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Lesson Plan

Imagine That! Playing with Genre through Newspapers and Short Stories

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Imagine That! Playing with Genre through Newspapers and Short Stories

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Jacqueline Podolski

Milwaukee, Wisconsin


National Council of Teachers of English


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






  • Newspaper articles. Ideally, choose articles from your local newspaper focusing on city-level articles. You can use the Associated Press Website if you prefer using online articles.

  • Copies of 3-5 short stories. If you choose to use textbook stories, make sure there are enough textbooks for each student. Choose something short enough to read in 20 minutes or less. Suggested short stories include the following:

    • “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
      (Set on Venus where the sun comes out for two hours, once every seven years. Conflict between the student who recently came from earth and the others who have never experienced the sun).

    • “War Games” by Nancy Werlin
      (Neighborhood kids in New York create an elaborate water gun war game over the summer. Themes of peer pressure and friendship. This is also an excellent story to use as a basis for persuasive writing by having students express their opinions about Jo and whether she is “the best friend” Elijah ever had.)

    • “The Scribe” by Kristin Hunter
      (Boy attempts to help his neighbors who are being swindled because of their illiteracy.)

    • “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes
      (A young boy tries to snatch a lady’s purse, but he ends up falling on his face. The lady takes him home and teaches him through kindness.)

    • “The Dinner Party” by Mona Gardner
      (A group of people eating dinner and reacting to a poisonous snake under the table.)

    • Anthologies might provide additional options. The two I like best are Baseball in April and Other Stories by Gary Soto (Harcourt, 2000), a collection of stories about growing up; and Twelve Shots edited by Harry Mazer (Delacorte, 1997), a collection of stories about guns by contemporary young adult authors including Chris Lynch and Walter Dean Myers. The short story “War Games” comes from this anthology.

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Story Map

Grades   K – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Story Map

The Story Map interactive is designed to assist students in prewriting and postreading activities by focusing on the key elements of character, setting, conflict, and resolution.


Venn Diagram

Grades   K – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Venn Diagram

This interactive tool allows students to create Venn diagrams that contain two or three overlapping circles, enabling them to organize their information logically.


Printing Press

Grades   K – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Writing & Publishing Prose

Printing Press

The interactive Printing Press is designed to assist students in creating newspapers, brochures, and flyers.


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  • Students should have had considerable exposure to fiction and narrative writing, including lessons on characterization, conflict, and resolution. ReadWriteThink lessons to help teach narrative writing include the following:

  • Choose the stories you will use with your students. I recommend three to five different short stories so that students are not creating the same news article. Suggestions are listed above.

  • Select a few newspaper articles that can be used as guides to provide scaffolding and structure for students. It is easy for students to get lost in their search for articles because of the variety of types of writing in newspapers (expository-informative, persuasive, etc.). Ideally, choose short articles (less than ten news paragraphs long) that convey facts with minimal authorial opinion. Since this lesson is an introduction to genres other than narrative, students should not use editorials or human-interest articles. Save those for another lesson, after students have been exposed to more straight-forward journalistic writing.

  • Make copies of the handouts for each student.

  • Test the Interactive Interactive Venn Diagram and, if desired, the ReadWriteThink Printing Press and Story Map interactive on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

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