This is our third lesson on teaching kids how to start a newspaper. Here are links to the other articles in this series:
- Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (1): understanding the fundamentals of media
- Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (2): the elements of a news story
- Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (3): learning to write news copy (part 1)
- Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (3): learning to write news copy (part 2)
- Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (4): learning to research and identify sources of information
- Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (5): learning to critique the media and spot ‘fake news’
- Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (6): tips and resources for fact checking
- Teaching kids how to start a newspaper (7): covering magazines and feature stories
In this 2-part article, we will cover the next step to newspaper development: learning to write news copy. This is where things get practical and fun, and less theoretical, as in our first two lessons in this series.
This lesson can also be incorporated into an English or writing class, if you wanted to make a ‘theme’ of teaching news and media in your classroom. This way, the lessons can span across various existing subjects taught at school.
Teach kids how to write news copy: a different style of writing
Writing for the news is different than other types of writing. However, the skill of writing for the news can make anyone a better writer and communicator (according to our humble opinion). We’ll find out why below!
In your writing class, you can teach children that writing takes many forms. There is poetry, novel writing, essay writing and then there is news reporting.
This lesson plan has sections on writing news, and how to approach the writing of a news article. We encourage you to check it out, if it helps with your own lesson planning on this subject. It certainly goes into more detail than we can here.
Teach kids about the inverted pyramid method of writing and reporting
News reporting is different because it uses the most important information at the top, often in the first sentence. It’s called the inverted pyramid model of writing. This means that instead of ending with a conclusion, you start with one. It’s a much more straight-to-the-point way of writing. This is in comparison to say, storytelling, which works up to its climax, instead of starting with it.
Teach kids how to write an effective lead
The inverted pyramid method of writing also includes the 5 Ws and H in its first sentence. There are other types of introductory sentences to teach when covering journalism writing. These are referred to as “leads” in a newspaper story.
Here are resources for teaching students how to write a lead:
And, here is a lesson kit that teaches both the inverted pyramid and lead writing for students:
Teach kids to write simple, to attract larger audiences
Teaching kids to write with simple words is a big lesson to learn when teaching how to start a newspaper. Many newspapers aim to write simply to be able to attract larger audiences. Big words can be overwhelming, slow readers down and take up too much space in an article. Also, newspapers aim to target multiple education levels.
This is what the Guardian has to say about writing simply, and it’s importance in good journalism:
“Do not, as a writer, show off your extensive vocabulary. It is never better, wherever you are writing, to prefer the less familiar word – “wordy” is always better than “prolix”. Nobody is impressed by the use of a word they do not understand or would not use in everyday speech. The danger of talking down to the audience – assuming vocabulary as well as knowledge – is that it insults readers, makes them feel inadequate. And that turns them off and, worse, turns them away. They do not read on, and you have not communicated with them.
…So the overriding message in journalistic writing is: Keep It Simple.”
This can be a new concept to some students, especially those who have been formerly trained to write with flowery words. In fact, it can be a hard method to adapt after being taught creative writing or essay writing in English class. However, it’s an important lesson to teach students, as much of popular culture today uses simpler English. Thus, it is the language many use to communicate daily. The important thing is making sure you are understood, to be a better communicator.
This does not take away the importance of growing your vocabulary, however! Lessons taught in English class need to be taught in their context, of course.
To conclude: learning to write for the news teaches various forms of writing
News writing can teach kids about writing styles and writing structures. It can also help them ‘think’ sequentially, and exercise ways of relaying information in different ways. And of course, it can teach them about the history and method of news reporting, which is today used frequently in the online world.
We’re not done yet! In our next article in this series, we’ll cover more on how to teach students to write news copy. For example, a big topic in writing news copy is learning how to write tight.