Lesson: News 5: Writing interview questions
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It is one thing to conduct good research, but it is another entirely to leverage that research into creating new information. This lesson will give students both the tools and the conceptual understanding to take their background research on their press conferee and to build that research into questions that will make the students appear to be experts on their topics even as they meaningfully probe for new information. (Time required: 120 minutes)
- Understand how to craft strong interview questions using research results.
- To prepare for the coming press conference.
- Worksheet 4: Writing Professional Interview Questions
- Appendix 5: Press Conference Question Rubric
- Refresh students on where we are in the unit, that we’re still working towards the press conference and the news story.
- Hand out Worksheet 4: Writing Professional Interview Questions and read through as a class.
- Give students time to review the collected linkography about their press conferee.
- When they are familiar with the material in the linkography — on other words, once they can think of themselves as “experts” on their press conferee — ask them to decide in small groups which are the most promising areas for creating questions that will produce newsworthy answers — answers that are relevant to what’s in the news today (or what should be in the news).
- Review Appendix 5: Press Conference Question Rubric and explain to students the quality of work you are expecting of them.
- As described on the back of Activity Worskheet 4, ask students to each create three questions that match the criteria detailed in the worksheet.
- Hold a mock press conference — even 10 or 15 minutes will be useful at this point — in which the teacher pretends to be the press conferee. (In our classroom, the teacher puts on a hat or a wig to make this fun.) Students ask their questions and the teacher responds, making an effort to take advantage in flaws in the questions as a method for providing as little information as possible. Discuss how to improve the questions.
- Students revise questions based on experience in the mock press conference.
- Evaluate student questions (and grade them?) before moving forward. You should encourage students whose questions do not meet the standard to redo or revise their work.
Step 6 above — in which students review the linkography and write interview questions — may be done as homework.
- Do students understand how embedding background in their questions can strengthen those questions?
- Do students feel that they have questions that are designed to elicit news from the press conferee?
- Do students feel that they’re more likely to be taken seriously by the press conferee.
Connections to Standards:
- This is a good opportunity to remind students of the etiquette of formal interactions in the adult world. You may want to encourage them to introduce themselves before they ask their questions, to offer a greeting (“Good afternoon, Mayor Cohen”) and to attentively take notes during the answers.
- Those notes will be essential when they sit down to write their news stories, so warn students that they’re going to need to write quickly and speedily.
- This would also be a good time to talk about the value of audio recordings and why many reporters use them and many others don’t. Reporters generally know their topics in advance so well that they know exactly what they want and don’t waste their time writing down what they don’t need.
- Some teachers may prefer to do this assignment after the newswriting training in Lesson 6.
Time needed to teach:
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