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Writing headlines


This is a lesson introducing basic headline writing style and techniques. Over the course of several days, students will learn the terminology and techniques associated with headlines, as well as evaluate professional examples.


  • Students will be able to write headlines.
  • Students will be able to use correct style for headlines.
  • Students will be able to identify the types of headlines.

 Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2c Spell correctly.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3a Write and edit work so that it conforms to the guidelines in a style manual (e.g., MLA Handbook, Turabian’s Manual for Writers) appropriate for the discipline and writing type.


Five 50-minute class periods



Handout: Power of energy (includes four exercises and lesson keys)

Slideshow: Headlines

Handout: Headline guidelines

Magazines, newspapers, yearbooks or online news sites

Scissors/glue or smartphones

Sample stories with headlines removed

Lesson step-by-step

Day One

1. Direct instruction — 40 minutes

Use the headlines slideshow to present material as students take notes.

2. Practice and closure — 10 minutes

Provide time for students to try the prompts at the end of the presentation. You may need to explain “counts” as the number of blanks, which include letters, spaces and punctuation. Consider relating this to Twitter, as students are familiar with the 140-character limit.

Day Two

1. Guided practice — 40 minutes

Divide students into groups of three or four. Place copies of Exercise 2 and the headline guidelines handout in the center of the table. Discuss the guidelines and answer questions. Students will work in their groups to complete Exercise 2. Post these in the classroom or on a shared classroom website. Consider creating a competition among groups or offering an incentive for the best work produced.

2. Debrief and closure — 10 minutes

Compare answers and decide on the best for each prompt.

Day Three

1. Guided practice — 40 minutes

Provide each group with a stack of stories without headlines. Assign the maximum and minimum counts as well as the number of lines. Students will write completed headlines and tape the story below.

2. Compare and discuss — 10 minutes

Give students the actual headlines so they can compare their work with that of professionals.

Day Four

1. Introduction — 10 minutes

Whether appearing ion a yearbook spread or a newspaper doubletruck, expanded coverage often has an overall topic requiring a main headline and headlines for the stories included on the spread. This kind of coverage requires a lot of creativity and demands that words and ideas are not repeated. Explain the activity.

2. Skill development — 40 minutes

Divide students into groups of four or five to create dynamic headlines for the overall spread and for the individual stories on the spread. Compare and contrast among groups. Then have the class evaluate and choose from all entries which headlines are the best and could be used.

Complete Exercise 3.

Day Five

1. Practice — 50 minutes

Complete Exercise 5. Students can take pictures and create a slideshow or use the cut-and-paste method.