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Carrie Holmberg
Journalism teacher
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Lesson Plans

What Purposes Do Publications Serve?

What Purposes Do Publications Serve?

Carrie Holmberg of Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, Calif.

Carrie Holmberg
Wilcox High School
Santa Clara, Calif.

Title: What Purposes Do Publications Serve?

Long-term objective:

Students will be able to recognize the different roles that the different sections of the newspaper play. They will be able to recognize overlap in the purposes of informing, persuading, and entertaining. This knowledge will help them write better news pieces and editorials.

Specific object of this lesson:

Students will understand that publications serve to inform, persuade, and to entertain (besides make money) and great editorials often do all three.


  • Students cut newspapers up into pieces that “dominantly inform,” “dominantly persuade,” and “dominantly entertain” and tape them to poster paper divided into these three categories.
  • Students rate the pieces they choose according to the Pippa Norris Five.
  • Class discusses what got put where; commonalities; differences.


  • Butcher or poster paper.
  • Scissors for all pairs of students
  • Tape
  • Copies of the Pippa Norris Five continuum (see below)


  • Students will work in pairs. Have each pair divide a large piece of butcher paper into three equal sections. Have students label them “to inform,” “to persuade,” and “to entertain.”
  • Each pair needs a student or professional newspaper to cut up.
  • Instruct pairs to cut the newspaper up. Have them tape pieces to the category that best fits what that piece does. There should be some discussion/confusion about where a political cartoon goes, etc.
  • Using the half-sheet handout that follows, have students rate three stories/articles/letters/reviews, etc. on their poster according to the Pippa Norris Five.
  • Students report out what kinds of things they put in each section. Teacher highlights commonalities such as editorials in “to persuade” and comics in “to entertain,” etc. Teacher asks what difficulties they had in deciding placements.
  • Teacher asks, “What was the value in having you do this?” AND “What was FAKE about it?” (The aspects of informing, entertaining, and persuading often overlap, especially in editorials.)

Extension activities:

  • Give students copies of a model editorial that entertains as well as informs and persuades. Have student use three different color highlighters to mark the parts the editorial that inform, entertain, and persuade.
  • Bring in a variety of publications including a school newsletter, a shopper/coupon rag, a teen magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and several student publications). Have students consider the entire publication, then draw a pie chart diagram of its balance/imbalance of purposes (inform, persuade, entertain, make money). Discuss struggles, resulting pie charts.


Analyze Using the “Pippa Norris Five”*


Informative <—–+———–+———-+————-+———–+———–+———-> Superficial


Accurate & Truthful <—–+———–+———-+————-+———–+———–+———-> False & Deceptive


Objective <—–+———–+———-+————-+———–+———–+———-> Biased

Points of View

Pluralistic (many) <—–+———–+———-+———-+———–+———-+———-> Insular viewpoint (few/local)

Balance (length, quotes, etc.)

Balanced <—–+———–+———-+———-+———+———–+———-> Weighted


Newspaper: _____________________________________

Section:_____________ Title/Headline: _____________________________________________

*I learned of this from Kevin Wittman’s lesson “How Does the Public Judge What is a Good News Source?”

Different type of writing have different focuses

This diagram can be helpful when talking about different areas of focus for different types of writing (that persuasive writing focuses on the reader, that informative writing focuses on the subject, and that expressive writing focuses on the writer). [The word “message” is inside a triangle. Double-arrowed lines run between each point of the triangle.]





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