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Robert Roth
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Lesson Plans

Nursery Rhyme News

Nursery Rhyme News

Robert Roth of Laramie High School in Laramie, Wyoming.

Bob Roth
Laramie HighSchool
Laramie, Wyoming

Title: Nursery Rhyme News (with summary lead) and Feature (with novelty lead) Writing Assignment

Overview and Rationale:

  • The goal of this writing assignment is to write:
    • a news story with headline and a summary lead based upon the same childhood nursery rhyme.
    • a feature story with headline and a novelty lead based upon the same childhood nursery rhyme.
  • Students are to realize that from any “news event” (a nursery rhyme in this case) a reporter could write a news story (“hard news”) of a feature story (“soft news”) and gain an understanding between objective and subjective writing
  • For students to understand some of the basic differences between a news story and a feature story

Essential Questions:

  • What are some of the differences between a news story with a summary or news lead and a feature story with a novelty lead?
  • How are the two types of leads different?
  • Could a news story and a feature story be written on the same event?

Many times in newspaper reporting a news or feature story may be written based upon the same unit.

Basic terms:

  • Lead-opening elements of a newspaper story; usually, but not always, a summary statement; most leads can be classified either as summary or novelty
  • Summary or news lead- usually written for a news story; the briefest possible summary of a story; a one sentence opening paragraph of no more than 25 or 30 words which attempts to answer only the most important 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why) and H (How); a summary or news lead is usually written for a story which uses the inverted pyramid form for news (facts are written in order of decreasing importance)
  • Novelty or feature lead-occasionally interest may be obtained for a story it can be “pepped up” with a novelty lead, one that features the feature or significant, interesting details in a novel or original way. Usually such a lead is appropriate for stories that are of completely straight news, those bordering on the feature type. Some examples of novelty leads: punch or astonisher lead, descriptive or background leads, exclamatory, direct quotation, question and short sentence.
  • Objective writing – writing that is the goal in news writing; converts a news event into a very precise, impersonal description (example in journalism: a news story;
  • Subjective writing – writing that expresses the thoughts, feelings or individually of the writer (examples in journalism: feature stories and columns, editorials, letters to editor; examples outside journalism: autobiographies and friendly letters)

Source: Scholastic Journalism. Earl English and Clarence Hatch.


  • A handout with various traditional nursery rhymes or book(s) with nursery rhymes could be brought to class.
  • Word processor and/or paper and pen
  • Daily newspaper (for examples of summary and novelty leads)
  • Journalism textbook (optional). (See chapters on lead writing and/or summary and novelty leads.)

Overviews and Timelines:

Activity One

  • After completing news and feature story units, students would be given this assignment. This could also be a fun assignment between newspaper deadlines to add some variety. Students could also be given this assignment if they finish their assignment prior to newspaper deadline.
  • Instructor could quickly review principles of summary (5 W’s and H) and novelty (see types of novelty lead above). (See also journalism textbook). A review of objective and subjective writing is also important
  • Instructor could also provide a handout with some of the more popular nursery rhymes or childhood nursery rhyme books could be brought to class. Students could also write titles of their favorite nursery rhymes on board.
  • Students could then Select one nursery rhyme and write (in computer lab or in classroom) a news story with summary lead and then a feature story with a novelty lead.
  • If time allows, students could describe some of the differences between their two stories and/or students may read/share stories especially their summary or novelty leads.
  • A nursery rhyme “anthology” could then be compiled with the students’ news and feature stories.


  • The two stories (news and feature) could be graded the same way a teacher would assess a news or feature story. For this assignment an acceptable (pass) or unacceptable (fail) grade on the leads could be given. Assessment would be based upon the following criteria:
    • An acceptable news or summary lead:
    • one sentence paragraph of no more than 25 to 30 words
    • objective
    • summarizes the most important (but not necessarily all) of the 5 W’s and H
    • “features the feature” or main point of the story
    • second and all other paragraphs in story may be eliminated and story still makes sense
    • free of mechanical errors
  • Example


    EXAMPLE: (Based upon Jack and Jill nursery rhyme)

    LARAMIE, WYO. (AP) Jack was reported in good condition Monday at Ivinson Memorial Hospital after suffering a head injury while getting a pail of water.

  • An acceptable novelty or feature lead:
    • may be one or more sentences
    • subjective
    • does not summarize the entire story
    • requires writer to be creative
    • “pulls” or “hooks” (encourages) the reader to read the rest of the story after novelty or feature lead
    • second and all other paragraphs needed for story to make sense
    • free of mechanical errors

    LARAMIE, WYO. (AP) Sometimes a simple task chore can result in unfortunate results.

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