. Most of the slides can be used for practice writing briefs with the news brief rubric.

4. Homework
If you are not using the alternative activity, students should be given a day or more to collect information they need to write complete briefs based on the real-life information they have been assigned. Provide a deadline by which they must hand in their papers or file their news briefs using whatever electronic system you use (Google Drive, server, Dropbox, Edmodo, etc.)

5. Follow-up
After they have written a draft of their briefs, have students read a brief by another student and evaluate it according to the news brief rubric. Ask them to discuss the strengths as well as any missing information or areas for improvement. Students should revise their briefs before they submit a final version to be graded.


Use the news brief rubric to assess students’ brief writing.