Activities

The first three exercises in the textbook ask students to identify examples of different kinds of leads in news stories and analyze them.  The last two exercises ask students to identify news stories with nut graphs and analyze how well they answer “so what?”

 

The exercises in the Interactive Workbook ask students to write alternative leads based on lists of information.  Separate exercises ask students to write nut graphs based on those leads.  (You’ll notice there are more exercises for this chapter than most, in order to provide students with added practice writing leads.)

 

1.  Analyzing nut graphs (Exercises 12-1, 12-2 and 12-3 in the textbook are similar, but this activity is geared to in-class work.)

 

a.  Link to ProPublica’s story on the resurgence of segregated schools in the U.S.

 

As you scroll down through pictures, deck heads and the final deck head (“Now…”), ask students to discuss signals about what the story is about.  Then, have them read the first few paragraphs of the text story, and ask them to identify the nut graph.  What information does it provide?  Do they feel they had to wait too long to get to the crux of the story, or did the dramatic visuals, story’s length and amount of research justify the wait?

 

b.  Link to this Pulitzer Prize-winning story about coal mining abuses from the Center for Public Integrity.

 

Ask students to discuss signals about what the story is about.  Ask them to identify the nut graph(s).  What information is provided here?  What benefits are there in delaying the main point to this story?

 

2.  Writing strong alternative leads (This exercise incorporates several Interactive Workbook assignments.)

 

a.  Ask students to complete a few of the exercises in the Interactive Workbook.

 

b.  Then, ask for volunteers to read aloud their leads.  For each, have the rest of the class write answers to the following questions:

 

  • Does the description pull readers or listeners into the story?

  • Is the description clear enough—that is, does the audience feel confused by the delay in getting to the main point?

  • What words, phrases or techniques are especially effective about the lead?

  • What words, phrases or techniques in the lead could be improved?

 

c.  Next, link to the Pulitzer Prize Web page with Mary Chind’s Des Moines Register photo of a river rescue.  Read aloud the caption beneath the photo and ask students to write a descriptive lead based on the photo.  Again, ask several students to read aloud their leads, and ask the class to write answers to the following questions:

 

  • Does the description pull readers or listeners into the story?

  • Is the lead accurate—are details of the scene correct?

  • Is the lead clear enough to avoid confusing an audience?

  • What words, phrases or techniques are especially effective about the lead?

  • What words, phrases or techniques in the lead could be improved?

 

 

d.  Next, link to the U.S. Census information website’s quick facts.  Click on your state, and as a class, choose a few pieces of information for which students will write a nut graph (for instance, you might have them compare the population in the state to the U.S. population for 2010 and 2013, and the percentage of that population under 18 years of age).

 

Ask students to spend a few minutes writing nut graphs.  Then ask several students to read their nut graphs aloud.  For each, have the class write answers to the following questions:

 

  • Is the information accurate?

  • Does the paragraph include the most important information?

  • Is the main point clear?

 

e.  Then, ask students for ideas of reporting they might do to create a lead that provides a specific example to make those statistics more vivid for an audience.

Instructors:
Chapter 12
 

LEADING WITH SOMETHING DIFFERENT

 

Activities

Test questions & PDF

SYNOPSIS

 

This chapter guides students through how and when they might use a non-traditional news story lead.  It walks them through several different situations for which a different kind of lead might serve their audience better, and discusses some of those different styles of leads.  It also teaches students what a nut graph is and how to create one.