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Lesson Plans

Writing Under Pressure

John McBride at Fort Dodge Senior High School in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

John McBride
Fort Dodge Senior High
Fort Dodge, Iowa

Title: Writing Under Pressure

Overview and Rationale

The following is a lesson plan that I use for deadline writing (and interviewing) to allow my students to get the feel for writing under pressure.


Have room set up like a press room, making sure everyone can see the front of the class. I put a sign reading "Police Chief" on my podium.

Goals for Understanding

Briefly explain to class what assignment involves: You are acting as the town’s chief of police. There has been a murder and you will be holding a brief press conference. I use a fictional report printed in my college text ("Reaching Audiences, 2nd edition," Jan Johnson Yopp and Katherine C. McAdams) or teachers can make up their own report.


  • After reading a brief report, students may ask questions about the crime and I answer students’ questions to fill in gaps.
  • The whole process for the press conference and questions takes about 20-25 minutes. After that, I take kids to computer lab and tell them they have remainder of period to write a news story on the crime committed. As chief, I am available for follow-up questions.
  • If students ask anything not on report, I usually come up with an answer, but record it somewhere so I know it was reported correctly.
  • Students cannot add anything not on the report or gained by interviewing the "chief".
  • All papers must be typed, double-spaced and free of errors. They must also include a headline.

Overviews and Timeline

One 90-minute class period works well. Those teachers with less time could do the press conference one day and the writing exercise the next.


I grade for the quality of the story, but also the presentation of the facts. Did they get relevant information in the story and did they avoid adding anyinformation that was never presented.


  • "Reaching Audiences, 2nd edition," Jan Johnson Yopp and Katherine C. McAdams

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