See 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
In our past articles on this series, we’ve been covering the subject of teaching kids how to start a newspaper. Our focus has mainly been on the ‘hard news’ style of print publishing. We’ve covered a lot about producing – and thus recognizing – quality news. However, there is a side to journalism that does bring out a different style of writing and coverage. This comes in magazines and ‘features’ (more in-depth areas of newspapers).
There is just as much merit in saying that good journalism expands into magazine-style publications, as it does newspapers. This is because there is certainly an audience that likes to read periodicals, but isn’t always looking for breaking news. Plus, magazines and ‘feature sections’ of newspapers attract revenue in the same way for publishing companies.
And, to be honest, the kids in your class are probably more familiar with magazines than they are with hard news. So this lesson may be fun for them, since they’ll be able to apply its lessons to their own interest-based reading material.
So in this article, we’re going to teach kids about magazines and feature articles. Let’s get started!
Teach kids the differences between a newspaper, a magazine and a feature story
The first step, of course, is to know what a magazine and a feature story are, in comparison to a newspaper. We gave some tips on writing news copy in earlier lessons, but those tips may not always apply to magazine or feature writing. This is because the audience, style, timeliness and length are going to be different.
Magazines and feature articles are longer, and more in depth. Feature articles are what usually show up in magazines, though they can be found in newspapers as well. They have more creative freedom and aren’t as bound by the restrictions of ‘getting to the point fast.’ They can take their time, so to speak, to tell a story fully.
They also have broader inclusions of acceptable topics. The elements that make a news story are stringent, whereas the elements that make a magazine or feature story could still include those relevant factors, while also highlighting a new angle, with a more focused approach.
In writing news copy, we learned that ‘writing tight’ is key. This is to make room for advertisements. While making room for advertisements is still important in magazine publishing, it doesn’t always mean a lesser word count per article. Thus, the writing can include things like adjectives, if it adds to the enjoyment of reading the story. The aim here is more for ‘digest’ and ‘leisure’ reading, rather than finding out the news as fast as possible.
This article we found explains that there are 4 main elements that make a magazine different from a newspaper. To use their words, they are:
- Design and layout
And this article goes into depth about how a journalist’s job is different when it comes to newspaper and magazines.
This PDF we found online highlights the types of feature articles, as well as great vocabulary to know when producing a feature or magazine article. It can also be used as a full lesson plan for teaching kids how to write a feature article.
This article explains with utmost clarity that feature stories are not just ‘softer’ stories. It also explains that the main difference has to do with writing style.
Use practice lessons to teach kids about magazines and features
Practice makes perfect! While you are teaching kids about how to start a newspaper, you can also teach them a new facet of journalistic writing: feature articles and magazine production.
Thankfully, there are some great resources ready-to-go for your lesson planning on this topic.
There is the PDF we linked to above, and these:
Magazine Production – Lesson (by Media Smarts)
Feature Writing Lesson Plans (by schooljournalism.org)
You can stick to one you like, or combine them, with your own additions and input, to teach magazines and feature article writing to your students.
Magazine and feature articles can be a fun way to teach kids about writing styles
As we brought up in our articles about writing news copy, there are different forms of writing styles. Kids in school may have been taught essay, book report or story writing in their English classes. But in the wider world that they’ll operate in after they graduate, they’ll soon realize the world doesn’t always write in those formats. But reading and being able to articulate in different styles can go a long way when putting ‘communication skills’ on a resume.
As mentioned above, kids are probably reading magazines already, or could certainly find a magazine on their interests. This may be a fun way to pretend to be a fashion writer, national geographic explorer or a Maker magazine contributor (see our article about Maker education to learn why kids may enjoy this topic).
In short, use their interests to start lessons on magazines and feature articles. In the end, they’ll be better equipped to communicate to new audiences, and to alter their writing style with a specific purpose in mind.