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Teachers: Literacy: Text

Last Updated: Monday June 06 2005 19:05 GMT

Writing a press release

English / KS 2&3 / En3 Writing
1a. Choose form and content to suit a particular purpose.
8b. Inform and explain, focusing on the subject matter and how to convey it in sufficient detail for the reader.
12. Range to include reports.
(The numbers refer to the KS2 National Curriculum Programme of Study for English)

Overview

Press Pack site
Newsround launched its new Press Pack club on Monday 6 June. It is jam-packed with tips on how to become a top journalist.

Students learn the journalistic skill of writing a press release.

Learning aims

By the end of the lesson, students should understand:

  • The five Ws of news - what, where, when, who, why
  • How to write a press release
  • How to write a news story
Icebreaker

The W facts of news

Students scan through a selection of newspapers or online stories from the Newsround website and chose one story each.

They use the top TWO paragraphs of the story to complete this grid:

Four Ws of news, grid

In pairs, students show each other the grid. Their partner has to guess what the story is about from the information contained in the four Ws.

Ask students:

1. Did YOUR PARTNER'S story answer the four Ws in the top two paragraphs?

2. Did you manage to guess what YOUR PARTNER'S news story was about?

3. Apart from the answers to the four Ws, what else did YOUR story contain?

4. What do you notice about the paragraphs?

If students guessed what their partner's story was about, it's a sign of good journalism.

Explain to students that a news story should tell you the facts - what happened, where, when and who was involved - in the top two paragraphs.

The rest of the story may answer the four Ws in more details and also the fifth W - Why?

Often, news stories are written in single sentence paragraphs. That's because journalists are so economical with words they can get all their ideas on one subject into a single sentence.

Main activity

Students write a press release

Ask students: How do journalists find out about news?

Explain that one way is by receiving press releases from people and organisations.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a press release as: An official statement issued to journalists on a particular matter.

Explain that students are going to write a press release about a school event to send to a newspaper.

Journalists are more likely to use the press release if it is already written like a news story - it's less work for them and they will have a clear idea about the story.

First, brainstorm school events which would make a good news item. Write them as a class list.

Students chose one event and complete this grid with the facts and a quotation from a relevant person.

Five Ws of news, grid

Students use this grid to write the press release, remembering to include the brief details of what, who, when and where in the top two paragraphs (usually single sentences).

They should use the rest of the press release to flesh out the four Ws and answer the fifth W - Why?

It is a good idea to use a quotation as the third or fourth paragraph to give the story a human touch.

Extension activity

Spot the difference

PRESS RELEASE AND NEWS STORY
Article in the Reading Post, published on 23 March 2005

Distribute copies of this worksheet containing a press release and newspaper article about a Newsround school visit.

The press release was written by a teacher at Newsround. The article was written by a journalist at the Reading Post and published on 23 March 2005.

Students compare the two and answer the following questions:

1. Does the news article answer the five Ws?

2. Which bits of the press release did the journalist keep?

3. Which bits of the press release did the journalist cut?

4. Why do you think they did this?

Turn a press release into a news story

In pairs, students imagine they are an editor at a local newspaper. The press release their partner has just written lands on their desk.

Ask students:

  • Would you publish this in the newspaper exactly as it is? Why/Why not?
  • Would you swap the order around? Why/Why not?
  • Would you change some of the words? Why/Why not?
Students check their partner's press release to see if the four Ws - what, who, where and when - are answered in the top two paragraphs.

If not, student's re-write their partner's press release in the way they would publish it in their newspaper. This is what real news editors spend a fair amount of time doing.

Plenary

Ask students:

  • Why do you think news stories give you the key facts - what, who, where and when - in the top paragraph?

    Prompt: Readers scan stories and do not always read them from top to bottom, editors cut journalist's stories to fit the page.

  • Are there any occasions when an organisation might chose to put something other than the four Ws in the top two paragraphs of their press release?

    Prompt: Promotion and publicity.

Teachers' background

PRESS PACK

To learn other journalistic skills, students can visit the new Press Pack site by clicking on the link in the blue box.

For hundreds more news-based lessons, click on Teachers on the left hand side.



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