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Feature Writing: Where do I begin? Writing an effective feature story

Rebecca Helmer of Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas.

Rebecca Helmer
Concordia Lutheran High School
Tomball, Texas

Title: Feature Writing: Where do I begin? Writing an effective feature story.

Overview and Rational for Unit

Feature writing is the primary form of writing that Concordia’s student newspaper produces. The students will learn the steps of writing an effective feature story including interviewing, taking notes, writing the lead, and deciding on an overall theme to the piece. These skills the students will use repeatedly over the course of the year.

Goals for Understanding

  • Plan and write relevant questions for an interview or in-depth research.
  • Report and write for publications.
  • Essential Question
    • What is a feature story?
  • Critical Questions
    • How do I interview someone?
    • What kinds of questions should be asked?
    • How do I set up an appointment?
    • How does a reporter take notes?
    • What elements are included in a lead?
    • How is a feature story constructed?

Activities

Activity 1: Writing Interview Questions/Conducting the Interview

  • Students will write 10 interview questions to ask the instructor. These questions will require more than just a yes/no answer.
  • The students and the teacher will hold a mock press conference, and the students will practice asking the questions and taking notes.
  • Notes will be divided into two separate sections: quotations and paraphrased statements. After the interview students will divide their notes from the most important details to the least important.

Activity 2: Writing the Lead

  • On the overhead the instructor will lecture on leads using several examples of leads. The students will then write a lead based on their interviews.

Activity 3: Handling Quotes

  • Students will Select the most important quotes from the interview and will write the quote on the chalkboard. Then the instructor will explain how to use attribution and how to set up the quote.

Activity 4: What is a feature story?

  • Using examples of feature stories from the newspaper, students will identify the difference between a news story and a feature story.
  • Explain the different types of feature stories:
    • personality profile
    • human interest
    • trend story
    • backgrounders
    • in-depth story.
  • Decide the type of feature story this particular piece will become.

Activity 5: Writing the Story

  • Students will proceed through the steps of writing the story.
  • The first draft will be a peer edit without any suggestions from the instructor.
  • Students will receive a handout on writing a story, which includes suggestions for active voice, paragraph length, using quotes, etc.
  • The instructor class will grade the final draft in class so that the student and teacher can communicate about the positives and negatives of the story.

Activity 6: Headlines

  • Examine feature stories from the newspaper and the headlines used.
  • The last step for their story will be to write a headline.

Assessment

  • Students will receive points for:
    • the interview questions
    • notes
    • the lead
    • the rough draft
    • the headline
    • the final draft of the feature story.


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