Use this teaching strategy to help students identify and analyze the key characteristics of the three most common types of news articles: straight news, feature, and opinion. This strategy helps students develop their news literacy and critical thinking skills, and it can be used with any article that fits into one of these categories.
If you haven’t already, it might be a good idea to review the characteristics of the three major types of news articles before asking students to answer the guiding questions below.
- Straight News Article: Straight news articles provide basic information to readers (the who, what, where, when, why, and how) on current events. They typically follow an inverted pyramid structure, with information presented in descending order of importance.
- Feature Article: Feature articles cover a topic or person in greater depth than straight news articles. They also offer writers more freedom to use storytelling techniques or literary devices, and they are often accompanied by visual aids such as photographs, illustrations, or some other type of graphic.
- Opinion Article: Unlike the other two genres, which strive to be objective, opinion articles allow the writer to take a stance on a particular issue or debate. They are often written by someone outside the field of journalism but nonetheless expert on the topic (e.g., a lawyer writing about criminal justice reform).
You might also want to share examples of each type of news article with students. In small groups, ask students to identify the category of each article. Then lead a class discussion on how they made their determinations.
The questions below provide a structure for students to analyze the key features of each type of news article. You can choose which questions students should answer based on the article you assign.
General Questions (all three types):
- What type of news article is this (straight news article, feature article, or opinion article)? What features of the article (purpose, writing style, use of evidence, format, etc.) help you identify it?
- What information does the headline or other text callouts convey? If there are any photos or illustrations, what information do they provide?
- What are the key ideas in the article?
- What is the tone of the article? How do the sentence structure, ideas, and writing style contribute to the tone?
- What kinds of evidence does the author provide in the article? How does the evidence support the author’s conclusions?
- How effective is the author’s use of evidence?
Feature Article Questions:
- What is the scene or setting of the article?
- What details and/or literary or storytelling devices does the author use to convey the setting, storyline, or broader themes of the article?
- Do you notice any visual aids or illustrations? How do these visuals enhance the storyline or the author’s point of view?
Opinion Article Questions:
- Who is the author of the article? What makes the author a credible voice on the topic, and how might their position affect their conclusions?
- What are the central arguments of the article?
- Are there any weaknesses or holes in the author’s argument? (This could include, but are not limited to, insufficient evidence, exaggerated claims, or excessive appeals to emotion.)
- What counter-arguments would you offer to some of the author’s central claims?
What’s Next? Questions (all three types):
Use this question checklist to help students determine the overall significance and point of view of the article. Students should ask themselves:
- What questions does this article raise?
- Where can I go to get answers or more information?
- Where can I go to get the other side of the argument?
For more strategies and activities on media literacy, view our Teaching Idea How to Read the News Like a Fact Checker.