Monday, October 29, 2012

Crafting the Journalistic Lead

How to Craft the Journalistic Lead
By Peter B-G


Welcome to crafting the journalistic lead with Mr. B-G!

This lesson will provide you with the nuts and bolts of how to write what is arguably journalism's most important and challenging sentence - the lead. During this lesson, you will have an opportunity to learn about the elements which compose a journalistic lead, read a professionally published story, and then write your own lead based on the events from that story.

In essence, you will demonstrate your understanding of the elements of a journalistic lead by rewriting an existing lead and focusing on different aspects of the story in your introduction.

 If you have any questions or problems, please contact me at bgvocab [at] gmail [dot] com. 

Learning Goals

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to write an original journalistic lead from an existing news story.

Learning Objectives

Students will learn how to identify the who, what, when, where, why, and how in a story.

Students will be able to identify which of those elements are most newsworthy.
Students will be able to clearly and effectively write a lead utilizing the most important five Ws and H.

Learning Standards

Common Core Writing Standard 4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Readings and Resources

1. Thinking Through Leads

2. Lead Writing Types & Examples

1. The Lexicon of Leads
2. Who, What, When, Where, Why, How & Writing the News Lead


Crafting the Journalistic Lead 
Activities and Assignments

1. Watch the YouTube video Crafting the Journalistic Lead 

2. Read Thinking Through Leads and Lead Writing Types & Examples. (The other two readings, The Lexicon of Leads and Who, What, When, Where, Why, How & Writing the News Lead are supplemental resources.)

3. Visit one of these top 10 best newspaper websites (or your own local paper's website if you'd prefer) and peruse the day's stories. Pick one article that captures your interest.

4. Identify the who, what, when, where, why, and how in the article you chose. Which of those did the reporter feature prominently in the lead?

5. Choose a different subject or topic to serve as the focus of your lead rewrite. For example, if the article you read began with who, you would start your lead rewrite with either what, when, where, why or how.

6. Post your lead rewrite to this Google Document. Follow the instructions at the top. You may type directly onto the document or compose your lead in a separate document if there are a number of students simultaneously trying to type into the document.

7. Before finalizing your lead, review the Lead Writing Checklist listed below to ensure your lead has all of the required "ingredients." 

8. Evaluate one of your classmate's leads using the Assessing Leads Worksheet listed below.


Lead Writing Checklist 

Assessing Leads Worksheet

About Mr. B-G

Peter B-G is an English and Journalism teacher at South Hadley High School in South Hadley, MA. Peter believes in the power of technology to engage students in meaningful learning activities that foster collaboration and utilize higher-order thinking skills. This May, Peter will complete a Master of Educational Technology degree from Boise State University. A former newspaper reporter, Peter holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a M.Ed. in English Education from Plymouth State University. Peter is the advisor to Spotlight, South Hadley High School's award-winning student newspaper. A graduate of Westborough High School, Peter began his career in education as a substitute teacher at Shrewsbury Middle School. He's been teaching high school for nine years.

Flickr Creative Commons image by London College of Fashion short courses

Sunday, September 9, 2012

EDTECH 521 Reflective Journal

Welcome to my learning log for EDTECH 521. Click here for the direct link to the Google Doc of my reflective journal.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Week 7 Reflection - EDTECH 542

The culminating event is over, the project presentations have been presented, groups and peers have been evaluated, reflection journals are in. Is the PBL experience really over? Absolutely not. One of the most powerful forms of assessment and project evaluation is the post project reflection. Use the resources from this week to assist you as you think about how you intend to debrief your PBL experience. Some questions to consider:
  • Who will you involve in the process?
I would involve as many constituents as possible in the debrief process. First and foremost, this would involve the students who participated in and completed the project. It could involve the business owners who participated in the feature stories, other colleagues in the English department to provide feedback, or even an administrator who showed interested and supported the project.
  • What will your process look like?
The process could be both formal and informal. With the students, there could be a reflection form where they answer specific questions about the project and the process, reflecting on how well group members worked together, and how successfully they executed their objectives. The business owner could receive a phone call, or maybe a card of appreciation for participating in the project. He/she could also be sent a copy of the newspaper feature article, or sent a link of the multimedia presentation and be asked to comment and provide his impressions. With colleagues or administrators, it could be an informal conversation in the hallway, or it could be something more formal, incorporated into a review or evaluation.
  • Is it just a one-time assessment?
PBL projects lend themselves to assessment both during the project and after it is completed. Each PBL project can be assessed on its own merits, and the more feedback from constituents that's able to be generated, the greater chance that the project will have to succeed. It's important to realize that there may be hurdles and speed bumps, but that they can be overcome if constituents are open and willing to share their thoughts on both the progress but also possible impediments. It is during instances such as this that the teacher-as-facilitator can work to sooth bumps and possibly redirect the group if necessary. The facilitator needs to be careful about how much feedback and direction is provided, while also understanding that some students may need more assistance and suggestion than others. It's a fine balancing act, and honesty, awareness, and communication by all parties is essential to a PBL project having success.

Week 6 Reflection - EDTECH 542

One of the greatest challenges for an instructor in a PBL unit is to adapt to the role of facilitator. Reflect on the following:
  • Will my role in the teaching/learning process change?
 In general, I subscribe to a student-centered pedagogical philosophy, so my role in a PBL unit would be similar. I would provide initial instruction, and then act more like a guide, allowing the students to explore, learn, and take charge of their project. When students have questions, my role isn't to answer them - at least initially - but to point them in the direction where they can discover the solutions themselves.
  • What are the skills of effective facilitation?
 An effective facilitator is able to empower his or her students and help them to find the answers they need. A facilitator acts like a "guide on the side," providing support and encouragement, and giving students access to the resources they'll need to succeed.
  • Will the students develop the competancies and skills needed to be successful?
Yes, they will, as they're developing real-world skills which can be applied to a variety of situations and learning contexts.
  • What changes will you need to make in order to become an effective facilitator in your PBL unit?
I think if my style of teaching relied more on direct instruction aka the "sage on the stage," then I would need to undergo a shift as I transferred some of that authority from myself onto the students. Advising a scholastic newspaper where the students are responsible for all content decisions has prepared me well for the facilitator role I'll need to play when overseeing a PBL project.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Technology Engagement, Authenticity, and Relevance Blog Post - EDTECH 541

Ask any writer, and they will tell you that the one thing all writers need are readers. This concept - providing writers with an audience - is crucial for writers' development as they look to refine their work. Borrowing on this concept, teachers of writing know that students demonstrate significant gains when they understand their audience and are writing for an authentic purpose. The employment of technology and the use of social media allows teachers to provide students with real audiences and authentic purposes like never before.

It is this exposure, this presentation of writing to outsiders that leads to a writer's growth, argues Grant Wiggins in an article for English Journal. "The best writing, like all learning, only happens through a constant and disciplined escape of self to explore the consequences. This draft horror story was meant to be scary; is it? This description was meant to be vivid enough for you to picture the person; can you? (Wiggins, 2009).

Through the use of Twitter, blogs, magazines like Teen Ink, and self-publishing sites like Issuu, students have a bevy of venues where they can publish their writing for free. This act of publication pairs students with a receptive, responsive audience, which can truly let them know how well their intentions and purposes for writing succeeded.

Given that publication venues are now electronic, and that writing and literacy comes in disparate forms, perhaps we should rethink our definition of writing. The editors of Teaching the new writing: Technology, change, and assessment, argue for replacing the word writing with “composing.” They also advocate for an expanded definition of composition that includes the creation of “texts that might include words, images, sounds, and hyperlinks that connect any and all of the above to other words, images, sounds, and hyperlinks” (Herrington, Hodgson, & Moran, 2009).
With an expanded palate of possibilities, educators and administrators need to account for this "new" writing, which is becoming more and more commonplace in the workplace. But this conceptual shift need not be done simply because it will help students in the future; it can also help them in the present as they work to demonstrate their proficiency with various local, state, and federal learning standards. "The Web-based electronic portfolio can be a valuable alternative assessment tool for teachers and students in the 21st century" (Jacobs, 2010). 

By using social media to provide students with opportunities to publish and get feedback on their writing, English language arts teachers can successfully utilize the latest technologies to create more engaging, relevant, and authentic lessons and activities.


Herrington, A., Hodgson, K., & Moran, C (Eds.). (2009). Teaching the new writing: Technology, change, and assessment. Berkeley, CA: Teachers College Press.

Jacobs, H. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential education for a changing world. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiggins, G. (2009). Real-world writing: Making purpose and audience matter. English Journal, 98(5), 29-37

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Week 5 Reflection - EDTECH 542

Option 1: Designing Integrated Curriculum At some point you may consider including other disciplines in your project (if you haven't already). Watch the video below on Designing Integrated Curriculum and reflect on the benefits of interdisciplinary projects and the challenges in implementing them. How might you go about making this a reality in your school?

I really enjoyed watching the Designing Integrated Curriculum video, as it illustrated the power and potential that's possible when teachers from different disciplines are able to work together. Since I started teaching at my current school, I have been intrigued by the idea of cross-curricular collaborations.

The parallels between history and English are obvious. It would be wonderful to be able to sequence a unit of novel study during the same time that the time period comprising the setting of that novel was being studied in history class. With my 9th grade students, this would mean, for example, reading To Kill a Mockingbird during the time students were studying The Great Depression, and working with American history teachers to create assignments.

With science, opportunities exist for collaboration regarding DNA, cells, and bioresearch, as my AP 11 students must read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a true story about a woman whose cells have been used in research and continue to reproduce. 

In math, as students become more familiar with the Flipped Classroom model, students themselves will begin creating tutorial videos on a variety of mathematical subjects. I could teach those same students strategies for giving effective presentations via video, drawing on speech and communications standards.

The chief obstacle for these collaborations is planning time. Simply put, the educational model that has teachers in the classroom for 80 percent of their day leave no time for curriculum integrations to occur. Until teachers are given planning time to even begin considering such collaborations, they will, unfortunately, never happen. If administrators truly value these kinds of interactions and collaborations in their buildings, they will need to find a way to give their staffs an opportunity to meet, brainstorm, and plan such lessons.

EDTECH 542 Week 4 Reflection

In the Project Based Learning classroom, students can, along with their instructor, develop relevant and meaningful assessments, and play an active role in developing criteria and setting standards of performance for high quality work. Assessments have more meaning for the learner when he/she can take an active part in the formation of the assessment. This concept of assessment-as-learning focuses on what learners achieve--not what teachers provide. Read more about the Key Principles of Effective Assessment.

Discuss how your planned assessments meet the key requirements for effective assessments. Reflect on how you might adjust your teaching during this project to allow more student input in the evaluation process.

Two of my three planned assessments are extremely student initiated. The first form of assessment, "reporter's notes," calls on students to reflect on their writing process and make notes and observation on the highlights and lowlights of their work. The reporter's notes are also designed to help frame the type of feedback students receive from their peers and the instructor. If students are looking for help with particular part of the assignment, they're able to articulate their desires in the reporter's notes, upon which a peer or teacher can then respond.

In my second assessment, students make observations on both the content and style of their writing. A peer or teacher then makes observations, and finally the student records any edits or revisions made. This way, when the final document is assessed, there is a record of feedback and specific actions taken to improve the quality of the piece.

The third assessment is a rubric which the instructor completes, evaluating the final product. One way to make this more student-centered would be for the writer to self-assess the final product. This information would likely be beneficial to the teacher/evaluator.

Tips for Blogging Safely on the Internet

With more and more students taking part in school and class blogging initiatives across the country, it is important to keep in mind for following four Internet safety tips: 

I. Students who use blogs for class projects should keep personal information out of their posts for their own safety. They should not post or give out their family's name, password, user name, email address, home address, school name, city, county or any other information that could help someone locate or contact them.

II. Students using blogs should agree never to share their username or password with anyone besides their teachers and parents. They should agree to never log in as another student.

III. Students using blogs are expected to treat blogspaces as classroom spaces. Speech that is inappropriate for class is not appropriate for a blog. While students are encouraged to engage in debate and conversation with other bloggers, they should conduct themselves in a manner reflective of a representative of their high school and community.

IV. Student blogs are to be a vehicle for sharing writing with real audiences. Most visitors to class or student blogs will leave comments that are respectful and helpful. Teachers are encouraged to provide students with appropriate comment criteria which they should post on your blog, so those who visit it know how to appropriately respond to their writing.
  If students receive a comment that makes them feel uncomfortable or is not respectful, they should tell their teacher right away. Students should not respond to the comment. 

Hunt, B. (2011, May 20). Bud the teacher's wiki. Retrieved from 

Mitchell, K. J., Wolak, J., & Finkelhor, D. (2007). Are blogs putting youth at risk for online sexual solicitation or harassment?. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(2008), 277-294. Retrieved from

Image credits:
Flickr Creative Commons Images from rcolonna (no name), Bruno Santos (password), New Media MK (speech), and pixel fantasy (comment).

Additional Blogging Safety Tips: