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Lesson Plans

Starting strong, staying focused

Bo Moore of Bowden High School in Bowden, Ga., and the University of West Georgia.

Bo Moore
student instructor (University of West Georgia)
Bowdon High School
Bowdon, Ga.

Title: Starting strong, stayingfocused

Overall Objective

Students should understand the basic elements of lead writing. In addition, students should also understand the importance of story focus and why it is important.


  • Students will understand there are many different types of leads.
  • Students will understand leads are different when you write some types of stories – news, sports and especially features.
  • Students will understand that leads are best when they paint a picture the reader can understand, driving them into a setting to prepare for the story.
  • Students will understand story focus is important because the nature of newspapers. People tend to read newspapers for quick information. If the focus is not present, readers will turn away.
  • Students will understand basic elements to achieve story focus. Facts vs. assumptions?

Materials: Copies of newspaper articles that contain good examples of leads.

Activities: (30 minutes)

  • Introduction: When you get in your car to go to your favorite hangout, how did you get there? What roads would you take? So, would you say that you had a plan or road map in your head?A story map works much the same way as a road map to help with story focus.
  • Start with the facts.
    • What do you have to say to your reader?
    • Think of the most important thing that you want to tell your reader.
    • Now, make story map of what the important facts are.
    • What does the reader want to know?
    • What will knock their socks off?
    • What is the least important information?
    • Read the story handout and make a list of the facts.
    • What were the important facts?
    • What was the main focus, or message, of the article?
    • Looking at the last five paragraphs, if that information was deleted from the story, would you still understand the focus of the article?
  • Pyramidal structure = story focus.
    • Focus of a story begins with the lead.
    • What makes a lead a good lead?
    • Balance of facts
    • Supports theme and focus.
    • Sets the stage for story.
    • Grasps the reader’s ATTENTION! (important)
  • Feature?
    • Human touching side
    • Reoccurring sentimental feeling
  • Sports?
    • Spirit
    • Energy
    • Power
    • Dominance
    • Overcoming obstacles
  • News?
    • Hard
    • No ASSUMING – all FACTS
    • To the points with supporting facts to help the main news fact
  • Look at the lead of the article.
    • How does it make you feel?
    • Did it grab your attention?
    • How important is the lead to this story?
    • Leads in general?
  • Weaving the lead and story focus together
    • How do the interact?
    • Lead starts, supports the focus, the focus supports the lead.
    • Why are they both essential in a good story?
    • Keeps the reader informed of facts.
    • Gives them the most important facts first
    • Focus leaves out the nonessentials and organizes information

Assessment (20 minutes):

  • Have the students read the article given by the instructor.
  • Then, have the students create a story map as shown earlier.
    • What kind of story is the article?
    • What is the main point of the story?
    • Is the story focus?
    • Pyramidal structure?
    • News, sports or features?
  • Now, have the students rewrite the lead in their own words.
    • What kind of lead did you write? What type was it?
    • Does it make a point and grab the reader with a setting for the article?
  • Have the students look at the end of the article again.
    • Then, have them write what facts could have been left out?
    • Is there any facts that you think should have been in the article?
  • Finally, refine the idea of story focus.
    • How was the story focused?
    • Did go off track at any time?
    • Could you cut the article at any given point because of good focus?
    • Improvements?

Have students write atleast two paragraphs with detail:

What I learned today was . . . What surprised me was . . . What I want to learn more about is . .. .

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