In-Class Ideas

Media Literacy Activity: Scrambled News Stories And Newsworthiness (Grades 6-8 Social Science)

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AN ACTIVITY FOR GRADES 6-8

Activity: Ordering News Stories and Determining Newsworthiness

Preparation

  1. Decide on 4-7 relatively current news stories to focus on.  They can be from Teaching Kids News, or articles of your own choosing.  For the sake of this example, the following articles will be used:

a)     Hadfield Arrives Back on Earth; Videos From His Incredible Journey

b)    Surprising Win for Liberals In BC Election

c)     Factory Conditions, Wages Improve In Bangladesh

d)    NBA Star Donates $1 Million To Oklahoma Relief Efforts

e)     New Species of Dinosaur Found In Alberta

f)     For Healthier Kids, Put Away The Car And Walk to School

  1. The class will be broken down into as many groups as there are articles.  Try to keep even numbers in the groups, and have groups of no more than six people:  For example, if you have six articles and 31 students, you will have five groups of five and one group of six.
  2. Print out a hard copy of each of the stories.
  3. Cut up the stories in such a way that each student will receive a segment of one of the articles.  One excerpt of each article should be just the headline.  Each group will get one headline and then a random assortment of excerpts from any of the articles.  For whichever headline a group gets, the rest of the article should be divided into enough sections that one can correspond to each remaining group member (aside from the one with the headline).  So, for a class of 31 that is divided into five groups of five and one group of six, five of the articles should be cut into five parts (with the headline being a distinct part) and one should be cut into six.  The headline of the article that is cut into six parts must be given to the group of six.
  4. Prepare a document that can be shared on an LCD projector or handed out that briefly explains the “inverted period” style of news reporting (for the sake of this grade level and activity, do not worry about distinguishing between the subtle distinctions between “soft” and “hard” news story models, a simplified approach will do.  You can use our version here).  It should also include a brief description of the criteria of “newsworthiness”.

Execution 

  1. Divide the class into groups of 4-7 (the number of groups should directly correspond to the number of articles).  Have students move their desks together if necessary, it will help facilitate the activity.
  2. Review the prepared document on the “inverted pyramid” and newsworthiness, either by using an LCD projector or handing out a hard copy to all members of the class.
  3. Tell students that one member of each group is going to receive a headline for a news story.  That group member (number “1”) will have the task of putting the story in the right order.  The rest of the group will get a random excerpt from one of the stories.  If they think that the excerpt they have goes with the headline they received, they will help the first group member decide where it should go in the story (at the beginning, somewhere in the middle, etc.)  If they think they do not have an excerpt that corresponds to their group’s headline, they will seek out one that does by checking to see if members of other groups do.  Once a student reviews one of his/her peers excerpts and determines it is one that they are looking for, they “swap” excerpts with the other student (even if the other student doesn’t need the first student’s excerpt).  Once they have an excerpt that corresponds to their headline, they will follow the aforementioned procedure of helping the other members of their group organize the story.
  4. Explain that the excerpt exchanging will continue until all groups believe they have acquired all sections of their story.  Once this occurs, the groups will all work together to put their story in the correct order.
  5. Handout one headline to each group.  If one or more groups have an extra member, ensure that they get a headline for a story that has an extra section.
  6. Distribute the rest of the cut up stories at random.  If done correctly, the result of the preparation and distribution should look something like this:
Group Member Group 1(five members) Group 2 (five members) Group 3 (five members) Group 4 (five members) Group 5 (five members) Group 6 (six members)
Headline 1 Hadfield Liberals Bangladesh NBA Star Dinosaur Healthy Kids
Excerpts from the stories 2 Bangladesh NBA Star Bangladesh Liberals NBA Star Healthy Kids
3 Dinosaur Healthy Kids Dinosaur NBA Star Liberals NBA Star
4 Healthy Kids Healthy Kids Dinosaur Bangladesh Healthy Kids Liberals
5 Hadfield Hadfield Bangladesh Hadfield Hadfield Liberals
6

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Dinosaur

(note: Group 6 has the headline for the “Healthy Kids” story, which is divided into six sections)

  1. Tell students to begin reviewing and exchanging excerpts.  The only students who should be sitting are those that have the headlines or believe they already have an excerpt that belongs to their story.
  2. Once all the groups believe they have their entire article and have put it into the correct order, tell them to answer the following questions, either in writing or in a group discussion:

              a)  What were some clues you used to tell whether a certain section belonged in your story or not?

b)  How did you decide on the order your story should be in?

  1. Once students have had a couple of minutes to write answers to these questions or discuss them in their groups, bring the conversation to a whole class level.  Ask one member of each group to say the headline of the story, a brief summary of what it’s about, and their own or their group’s answers to questions a) and b).  As they are talking, write the headline of their story on the board, as well as a couple of key details (time permitting).
  2. Reveal the correct order and sections of each story, ideally by referring to them online via LCD projector.  Briefly discuss any discrepancies between what the students had and the original articles, and why they might have occurred.
  3. Once someone from all the groups has spoken, tell the students that they are going to pretend that they are designing a news website, where the format for presenting stories on the homepage resembles the following:

(note: this template is also available in the document linked earlier in this article.  If using more or less than six articles, the template will have to be adjusted)

  1. Distribute a hard copy of one of these “homepage templates” to each group.
  2.  Tell groups that they are going to decide (collectively) the order of importance for presenting the six news stories that have been examined in class. They will write the headline of the story they think is the most newsworthy in the number 1 box, the story they think is the second most newsworthy in the number 2 box, and so on until they have included all the stories.  Remind students of the criteria of newsworthiness reviewed earlier in class (if these criteria were examined via LCD projector, pull the document discussing them back up again to aid students).
  3.  Once all groups have filled out their “homepage template” with headlines, go around to each group again, and have one student per group – preferably a different student from the one who acted as spokesperson previously – announce their group’s ranking of the stories and explain why they decided on that particular order.

 

Teaching Tips

  1. This activity can vary in required time, depending on the literacy levels of students and the length and complexity of the articles chosen.  Be mindful of these factors when planning, the “headline template” portion can become a homework assignment or an activity during the next lesson.
  2. Consider adding a couple of local news stories into this assignment, particularly if you live outside of Ontario.
  3. Use purposeful grouping. Students who are extremely introverted, are English language learners or have specific issues related to mobility or hearing may be given the headline for a particular story.
  4. Circulate around the room during the excerpt exchange portion in order to assess thinking and inquiry skills of the students.  Be available for consultation, but try not to directly lead students to an excerpt they are looking for – keep the learning student-lead.
  5. These activity can be used as a lead-in for a more involved assignment, like actually making a newspaper front page or website homepage.