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FREE Resources  //  Improving newspaper article writing using pupil self-assessment grids and 'Ideas-drafting' grids

Newspaper article writing can, at worst, be little more than a 'story in columns' with an added Headline above and a picture at its base. If we are to progress this situation then pupils need to become familiar with the sequential features of newspaper articles i.e. Headline / Byline / Lead / Body / Sources / Illustration and caption. These features are, however, merely titles and so we need to work with pupils to raise understanding of how to create effective 'Headlines' etc.

A useful teaching sequence which increases acquisition rather than merely 'covering' article writing is,

  1. Interactive discussion of a modelled example
  2. Shared writing of a class example (preferably related to ongoing work in order to provide a meaningful context.)
  3. Pupil paired-completion of the Ideas draft sheet
  4. Paired writing of article using Ideas draft sheet notes
  5. Pupil paired self-assessment using the 'How well have I done?' sheet
  6. Individual completion of the Ideas draft sheet
  7. Individual writing of article using Ideas draft sheet notes
  8. Individual self assessment using the 'How well have I done?' sheet

(The teaching sequence suggested would be spaced out over a half term)

In order to fully understand the teaching sequence, examples of materials referred to in bold, need to be considered.

A The Modelled Example (Illustration 1 )

The modelled example has a text which relates (in terms of text organisation) exactly to the features specified on both the 'Ideas draft' sheet and the 'How well have I done?' sheet.

Interactive questioning should promote discussion of ways by which the 'journalist' has made each feature effective, for example,

  • Alliteration in the Headline
  • Person's title in the Byline
  • Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? are included in the Lead
  • Details are added in the Body
  • Directed and Reported speech are used when quoting Sources
  • A snappy caption followed by a colon and a more detailed sentence are included beneath the illustration

(The teacher may find it useful to make reference to points made on the 'How well Have I done? sheet)

Modelling is a powerful medium for raising writing standards and the deconstruction of a pre-written article allows pupils to gain an understanding of the genre prior to the production of their own article. As text organisation has been demystified prior to writing there is a resultant reduction in pupil anxiety.

The learning gains afforded by the modelled example should then be used / transferred in a Shared writing session in which the teacher is (probably) the main scribe. A collectively written article is produced next, thereby reinforcing understanding of the features highlighted during the discussion of the modelled example. Following this the 'Ideas draft' sheet is introduced.

B The 'Ideas Draft' sheet ( Illustration 2 )

The Ideas Draft sheet is divided into three columns: Features / Have I thought about? / My examples.

Pupils (in pairs) are given a title for the task by the teacher (which is much longer than a Headline thereby avoiding 'spoonfeeding' the first feature of the article) and after some discussion are asked to complete the 'My examples' column using the questions in the 'Have I thought about?' column to guide their writing. (Some pupils may find it difficult to start with a Headline and so can be guided to leave this until last if preferred.) These questions ensure that focused drafting occurs rather than the production of a draft which is merely 'written up in neat with the spellings corrected' at a later point. The class teacher can assess pupil understanding of the genre and effectively target further assistance by analysing the pupils' responses in the 'My examples' column.

The notes on the 'Ideas draft' sheet are then developed by the pairs into the flowing prose of a finished article. (This 'process of transferring' may need modelling, depending on how familiar the pupils are with developing notes / ideas into finished writing)

When the article is complete the 'How well have I done?' sheet can be used.

C How Well Have I Done? sheet (Illustration 3 )

This is divided into, Features / Have I thought about? and Examples. The text inserted in the first two columns is similar to the 'Ideas draft' sheet. The pupils, however, are now using these two columns and the modelled examples (not on the 'Ideas draft' sheet) as a self-checking mechanism.

Re-reading with a purpose is thereby achieved and the use of a self-diagnostic reinforces understanding. It is meaningful self-assessment in so much as it affords the pupils criteria against which to assess their article - a far better situation than a pupil being told to Check through it and see if you can make it better once they have 'finished'!

Meaningful self-assessment is a key feature in the drive to raise writing standards. The approach suggested in this article provides a methodology which can successfully be applied to other genre.

ILLUSTRATION 1

Rock Star's Shoplifting Shame!

Aziz Seth

Crime Correspondent

Ageing rock star, Gary Beast, was arrested in Brighton yesterday for shoplifting. He was caught red-handed on camera in a well-known Department Store.

The arresting officer explained that Gary had initially been spotted hanging around the make-up counter and behaving in a suspicious manner.

He was caught on camera removing CDs from their boxes and slyly dropping them into a hold-all which he was carrying. When he realised he had been 'spotted' the former singer dropped the hold-all and denied all knowledge of it…and its contents! This is Gary Beast's third arrest for shoplifting in the past two years. His band 'Bad Breath' split up in 1982 and, since then, Gary has made four disastrous attempts at comeback. He has inevitably fallen on hard times which may go some way toward explaining his behaviour.

When arrested Gary said tearfully, " I don't know what came over me."

The singer admitted taking the CDs but continued, "I don't need any of these. I can't think why I stole my band's entire back catalogue."

The singer will appear before a jury at the end of next week.

Taken away by police: last glimpse of Gary before prison!



ILLUSTRATION 2 NEWSPAPER ARTICLE: IDEAS DRAFT
Features Think about! My Examples
Headline Use no more than seven words

Include the main point

Use alliteration

Use a pun if appropriate
 
Byline Name yourself as the journalist

If you are an editor include your title

If your article is a world news story, include
the city you are reporting from beneath your name
 
Lead Paragraph Include all the Ws (who? what? where? when? and why? - and maybe how?) in no more than six sentences  
Body Provide more details about each of the Ws (who, what, where, when, why, and possibly how)

Remember that one or two of the Ws will be more important than the others
eg If the main point of the article is about the person, add most of the detail to who.
 
Sources Include the names or titles of people who provided information used in your article

Use both direct or reported speech when quoting what was said
 
Illustration and caption Draw a box where the illustration (such as a map, photograph or diagram etc) will be placed

Write a description of what will appear inside the box

Add a brief caption beneath the box
 



ILLUSTRATION 3 NEWSPAPER ARTICLE: HOW WELL HAVE I DONE?
Features Have I thought about? Examples
Headline Have I used no more than seven words?

Does my headline include the main points?

Have I used alliteration?

Is a pun appropriate?
Recipes for Disaster - an article about junk food and its impact on health

Bad Boys Bully Others
Byline Have I told the readers that I am the journalist?

If I am an editor, have I included my title?

If my article is a world news story, have I included the city I am reporting from beneath my name?
David Jones
Political Editor

Aziz Seth
Defence Correspondent

Elaine do Beauvoir
New York
Lead Paragraph Have I included all the Ws (who? what? where? when? and why? - and maybe how?) in no more than six sentences? Ageing rock star, Gary Beast, was arrested in Brighton yesterday for shoplifting. He was caught on camera in a well-known department store.
Body Have I provided more details about each of the Ws (who, what, where, when, why, and possibly how)?

Have I remembered that one or two of the Ws will be more important than the others?

eg If the main point of the article is about the person, add most of the detail to who.
(expanding why)
This is Gary Beast's third arrest for shoplifting in the past two years. His band, Bad Breath, split up in 1982 and since then Gary has made four failed attempts at a comeback. He has inevitably fallen on hard times, which may go some way to explaining his behaviour recently.
Sources Have I included the names or titles of people who provided information used in my article?

Have I used direct or reported speech when quoting what they said?
(Reported speech)
The arresting officer explained that Gary had been spotted hanging around the make-up counter and behaving in a suspicious manner.
(Direct speech)
When arrested Gary said tearfully, 'I don't know what came over me.'
Illustration and caption Have I drawn a box where the illustration (such as a map, photograph or diagram etc) will be placed?

Have I written a description of what will appear inside the box?

Have I added a brief caption beneath the box?
(Description)
Photograph of Gary Beast being bundled into police van.

(Caption)
Taken away by police: a last glimpse of Gary before prison or Popstar's Gary Beast led away by police

Margaret McNeil and Alan Peat are currently writing a book about 'Meaningful Self Assessment and Writing'.