While asking students to speak a specific list of vocabulary from the board, we discuss the news story: analysis, evidence, implicit, explicit, and inference.
Part of our discussions gravite on organization, the use of transitions, and whether the lead and conclusion struck us as effective. It has been useful to scribe the opening sentences on the board aloud with the class--to break it down, to analyze the strategy the writer used in composing the news story.
The PBS Student Reporting Labs have been a great resource of student-produced video for me. I find a range of topics as well as examples from both middle school and high school students.
The use of video to discuss informational writing becomes another access point for the students. Too often, we tend to see writing as something we just do for school, or worse...something done just for English class. After a steady diet of student video, students analyze professional news stories in the same way, and we find very few, subtle, differences among them, structurally speaking.
Students have been able to apply these lessons to their writing of informational texts and become excited to compose videos of their own. Right now, we are brainstorming and digging for news stories about our community.
Showing students the relevance of informational writing outside of our classroom--and how dependent it is with strong narrative skills--has become an energizing focal point in this unit. My kids still think of the tenets of story-telling throughout the informational writing unit.
Not the least of which is the great, grounding question for student writers: why does it matter?