Unit One

Click on button (above) to download the lesson plan and “The Journalist’s Creed” (below).

Unit One: The 5 W’s of News

Summary for teachers of lesson’s objectives:

  • Teacher Objective: To establish a collaborative environment right from the start in our online classroom that is responsive to students’ input
  • Student Objective: To Learn how to discuss, share ideas, and work together with fellow high-school classmates online

My research told me how important it is, for my students, that I work to build a collaborative virtual classroom in which they can produce their Catholic school’s new online newspaper.  In collaborative learning students:

are not passive receptacles but are active in their process of knowledge acquisition as they participate in discussions, search for information and exchange opinions with their peers. Knowledge is co-created and shared among peers, not owned by one particular learner after obtaining it from the course materials or instructor. The learning process creates a bond between and among learners as their knowledge construction depends on each other’s contribution to the discussion” (Brindley, Walti, and Blaschke, 2009).

 To me, this defines the culture necessary for students to effectively collaborate on producing a newspaper. Connectivism (Siemens, 2005), which addresses technology and learning, “recognizes that in the online learning environment, seeking and constructing knowledge is most often accomplished through interaction and dialogue”(Brindley, Walti, and Blaschke, 2009). One question I had from my research was how do I nurture these goals of collaboration and connectivism when the students aren’t in the same room, or, same country? Brindley et al. (2009) propose using a four-step process they say was first suggested by Siemens (2002), for online courses:

  • Communication: shutterstock_107309390

People talking, discussing

  •  Collaboration:


People sharing ideas and working together in a loose environment

  • Cooperation: shutterstock_107901131

People doing things together, but each with his own purpose

  • Community


People striving for a common purpose

 The authors suggest using this process over and over again for increasingly difficult assignments throughout a course. I will use these four C’s in my lesson plans for this Final Project.

 Activity: The 5 W’s of News

  • Introductions:adobe2

 (Communication) Students say their name, and what city/country they are in, and how they are getting their news (newspapers, online newspapers, other online sources, cable shows, etc., and how they view the news: phone, tablet, laptop, TV, radio) Visual: Teacher keeps a running tally or chart on the Adobe Connect screen of the different sources and devices used. An example of the Adobe Connect screen on the right is like the one used in class. This screen shot is from http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/


  •  Bring up a big news story that students would be aware of and ask where they were when they heard about the story, and what they remember about the moment. (For this lesson we will look at the story of  the white smoke billowing out of the Vatican chimney to announce the pope’s election.) Let students discuss why they remember where they were. Visual: Video of white smoke coverage can be found at this link:



Use the Vatican white smoke story to discuss the 5 W’s of news:

  • WHO decides what’s news? (Discuss gatekeepers.) Visual: The teacher can put up the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times coverage of the pope’s election from the day after the election of the pope to see how the story was covered by the two papers.  (The pope was elected during the day on March 13, 2013. The next day the NY Times ran the story on the front of the World section, and the LA Times ran an editorial.)

New York Times link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/15/world/europe/pope-francis.html

Los Angeles Times link: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/mar/14/opinion/la-ed-pope-francis-20130314

  •  WHAT is news? (Collaboration) What makes it important to you? (Discuss proximity, timeliness, prominence, conflict, novelty, human interest. Into what category does the story about the white smoke fall? )


Ask the students to go on “chat” during class and see what big stories in the news they can come up with in their chat group, and then which category or categories of news (noted above) those stories fall under. adobe

(Chat is part of the online classroom. It is seen in the lower right of the screen shot above.) Then ask a representative (of their choosing) from the boys’ group and a representative from the girls’ group to present their ideas. Visual: The teacher will write their story topics under the categories they selected on the screen.

  • WHERE are all the places people can get their news? (What source did you use to see the white smoke news story: newspapers, TV, blogs, cable news, online newspapers, online sources other than newspapers?) Visual: The teacher can put up on the screen various newspapers, TV newscast, blogs, online newspapers.
  • WHEN do you read a newspaper for news, and when do you go online for news? Visual: The teacher can put up the white smoke story as it was covered on cable news the moment the story broke, and then the story the next day in a newspaper to compare how the lead has changed because of the delay of newspaper printing. (See links above under WHO.)
  • WHY does news sell? (Relate discussion to white smoke news story.)

The Reporter:

(Introduction to next week’s topic) Who is a reporter? (Interviewers, writers, photographers, bloggers, ancient scribes, etc., are they all reporters?) Visual: Put pictures on the screen of different reporters in different circumstances. Mention the famous reporters such as Nellie Bly, Samuel Clemens, Hemingway, Margaret Bourke-White, and Herodotus.

nellieNellie Bly

Mark_Twain,_Brady-Handy_photo_portrait,_Feb_7,_1871,_croppedSamuel Clemens

                              Oscar Graubner - la photographe Margaret Bourke-WhiteMargaret Bourke-White




Links to images:

Nellie Bly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nellie_Bly_2.jpg

Samuel Clemens:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mark_Twain,_Brady-Handy_photo_portrait,_Feb_7,_1871,_cropped.jpg

Ernest Hemingway: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://blog.syracuse.com/shelflife/2008/07/hemingway.jpg&imgrefurl=http://blog.syracuse.com/shelflife/2008/07/writers_born_this_day_crane_he.html&h=3000&w=2351&sz=1121&tbnid=NN9DfkLOnWmpBM:&tbnh=93&tbnw=73&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dhemingway%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=hemingway&usg=__MRj7toNgSJ8j0H5wlogMEtcmjMw=&docid=oiJ7oY4O3PaKeM&sa=X&ei=UrNYUa6AIaOmigLsj4CwDQ&ved=0CJgBEP4dMBE

Margaret Bourke-White:   http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/bour-mar.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/bour-mar.htm&h=360&w=288&sz=19&tbnid=H-tKn402d3auNM:&tbnh=98&tbnw=78&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dmargaret%2Bbourke%2Bwhite%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=margaret+bourke+white&usg=__P5IS6NrGAWH1SHjyjRS9T56OdsQ=&docid=_yOewci6oJoIwM&sa=X&ei=0LRYUZTZIeWsiQLK4IBI&ved=0CIMBEP4dMAw

What are the responsibilities of a reporter (storyteller, observer, historian)? Teacher will explain that the next Unit will look at reporters and the roles they play at newspapers and online news sources.

Introduce Walter Williams’ Journalist’s Creed. Discuss a phrase from the creed each week. This week: “I BELIEVE IN THE PROFESSION OF JOURNALISM.” What does the word “profession” tell you about Walter Williams’ perspective on his work as a journalist?  This is the link to the University of Missouri School of Journalism website http://journalism.missouri.edu/jschool/ that talks about Williams setting up the world’s first journalism school at MU, and his Journalist’s Creed which is in bronze at the Washington Press Club in the nation’s capital.


Teacher explanation: In this exercise students will need to make up a phrase and turn it into news. First, students need to think of an unexciting phrase and then add a second phrase that turns the sentence into an interesting sentence –one that makes people want to know more about the event.

 For example:

Phrase 1: The day started out like any other quiet day in central California

Phrase 2: but that all changed when the earthquake hit at 9:06am.

 Visual: New York Times story from 3/24/13 about the lunch shared by Pope Francis and the former Pope Benedict.

Phrase 1: “Sharing lunch is rarely historic

Phrase 2: except perhaps when the two people eating are a pope and his predecessor.”

Boys: (Cooperation and Community) Working together, make one list of ten statements that are not news for next week. Then, in class next week, the girls will have to figure out one fact phrase to add to the statements to make it newsworthy. (Email the boys a list of all the boy emails.)

Girls: (Cooperation and Community) Working together, make one list of ten statements or phrases that are not news for next week. Then, in class next week, the boys will have to figure out one fact phrase for each statement to make it newsworthy. (Email the girls a list of all the girl emails.)

Students: Watch or read your personal favorite source of news for at least five minutes each day. What was news on that news source that was not news on another news source?

Assessment: Homework will let the students show their ability to identify news. Also, this exercise will let the teacher see how well students are collaborating with each other.