Lesson Plan

From Listen Current to Story Producer

Students create newsworthy stories by research, writing, reporting an issue based story.
James D.
Educator/Curriculum Developer
IdeaDriven Education
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My Grades 6, 7, 8
My Subjects English Language Arts, Social Studies, English-Language Learning

Students will be able to...

1. Recognize the main ideas and important facts in an audio-only news story.

2. Identify the elements the elements of an interesting and entertaining news story.

3. Succinctly pitch several possible news stories.

4. Cooperatively decide on the merits/audience appeal of a story;

5. Collaboratively create an audio or video news story. 

English Language Arts
Social Studies
English-Language Learning
Grades 6 – 8
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Learning to Listen for Information

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Background: In our grade level team meetings, core subject teachers (Science, Math, Language Arts, and Social Studies) brought up the difficulty so many students had in listening for information.  For some, it was instructions in class.  For others it was about the difficulty students had in watching/listening to something (like a documentary) and recognizing important information (even with guiding questions).  

In my case, I had assigned a couple of short documentary clips for homework with the simple goal of identifying key information in order to be ready for discussion in class.  Each time, I had students (even strong ones) report that it was taking them 30+ minutes to watch and take brief talking point notes (for an 8-10 minute clip).    

I realized something was wrong, so we talked about it in class, and students explained that it was taking them so long because they had trouble distinguishing what was important and ended up stopping and replaying endlessly.

Realizing that something was wrong, I decided we had to do some foundational skill building.  

Original instructions: Using a bit of classroom flipping, assign students a documentary or audio clip to watch/listen to with the goal of identifying key information for use in discussion.

Student Instructions

1.  Watch this segment of Civilisations Mesopotamia.

2.  Identify some of the developments that occurred in Mesopotamia that later shaped other urban societies.

3. Take notes and be ready to discuss in class tomorrow.  Remember that the focus is going to be on things that affected societies that followed them.

2 Re-evaluating and Scaffolding

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Background: After seeing that students were legitimately struggling with what I had taken for granted to be a fairly simple task, I decided that I had to go back and do some targeted teaching of the skills of listening/watching and identifying main ideas and the relevant facts that support them. 


1. Use ListenCurrent (free edition is fine) to assign a story. 

2. Provide students with the listening comprehension questions beforehand to help them identify what they have to listen for.

3. I assigned them to listen in pairs. 

4. When finished, ask them to use take the accompanying Socrative quiz (built in to the ListenCurrent stories).  

NOTE: Many ListenCurrent stories already have Socrative quizzes that you can use.  I usually create my own.

Student Instructions

1. With a partner, listen to the ListenCurrent story linked on Haiku.

2. Take notes on what you think are key points.  They do not have to be formal or in full sentences.  

3.  Take the quiz on Socrative when you are finished.  Think about why you did well or didn't.

3 Identifying what went right/wrong

Activity: Conversing

1. Discuss with students how they did on the quiz.  I started with a very general question - How did you do?  Why do you think you did/didn't do well?

2. Discuss the structure of the news story.  What were the elements of the story?  This is similar in a lot of ways to breaking down and analyzing writing genres.  What are the traits of this type of media?  

3. As the discussion progresses, list the traits somewhere that students will then be able to refer to repeatedly over the next few days (chart paper, white board etc.).

4. Ask students to identify where key information is introduced or presented (e.g. main idea in the opening, facts via interview with expert etc.).

5. We identify key information in categories such as:

  • Who (experts quoted or mentioned)
  • Where (country, city etc.)
  • What (explain the issue or topic)
  • When (contemporary, historic)
  • Why/How (why is this an important story or how does it impact people)

4 Independent Practice and Writing

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1. Select a range of stories for students to choose from.

2. These can be tied directly to a curricular unit (what I did) or simply be stories that you think will be appealing to student interests.  Part of the beauty of Listen Current is the incredible range of stories.

3. I preview the stories and, before linking them on Haiku (our school's CMS), I assign them a degree of difficulty.  This is based in part on the complexity of the topic or the level of background knowledge necessary to understand it.  I encourage students to 'reach' but in the end to choose something they feel comfortable with.

4. Students then need to do a blog post incorporating the types of information we identified as being integral to understanding this type of story from our discussion.  We refer to the chart that we made in class.

5. Blog post must include a photo from Photos for Class that represents some element of the story. 

Student Instructions

1. Choose one of the stories linked here from Listen Current.  Choose a story that interests you, but consider choosing one that is a bit of a challenge.  If you have questions about the content or vocabulary, you can ask during class work time.

2. Listen to the story. Take brief notes highlighting the type of information we identified as a class as being essential to this type of story.  

3. Write a blog post (2-4 paragraphs) explaining the story and its importance. 

4. Include a photo from Photos for Class that represents some element of the story.  Use this site to ensure proper attribution and licensing. 

5 The Project

Background note: I tied this next step (the project) into our unit on Urbanization.  In this unit, students identify an urban issue (energy, pollution, food, space/sprawl, transportation etc.) that they believe is important to address in improving the quality of life in the city.  They then research the problem and solutions that are being implemented or tried around the world to address that same problem. They then have to makea  case for a solution they believe is ideal for our city.  

1 . Via flipboard I share a wide range of stories to students about different topics related to problems and solutions facing cities around the world.

2. Students form teams in which each person chooses a different element of urbanplanning or a problem facing the city. 

3. After researching, they must prepare short pitches to their partners about potential ideas they believe will work to improve quality of life.  Ideas have to be rooted in something that is being tried or proposed in other places.  This is to keep the project grounded in reality (as opposed to becoming a sci-fi project).

4. Each student pitches 2-4 ideas to his/her group lasting no more than one minute each.

5. The group selects one idea per student in the group. 

6. The student then completes research on that idea and must prepare either:

  • a video project (iMovie) that includes all the traits we identified from the Listen Current stories (who, what, where etc.). 
  • an audio-only piece that will be uploaded to Soundcloud

7. Each piece must include things like a narrator, anecdote, interview (if possible), facts/examples/statistics.

Student Instructions

1. Use the flipboard magazine I shared to you as a springboard for your research on a topic related to a problem facing our city.  If you find other good sources, flip those into the magazine.

2. Find 2-4 problems and potential solutions being implemented or proposed in other places facing similar problems as our city.

3. Prepare a 60 second (maximum) pitch about each idea you find.  Present these to your partners.

4. Partners, settle on one idea per person in your group.  Choose the one that you think is the most interesting and/or most likely to succeed.

5. Research in-depth the problem and solution that your partners approved.

6. Prepare an audio or video news story detailing the background information on the problem, key ideas about the solution, and WHY this is good for our city. 

7. Remember to include the elements we identified as being essential to this type of piece. 

(Examples: start with the narrator/presenter, interview, anecdote, facts, summary/conclusion)

Who (experts quoted or mentioned)
Where (country, city etc.)
What (explain the issue or topic)
When (contemporary, historic)
Why/How (why is this an important story or how does it impact people)

6 Self and Peer Assessment

Activity: Assessing

1.  Have students do a quick self-assessment of their own pieces. 

2. I provide a quick organizer in which they note the key information as they hear it/see it in their own pieces. 

Who (experts quoted or mentioned)
Where (country, city etc.)
What (explain the issue or topic)
When (contemporary, historic)
Why/How (why is this an important story or how does it impact people)

3. If it's not all there, I give time to edit and improve.

4. If it passes the self assessment, a peer does the same. If the peer finds anything lacking, the student HAS to go back and improve the piece.