Advisers and Editors Center

A Newspaper Classroom Assignment – For Teachers

Assigning a newspaper project

Assigning your students to make a newspaper is a fantastic idea, one which we applaud. There are many aspects of making a newspaper that can be utilized in your lesson plans as well as providing a type or “real-life” experience for your students.

To help you with providing the best overall experience for your students, we have developed a recommended set of guidelines and procedures that will hopefully help you and your students. The recommendations are merely suggestions, and we strongly advise you to revise them to fit your circumstances and the overall purpose of the assignment.

Choose the Overall Emphasis of the Assignment

What is the purpose of the assignment? Making a newspaper requires a variety of skills, each of which (or a combination of them) can be the main purpose of the assignment. The following list outlines the general skills involved in the assignment:

  1. Article Writing. There are several types of journalistic writing that you can explore, teach, and assign.
  2. Title and Caption Writing. It takes a different sort of writing to grab people’s attention. Often this is a different skill than just writing an article.
  3. Graphic Design and Layout. The assignment may require students to understand basic design techniques and then their ability in implementing them.
  4. Photography. Depending upon the nature of the assignment, students may be required to take photos and add them into the newspaper. Taking good pictures, the right kind of pictures, is important.
  5. Editorial. Editors must look at the overall picture of the newspaper as well as edit and then proofread for final print. There is a particular set of skills required to be a good editor. Some teachers, as part of the assignment, have students act as editor for fellow students. This will require deadlines, drafts, and revisions to the final proof.

As you can see, you can make this as extensive as you want. You can focus on all of these skills, drawing the assignment out over many weeks and months, or you can focus on just one of the areas, explaining that final grades will be based on that one area. An English teacher may put the emphasis on the article writing, while a graphic designer may grade more heavily on the layout and photography.

General Guidelines for the Assignment

  1. Choose the Final Format. Do you want the newspaper to be turned in via a digital or physical format? A printed copy will cost money for sure, and very few printers can print just one copy of an actual newspaper at an affordable price. There are many different software programs available to build a newspaper, and you will need to decide if you want everyone to be consistent in what they use.
  2. Determine How Many Pages. A newspaper needs a minimum of 4 pages to be printed in a way that is an actual newspaper. However, many teachers only require a PDF copy or a print out of the front page. You will need to decide how many pages your students will need to create.
  3. Determine Minimum Number of Articles and Photographs. A rule of thumb is 3 articles of 500 words each with at least 1 corresponding photograph to a page. So, for 4 pages, this could equate to 12 articles and 12 photographs.
  4. Determine the Nature of the Articles. Do you want them to write about a variety of subjects, or stick to a particular era of history? Do you want different styles of articles, such as a feature story, a review, an opinion piece, and a news story?
  5. Determine the Layout Guidelines. For this, you may need to specify the following:
    • Newspaper name and amount of space it takes at the top of the front page. A general rule is no more than 3 inches.
    • Number of columns. We recommend either 3 or 4 for tabloid size newspapers.
    • Size of the newspaper. Tabloids are typically 11x14 or 11x17 inches in size.

Grading Guidelines

This will be determined by the main purpose of the newspaper. For example, English teachers may put more of the grade on the articles than on the general design and layout. This is for you to determine. However, the list below outlines things you can look for and factor into your overall grade of the project.

  1. Articles:
    • Spelling and Grammar
    • Style (editorial piece, opinion piece, feature story, column, review, etc.)
    • Word count
    • Clarity
  2. Photography:
    • Appropriate to the article
    • Does it tell part of the story?
    • Quality of the image
  3. Layout and Design:
    • Alignment of elements
    • Good spacing
    • Use of colors
    • Font choices and text sizes
    • Placing of elements for consistent flow of the newspaper

There may be other things you want to add to or take off this list.

Group Assignment Guidelines

It may be appropriate to assign the making of an actual newspaper to a group of students where collaboration and teamwork are also part of the grade. In such a case, we recommend the following:

  • Assign the making of at least a 4 page newspaper.
  • The groups should have at least four individuals: an editor and three writers. Everyone can contribute to the various other needs of a newspaper such as photography and layout. However, larger groups can have designated graphic designers and photographers.
  • Give more time for the creation of the newspaper, 6 weeks minimum.
  • Assign phases of the project to be turned in throughout the designated time. For example, have students turn in a storyboard (graphical representation of the articles and their placement in the newspaper) in the first week, then have them turn in the first drafts of the articles, and so on.

Thank you for reading. We look forward to hearing about and seeing what your students create.

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