My High School Newspaper Assignments

Motivation and Prior Knowledge:

Think, Pair, Share Exercise: Ask the class, "Who wants to be a writer? Why?" Have the class think quietly about this question for a minute. Ask students to pair up with a partner or in groups and share their thoughts. Then have the students share with you. Record their answers on a blackboard, making sure to write the child's name after each shared idea.

Ask the class, "What are some of the different types of professional writing in the world?" Record the responses of the groups, which may include:

Types of Writing:

  • Novels
  • Short stories
  • Non-fiction
  • Plays
  • Movies
  • Poetry
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Advertising
  • Public relations

On the board write the title: What is it like to be a writer? Underneath the title have two columns:

1) Good and

2) Not so good

Ask the class, "What are some good and not so good things about being a writer?" Record their answers, which may include:


  • Travel
  • Meet interesting people
  • Learn new things
  • Get to create
  • Many readers
  • Can influence people

Not so good

  • Deadlines
  • Editors change things
  • People may not like what you write

Think, Pair, Share Exercise:
Ask the class, "What does it take to be a writer?" Have the class think silently about the question for a minute. Have students pair with a partner or in groups and share their thoughts. Then have them share their thoughts with you and record them on the board.

Being a Writer

  • Good knowledge of English. Think of CUPS: Capitalization, Use of words, Punctuation, Spelling.
  • Good knowledge of your field, general knowledge of everything.
  • Good observational skills: What did the team do after they won? What did the woman say when she got her lost dog back? Remember colors, sounds, sequence of events, and words of people — what you need to create the event.
  • Persistence: Write and rewrite until you think it's perfect. Go after the story, dig for facts, get quotes to make it interesting, do your best for the readers.
  • Thick skin: Not every teacher or editor or reader will like everything you write. Get used to it.
  • Hard work. Writers are made, very seldom born. Tiger Woods has a great natural swing but he works out a lot and hits at least 1,000 practice shots a day.

Additional Exercises:

How to Read a Newspaper - Bring newspapers to class and ask students why reading a newspaper is important. When that has been discussed, hand out the newspapers. Go through the "Before-During-After" reading strategies below for understanding and getting the most out of a newspaper story.

- Preview the text
- Read captions
- Look at subtitles
- Predict what the story might be about

- Look at the bold print words
- Look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary
- Clarify information by rereading text

- Summarize the text
- Create a visual image
- Think of prior knowledge
- Connect new information with prior knowledge
- Share new information with someone

Have students practice these strategies with their newspapers, then share what they've learned with you and the class. The test of whether you understand a newspaper story is: "Can you explain it to somebody else?"

Importance of Newspapers - Ask the class, "Why are newspapers important to our community? What kind of information do they provide to link us to our political and social structure?" Have the class think silently about the question for a minute, then ask them to pair with a partner or in groups and share their thoughts. Have them share their thoughts with you and the class and record them on the board.

Scavenger Hunt - Prepare a list of items students will have to locate in the newspaper (headline, a sale price, comic strip, sport scores, movies review, etc.). Give a time limit for the scavenger hunt.

THE PROJECT: 425 points working independently. 550 points working as a pair

INTRODUCTION: Prior to beginning the redesign project, students should read pages 197-208 in “The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook” by Tim Harrower. Students should also complete the ‘Report Card’ on pages 200-201 independently. Use the remaining pages in this chapter, old copies of our paper and copies of other high school and professional publications to redesign the paper.

I make it clear to my students that when they design their new paper they DO NOT have to write all the articles and headlines or takes photos or do art etc. They may use old body copy, photos etc. The focus of this project is layout and design. I also encourage them NOT to use any layout previously used in our paper. It is important that we employ creativity in our effort to improve our publication.

GETTING DOWN TO WORK: The following items must be included in your Newsstreak Project Presentation Proposal. You will turn in one copy to me at the time of your oral presentation and you will do one display board, so that the class can see a visual of your design as you explain it:

PART I (60 points)

  • Five new ideas to improve circulation next year. (5 points)
  • Five new motivational ideas to encourage the staff to complete assignments in a timely and thorough manner. (5 points)
  • A production ladder identifying what sections will be assigned to what pages. (Keep in mind that the number of pages must be divisible by four and that we are currently producing either 28 or 32 pages monthly) (5 points)
  • Theme ideas for each month with four sample story ideas for each theme. Make sure you can show us where you’re going with your ideas. (45 points)

PART II (37 points)

  • Identify the standing elements of design for the paper.
    • Body Copy: Font, size, leading, style, alignment (5 points)
    • Headlines: Font, size, leading, style, alignment (5 points)
    • Subheads: Font, size, leading, style, alignment (S points)
    • Bylines: Font, size, style, alignment, graphic (5 points)
    • Cutlines (captions): Font, size, style, alignment, leading (5 points)
    • Lines around photos: Size (1 point)
    • Lines used for boxes: Size (1 point)
    • Use of rounded corners: (1 point)
    • Drop caps: Size, font, style (3 points)
    • Pulled quotes: Size, font, style, graphic, leading, alignment (6 points)

* Please make sure that examples of all these items are included in your sample layouts.

PART III (163 points)

Design six sample pages for next year’s Newsstreak, a front page and one representative page from each of your five sections. Make sure that all standing elements that you want to include are on the page somewhere in the layout.

  • Front page design
    • Flag: paper name, school name, address, phone, e-mail, web page address, volume & issue number, graphic and cost (10 points)
    • Teaser boxes: graphic/photo/art, page number, copy (10 points)
    • Index: easy to read and accessible (2 points)
    • Sample layout & design (10 points)
  • News page design
    • Briefs: produce a sample briefs box (5 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points)
    • Sample page layout and design (10 points)
  • Sports page design
    • Briefs: produce a sample briefs box (5 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points)
    • Sample page layout & design (10 points)
  • Feature page design
    • Profile: produce a sample profile design (5 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points).
    • Sample page layout & design (10 points)
  • Entertainment page design
    • Produce a section title for each of our six review types. (CD/Concert, Book, Travel, Food/Restaurant, Internet and Movie) (30 points)
      * All of these don’t have to be on your sample layout. An additional sheet can be turned in with your project.
    • Produce a parallel rating system for the reviews (6 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points)
    • Sample page layout & design (10 points)
  • Opinion page design
    • Design a staff box that includes: editor names and/or photos, professional affiliations, editorial policy, staff names and staff philosophy (20 points)
    • Design a sample column title and produce a graphic (5 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points)
    • Sample page layout and design

PART IV (125 points if project is being completed by single person, 250 points if completed by pair)

Design and place 5 advertisements per person. The ads must be placed at the bottom of your sample pages and can be any size as long as they are consistent.

  • Select five businesses in our area that you wish to design a potential ad for and put your name beside them on the list posted in the classroom.
  • Ideally, you will take your proposal to the business when you attempt to sell. them an ad for next year.
  • Each advertisement must include:
    • A headline (not the name of the business) (5 points)
    • Body copy (5 points)
    • Graphic/Art/Photo (5 points)
    • Essential Information: Business name, address, phone, business hours, logo. (5 points)
    • Selling point for particular audience (5 points)

* Please note that each ad is worth 25 points, therefore five ads are worth 125 points. If there are two of you working together on the project, then it is worth 250 points. I want you to realize that this is a sizable chunk of this project. Ads are important to our publication!

PART V (40 points)

Creativity and originality are a major portion of any newspaper’s design. Make special considerations when considering the following:

  • Readability
  • Interactive, user-friendly ideas
  • Audience specific
  • Good combination of copy/art/photo/sidebars etc.

Use the Shopping List on page 203 of “The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook” as a springboard. Do not let this list limit you.

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