If you teach English, you have heard that statement numerous times. I know I did when I taught English.
In my new role teaching Convergence Journalism, my students often struggle to develop story ideas that are unique and fresh.
For example, they want to tell a story about football, which is a very broad topic.
I often ask, "What story about football do you want to tell?" They struggle to dig deeper and come up with a story angle that is more specific than the broad topic of football.
To attack this problem, I returned to my English roots and Kelly Gallagher's Six Modes of Writing from his book Write Like This.
The six modes of writing are:
1. Express and reflect
2. Inform and explain
3. Evaluate and judge
4. Inquire and explore
5. Analyze and interpret
6. Take a stand/propose a solution
First, students generate a list of interest areas. These are the broad topics that they will then narrow down. For example, some of my broad topics include:
From there, students will choose one of their interest areas and develop 2-3 story ideas for each mode of writing. This gives my students between 12-18 different angles, rather than the broad topic of "football."
Here is a simple handout that I use:
I always model this for my students first. Just like when writing, I employ the "I go, you go" approach where students see me model first and then they proceed to develop their own story ideas. Here is a picture of my modeling of the topic "football."
In five-ten minutes, I generated 19 viable story ideas for the broad topic of football. If needed, I could turn all of these ideas into stories.
So far, my students have only picked one from their list and turned that into either a video package or written story. My next step is to have the students choose one written and one video story from their list to combine together as a package.
Here is an example where the video story is an Inform and Explain about ACT Prep and the written story is an Inquire and Explore about how to raise your ACT score.
I have found this method forces students to dig much deeper and come up with better story ideas.
What methods do you use to have students generate story ideas?