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Interviewing Our Heroes
by Kyra Kirkwood , Robinson Elementary
(Manhattan Beach, CA)

Subject Area:    Other subject

Grade Level:    5-8

Overview/Purpose:

To teach fourth- and fifth-grade students participating in an after-school journalism club how to identify and effectively tell someone else's story using a newspaper article-type format.

Objectives:

Students will learn how to:

  • seek out a hero-based story that interests them;
  • conduct an in-depth interview;
  • take detailed notes and decipher them;
  • boil all their information down into concise newspaper-style articles and
  • submit this story to the My Hero website to have it published.
This lesson would be a great introductory lesson into the world of journalism. It is recommended to use it as the club's first assignment. Since it encourages them to interview people they know, this will warm up these "cub reporters" to interviewing others they don't know for articles to be published later in the club's newspaper.

Resources/Materials:

Pens, paper or notebooks, computers with Internet access.

Activities and Procedures:

This is a two-part, or two-meeting, plan. It can be stretched into three meetings if time is short by having students post their articles on the third session.

A. Introduce the students to the website and explain what they will be doing (interviewing their own heroes, writing up the story and posting it on the Internet).

B. Have the students individually brainstorm to figure out who their heroes are and why. It needs to be someone they can talk to/interview, so sports pros and movie stars won't work for this project. Encourage the students to think about their lives, schools, families and neighborhoods to find a "hometown hero" with a story to share.

C. Once the heroes are identified, have each child write down a series of 10 questions to ask them. These questions should cover the basic "who, what, when, where, why and how" and help explain why the interviewee is deemed a hero. For example, if Johnny's hero is his uncle Bill who is a firefighter, Johnny could ask such questions as:

  1. Why did you want to become a firefighter?

  2. What is your favorite part of the job?

  3. What was your scariest day on the job?

  4. What keeps you coming back day after day?

  5. How did you prepare to become a firefighter?

  6. Where do you work?

  7. Who is your on-the-job hero?

D. Check the students? questions, which can be written in longhand or typed on the computer. Tell them to make their interview appointments by a certain date (of your choosing). This is their first deadline. Explain to them the importance of meeting deadlines in the journalism world.

E. Talk about interviewing. Explain how an interview with someone is really just a conversation with a lot of listening and note-taking. Encourage them to ask more questions than are on their lists, if they feel compelled to do so.

F. Explain how note taking is really just that: notes. The students don?t have to write down every single thing the person says, unless a direct quote is desired. If the interviewee says something clever, the student may wish to use that as a direct quote. That must be written down word for word. Show them examples of quotes from the daily paper. Encourage the students to ask their heroes to repeat things in order to accurately transcribe what was said.

G. Send them out with an assignment to bring their completed interviews back to class at the next meeting.

H. For the second half of this lesson, the students will have their notes with them. They must have adhered to the deadline and already interviewed their heroes. Have them read through their notes one time to refresh their memories.

I. Assign each student to a computer. Boot up the word-processing program of your choice.

J. It's time to write the lead, or first, paragraph of their stories. A lead is the main point of the article. Encourage each student to summarize, in one sentence, who their hero is and why. In other words, have them write down what makes this person so interesting. That is the lead. Have them polish it up and write it down.

K. Then the students, using their notes, will continue writing. Each paragraph in the article will contain facts about these heroes learned from the interviews. Encourage the students to use quotes if they have them in their notes.

L. In their conclusion paragraphs, summarize once more why these people are heroes. Ending with a quote is nice, too.

M. Each student will then read their articles silently and fact-check them against their notes for accuracy. Then they will bring the copy to you for editing.

N. Once you edit the articles, have the students import the corrections.

O. Then, do a quick read-through with the students and make sure everyone is happy with the finished products. Save the articles on either a disc or the computer. Now is the time to either stop for the day or move on to the next step. If you choose to stop, finish the final steps in the third club meeting.

P. Boot up My Hero.com and log on to the "Create" program. Have each student do this. They must register first, which can be done at the first class session or now, per your time limits. Write down the basic information on the board: school?s email, school?s name, etc. Go around the room and make sure everyone is successfully registered.

Q. Follow the Create program, having the students cut and paste their articles into the template.

R. The students can now also add weblinks or photos to the My Hero webpage.

S. Make sure everything is correct (spelling, etc.)

T. Students can hit the "View this Page" button to see how it will look online. Have each student either print the page or save a copy of it.

U. When completely finished, hit the "Submit" button.

Assessment:

The lesson should be assessed by how well the students interview their heroes and translate those notes into a flowing article. If all goes well, this taste of journalism in familiar territory will inspire them and give them the self-confidence needed to embark on more articles for their school newspaper.

 
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