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Lesson Plan

Introducing Each Other: Interviews, Memoirs, Photos, and Internet Research

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Introducing Each Other: Interviews, Memoirs, Photos, and Internet Research

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Sixteen 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Karen Sinning

Karen Sinning

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


National Council of Teachers of English


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






  • Sample interview articles—these can easily be obtained from current newspapers and magazines. It is very effective to invite a local reporter to speak to the class and explain the process behind an article that he/she has written. A journalist can also provide very helpful notes for students; one such set of notes is provided here. As an alternative, a member of your high school newspaper staff could speak to your students. If a speaker is not available, use notes gathered from writing texts such as Write Source 2000. The NY Times Website provides a link for students to ask reporters questions about interviewing and writing. Many city newspapers provide similar sites.

  • Sample memoirs are readily available in most literature anthologies, and chapters of autobiographical books also work well. Select examples that are diverse in style and subject. You may encourage students to write a poem or to use present tense as Donald Graves and Stafford and Dunning suggest.

  • Notes on planning a good photograph. Photography, journalism, or art teachers are good resources here. Again, inviting an “expert” to demonstrate is helpful, but anyone who is experienced with digital cameras can do this presentation.

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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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  • Arrange for guest speakers if possible. Local newspapers, parents, and special subject teachers are good possibilities. (Offer to switch places with a special subject teacher for a period or two.)

  • Prepare a questionnaire for students to complete early in the year. An "Introduce Yourself!" packet serves two purposes: you can get to know something about each student, and you can make sure that there is enough background information to spark interview questions. Nancie Atwell has excellent ideas for questions, but you can ask any questions that you think will elicit interesting answers. Good possibilities include “What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?” and “What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?” Lists of favorites are helpful, too. In order to help writers to establish a focus in an interview and article, you might ask each student what they would like a newspaper story about them to emphasize.

  • Fill out the questionnaire yourself and prepare a class set of copies. Your students can use it to practice writing good questions.

  • Some students like to use tape recorders for their interviews, and some prefer to take notes. Check on the availability of recorders, cassette tapes, and batteries in your school. Many kids have microcassette recorders that they can bring from home.

  • Prepare scoring keys and planning sheets in advance so that both you and the students have targets.

  • If possible, prepare a sample poster. (This unit is set up for posters as final projects, but if you and students are comfortable with PowerPoint, some may prefer to do a slide show. You could adjust requirements for the project accordingly. You could write your own memoir and have someone take a photo of you, or you could use material from a celebrity interview or autobiography. Use Internet sites to find pictures, lyrics of favorite songs, top-ten lists, sports statistics, poems, book titles, etc., that reflect personal interests. Arrange all the material attractively on a piece of poster board or as part of a slide show.

  • Schedule computer time and check with your school librarian/computer specialist about appropriate Web sites that are not filtered out by your system.

  • Arrange to borrow a digital camera or two—more if you can get them. Also make sure that you have access to a computer that will print the photos. If you have a classroom computer, it is best if you can print there while kids are working on other things. It is not necessary to use photo-quality paper, but it is helpful to be able to adjust brightness, contrast, and size for the pictures.

  • Prepare hall passes for students to use when they are out and about taking photos. Get permission and determine limitations on where students can go. (In my building other teachers help out; one of the physical education teachers monitors students who want to take pictures in the pool area, and other teachers welcome kids into the library, computer lab, etc.). Pair up the students in your class. Do not allow good friends to work together; they often assume that they know everything about each other and don't ask interesting questions. In the end, the students enjoy learning about kids they didn't know well before. If you have an uneven number, a trio can work together, but they will often need time extensions. It can help to put a potentially unreliable student into a trio; the extra help often keeps that student going, and it is always possible, in extreme cases, to revert to a pair.

  • Plan the schedule so that you have enough time to read all the papers and allow the students time to rewrite each one. The due date for the final project should be at least a week after the final rewrites are collected so that you have time to read them again and return them. You can double up activities so that some students are taking photos or searching the Internet while others are working on rewriting papers.

  • This unit has been done with eighth graders who have experience with computers and word processing; many have had instruction with digital cameras. Students without such background may need additional support.

  • Students for whom the memoir is new can read more teen-interest articles in preparation. If you intend to offer poems as an option for memoirs, you might do this unit after a poetry unit so that students are familiar with form, imagery, etc.

  • Students may find it difficult to limit the focus of their articles. If they have not had practice with this, they will need some support. Analyzing some sample articles will help, and this will also provide an opportunity to look at catchy lead sentences. You will need to reassure the students that it is not possible to use all their gathered information in their final articles. This unit is a good place to reinforce adjective and adverb clauses since students will find that complex sentences will help them to write interesting, detailed articles and memoirs.

  • Students may need help with the concept of primary and secondary sources. It helps to use something they are studying in another class or a recent event in the school as an example. For instance, their social studies chapter on the Declaration of Independence is a secondary source, but the document itself is a primary source, as are the letters, diaries, and newspaper articles written by the men who wrote and voted on the document. The student whose best friend was on the school bus that broke down on the way to school is a secondary source, but the official report filed by the bus driver is a primary source. A person who wants more detail about the breakdown might interview the driver as well as the students who were actually on the bus at the time; these are also primary sources. The point here is to help students see that interviewing people is a valuable resource. Middle school students can interview Holocaust survivors, local government officials, authors, scientists, etc., for a wide variety of assignments.

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