The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory presents "Let's Write a Newspaper Story!"
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Howard County Essential Objectives
Lesson Plan

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Students will be transformed into reporters who write newspaper stories that can be pasted up into a class newspaper.

Students will:

  • Identify the purposes of a newspaper
  • Apply the Who -What -When -Where -Why -How writing technique
  • Write an effective lead
  • Use basic editing principles
  • Apply basic layout principles
  • Produce a class newspaper (optional)

Students will demonstrate the ability to write a newspaper story following guidance given by this course, the Maryland State Department of Education Performance Standards, and Howard County Essential Objectives. (See the MSDE Standards and Howard County Essential Objectives pages for details.)

Lesson Overview:
After learning about writers and what they do, each student will write a newspaper story. Students will select one of four stories found on this site, using information on the story page to write the story — or they may choose their own story topic (see story suggestions on "Pick Your Own Story" page). Students will edit their own stories, write a headline, lay out the newspaper (including photos or graphics, as appropriate), and may produce a class newspaper.

You may download a formatted, printable copy of this entire lesson plan by clicking on the links directly below.

Download a printable version of this entire lesson plan here.    

Lesson Plan

Let's Write a Newspaper Story!


Motivation and Prior Knowledge:

Think, Pair, Share Exercise: Ask the class, "Who wants to be a writer? Why?" Have the class think quietly about this question for a minute. Ask students to pair up with a partner or in groups and share their thoughts. Then have the students share with you. Record their answers on a blackboard, making sure to write the child's name after each shared idea.

Ask the class, "What are some of the different types of professional writing in the world?" Record the responses of the groups, which may include:

Types of Writing:

  • Novels
  • Short stories
  • Non-fiction
  • Plays
  • Movies
  • Poetry
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Advertising
  • Public relations

On the board write the title: What is it like to be a writer? Underneath the title have two columns:

1) Good and

2) Not so good

Ask the class, "What are some good and not so good things about being a writer?" Record their answers, which may include:


  • Travel
  • Meet interesting people
  • Learn new things
  • Get to create
  • Many readers
  • Can influence people

Not so good

  • Deadlines
  • Editors change things
  • People may not like what you write

Think, Pair, Share Exercise:
Ask the class, "What does it take to be a writer?" Have the class think silently about the question for a minute. Have students pair with a partner or in groups and share their thoughts. Then have them share their thoughts with you and record them on the board.

Being a Writer

  • Good knowledge of English. Think of CUPS: Capitalization, Use of words, Punctuation, Spelling.
  • Good knowledge of your field, general knowledge of everything.
  • Good observational skills: What did the team do after they won? What did the woman say when she got her lost dog back? Remember colors, sounds, sequence of events, and words of people what you need to create the event.
  • Persistence: Write and rewrite until you think it's perfect. Go after the story, dig for facts, get quotes to make it interesting, do your best for the readers.
  • Thick skin: Not every teacher or editor or reader will like everything you write. Get used to it.
  • Hard work. Writers are made, very seldom born. Tiger Woods has a great natural swing but he works out a lot and hits at least 1,000 practice shots a day.

Additional Exercises:

How to Read a Newspaper - Bring newspapers to class and ask students why reading a newspaper is important. When that has been discussed, hand out the newspapers. Go through the "Before-During-After" reading strategies below for understanding and getting the most out of a newspaper story.

- Preview the text
- Read captions
- Look at subtitles
- Predict what the story might be about

- Look at the bold print words
- Look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary
- Clarify information by rereading text

- Summarize the text
- Create a visual image
- Think of prior knowledge
- Connect new information with prior knowledge
- Share new information with someone

Have students practice these strategies with their newspapers, then share what they've learned with you and the class. The test of whether you understand a newspaper story is: "Can you explain it to somebody else?"

Importance of Newspapers - Ask the class, "Why are newspapers important to our community? What kind of information do they provide to link us to our political and social structure?" Have the class think silently about the question for a minute, then ask them to pair with a partner or in groups and share their thoughts. Have them share their thoughts with you and the class and record them on the board.

Scavenger Hunt - Prepare a list of items students will have to locate in the newspaper (headline, a sale price, comic strip, sport scores, movies review, etc.). Give a time limit for the scavenger hunt.


Review previous lesson as a lead-in to today's activity, which is writing a newspaper story. Hand out the "Task: Let's Write a Newspaper Story" sheet and discuss it. Talk about the five different story scenarios. Show students the information sheet for each story. Ask them to pick which story they want to write and, using the Task sheet, write three reasons why they chose that topic.

Download a printable version of the "Task" sheet here.

Discuss any criteria the class thinks should be included in their stories and tell them to record this information on their Task sheets. Tell them that there will be more criteria as the lesson advances.

Distribute the "Tips From the Pros" sheet to all students. Read and discuss the items. Ask if any more criteria should be included on their Task sheet. Guide them.

Download a printable version of the "Tips from the Pros" sheet here.

Distribute and discuss the "Writing to Inform" sheet, which explains the DOAL (Development, Organization, Attention to Audience, Language) guidelines for effective writing. This sheet also contains a list of Linking Words and Phrases that students can use to introduce and organize ideas, work details into their story, and begin the conclusion.

Download a printable version of the "Writing to Inform" sheet here.

Distribute and discuss the "Visual Organizer" sheet, which helps students include vital information in their stories and write a good lead sentence that grabs the reader.

Download a printable version of the "Visual Organizer" sheet here.

Give students a word count limit (e.g., 200) and a deadline for their stories. Have the students begin writing, using their different resources:

  • Task Sheet
  • Tips From the Pros
  • Writing to Inform
  • Story Information Page
  • Visual Organizer

NOTE: This writing assignment can be started in class and continued at home, with perhaps a one-week deadline.


Distribute the "Edit Your Story" page. Review the basic principles of editing and have the students complete the short editing exercise at the bottom of the sheet. Go over the exercise with the class.

Download a printable version of the "Edit Your Story" sheet here.

Ask students to edit their own stories, applying the principles they have just learned. Allow enough time for the process and stand by to answer any questions the students may have.


  • Ask students to edit each other's stories.

At the end of the editing process, all stories should be in a printed, one-column format.


NOTE: At this point, you may decide to use the students' stories to produce a newspaper in fact, several newspapers.

Divide the class into several groups, each working on their own separate newspaper. For example, with a class of 30, there could be two groups of 15.

Producing the Newspaper:
With edited stories in hand, distribute the "Newspaper Layout" sheet and discuss layout principles with the class.

Download a printable version of the "Newspaper Layout" sheet here.

Within each group, assign students the following different job responsibilities:

  1. Have each group decide on a name for their newspaper. Record all ideas and have the group vote.
  2. Design the newspaper banner (using the voted-on newspaper name).
  3. Draw pictures for the stories (as needed).
  4. Locate photographs or cut out pictures from magazine to illustrate stories.
  5. Lay out the paper, placing stories according to their importance.

The end product for each group will be a pasted-up, two-page (or more) newspaper. The paper can then be reproduced and distributed.

NOTE: For sample layouts, see the three student newspapers at the end of this lesson.


  1. Xerox the newspapers.
  2. If PageMaker or other design/layout software is available, the class can produce a "slicker" version of the newspaper, which can then be printed (perhaps in color) for distribution.
  3. Take the finished product to a printing store and have them print it in color for a nominal fee.


Think, Pair, Write Exercise - Distribute the "What I Have Learned" worksheet.

Download a printable version of the "What I Have Learned" sheet here.

Have students preview and think about the different questions:

  1. What have you learned about writing a newspaper story? List five specific examples.
  2. What did you like about being a reporter? Give two specific examples to support your answer.
  3. Would you ever want to become a reporter? Give two reasons why or why not?

Have students pair up with a partner to discuss the questions and record their ideas on their worksheets.

When the students have completed the worksheets, lead a class discussion of the three questions and the various student answers.


  • Observe student participation.
  • Read newspaper stories and compare to criteria.
  • Read and evaluate "What I Have Learned."


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