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Lesson Plan

The Feature Story—Fifteen Minutes (and 500 Words) of Fame!

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The Feature Story—Fifteen Minutes (and 500 Words) of Fame!

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Susanne Rubenstein

Susanne Rubenstein

Princeton, Massachusetts

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Overview

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

 

OVERVIEW

At the heart of all feature stories is human interest. This lesson asks students to write a profile of a classmate, with a particular focus on a talent, interest, or passion of that classmate. As an introduction to the feature article, students compare the characteristics of a hard news story to those of a feature story. They then practice writing about the same event in the two different styles. Next, they list and freewrite about their own talents and interests. These topics then become the focus of a feature story as students randomly select topics noted by classmates and write interview questions based on them. Finally, students interview a classmate, write a feature story, and share it with the class. This lesson enables students to practice interviewing techniques, develop voice, learn to write for an audience, and perhaps most importantly, celebrate their individual strengths.

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FEATURED RESOURCES

Qualities of a Feature Story: This handout lists the main characteristics of a feature story.

Printing Press: Students can use this online tool to publish their writing as a newspaper, flyer, brochure, or booklet.

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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

This lesson plan taps two pedagogical beliefs-students work best in collaborative and supportive environments, and moving beyond the typical essay formats can help students grow as writers. In Go Public! Encouraging Student Writers to Publish, Susanne Rubenstein explains that the writing teacher: "must create a classroom environment that allows her students to see themselves and each other as writers, not students. In this classroom-turned-writing-community, the writers support and encourage each other, and, through their efforts, not only as fellow writers but also as readers and as editors, they work to strengthen both the quality of each other's work and the confidence of the writer. . . within this classroom-turned-writing-community, writers are engaged in work that has meaning outside of the classroom." (15)

This notion of collaborative growth in the writing classroom fits naturally with writing feature stories, which move beyond the typical personal essay format and give students the chance to share significant personal information with one another. Rubenstein explains, "Certainly there is nothing wrong with teaching students to write personal essays . . . . But as a form it is perhaps overused in middle and high school classrooms, and when students begin to see it as ‘the way one writes in school,' they adopt a writing voice that is academic and artificial and calculated to please the teacher alone" (43). To avoid this situation, Rubenstein invites students to "experiment with different genres to find their strong suit" (43). Feature stories provide just the right solution: "Through the writing and reading of each [feature] story, students come to learn a lot about each other in a very short time, and we are well on our way to becoming a community of writers" (44).

Further Reading

Rubenstein, Susanne. 1988. Go Public! Encouraging Student Writers to Publish. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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