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Mary Ellen Bell
Language arts teacher
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Lesson Plans

Incorporating diversity into the school newspaper




Incorporating diversity into the school newspaper

Mary Ellen Bell of Lamphere High School in Madison Heights, Mich.

Mary Ellen Bell
English and journalism teacher
Lamphere High School
Madison Heights, Mich.

Title:  Incorporating diversity into the school newspaper

Unit Overview and Rationale  

As the United States becomes more diverse, so too does the school environment.  Good school newspapers, like good professional newspapers, must reflect the changing population of their communities. This is accomplished in two major ways: recruiting a diverse news staff and writing about people from different cultures, races and beliefs.  This plan will address the issue of diversity inclusion in the school newspaper.  It is the intention that by exposing the students and staff to “diversity stories,” students of varying backgrounds will be encouraged to voice their own issues and stories.

Unit Objectives

During this four-day unit on diversity, the teaching will use class lecture, small group activities, and discussion to:

  • understand diversity and its importance to the press
  • analyze the diversity of the high school community
  • analyze the diversity of the wider local community
  • expose the staff to diversity stories in daily newspapers and magazines
  • recognize stories in professional newspapers and magazines that reflect diversity
  • expose student staffers to journalists of color

Understanding Goals

  • Essential Questions
    • Do newspapers have a responsibility to represent all aspects of diverse populations?
    • Does our staff and our newspaper stories and photos reflect our school’s diversity?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • Analyze stories of diversity with this question: Do these stories cast a positive, negative or neutral light on the group represented?
    • What various ethnic and racial groups are represented in our school and community?
    • How does this compare nationally?
    • Do stories and photos in past editions reflect our newspaper’s commitment to diversity?

Activities

Activity 1

  • The teacher will ask student to identify diverse and minority groups in the United States. As students respond, the teacher will write the responses on the board. 
  • The teacher will then ask students to identify which of these groups is presented within the school population (underline or circle these).
  • The teacher will then pass out to students a variety of newspapers and magazines. Each student will receive at least two different daily newspapers and one national magazine. The students’ instructions are:
    • Look through the publications
    • Search out stories that reflect a diverse/minority population
    • Find at least five stories of varying length
    • Cut out or photocopy the article, then read the article
    • Write a brief summary of each article and attach it to the article
    • Search for writers that represent a diverse/minority population
    • Each student should find at least five journalists of color. Hint: Use Ask a Pro on www.highschooljournalism.org.
    • List on a piece of paper the names of the journalists, their newsroom positions, their newspaper, and the diverse/minority group he or she represents.

Activity 2

  • The teacher will instruct the students to form small groups (three to four students)
  • During the first half of class, the students will share their summaries and lists of names with the members of the group.
  • The students will discuss/debate the following:
  • What minority groups/populations were represented as writers?
  • What type of stories did these writers cover?
  • Did the writers refer to their “membership” in this group?
  • Was the writer’s tone or style evident of this membership?
  • What populations are represented by the stories?
  • Do these stories cast a positive, negative or neutral light on the group represented?
  • Is the group’s history or culture given as background information?
  • In what ways did the writer collect background information?
  • What else did you notice?
  • What other questions, concerns do you have?
  • Examine past issues of the student newspaper. Asking the following questions:
    • Do the majority of the student newspaper’s stories reflect the school’s diversity?
    • Do the photos reflect diverse groups within the school community?
  • During the remaining time, each group will share its findings with the rest of the class. Ideally, the discussion should lead to a commitment to increase diversity coverage. The exercise might include a plan to recruit minority students through announcements, posters, an open house and ads or appeals for stories within the newspaper. 

Activity 3

  • The teacher will lecture and discuss the newspaper’s responsibility to represent all aspects of diverse populations, then lead a question and answer period.
  • The teacher will instruct the students to form groups of four students (different from the previous day).
  • The students will review the stories and brainstorm, with the goal of finding “school” stories that are similar to or spin off from the stories they Selected from newspapers and magazines.
  • Each group will develop a list of at least ten story ideas; two each for news, feature, sports, entertainment and opinion.
  • The teacher will make five columns on the board or on long sheets of paper: news, sports, entertainment, feature, and opinion (use different colors of markers).
  • The students will list their story ideas under the appropriate column.

Activity 4

  • The class will briefly review the story ideas from the previous day.
  • The teacher will share some story examples that feature diversity, gleaned from newspapers, magazines and student publications.
  • The students will add to the columns if necessary
  • The students will each Select a story to write for the school newspaper.
Assessment

Students will be evaluated based on my standard point system for stories and deadlines. For example, my students receive points for:

  • Setting up interviews and photo shoots
  • Using proper interview techniques
  • Writing and revising the story
  • Incorporating relevant photos, graphics, info boxes, etc.
  • Achieving the focus of the story
  • Achieving AP style writing, with no errors
  • Meeting with section editors for coaching
  • Verifying quotes and facts
  • Submitting a suggested page layout
    • Copy
    • Photos
    • Headlines
    • Cutlines
  • Submitting story and photo disk to editors
  • Meeting deadline

Grading can be adapted by other teachers/advisers according to their own rubrics.

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