These are the best NIE activities and lessons from past
USA WEEKEND Teacher's Guides. They have been compiled
in an easy-to-access format for you to use at anytime.
Learning standard: understanding correct use of the English language, reasoning
Author Lynne Truss is concerned that the use of instant messaging (IM) for written
communication may take a toll on the ability of young people to write and recognize
correct use of the English language. What do you think? Select a paragraph from the
newspaper and rewrite it as if you were “IM”ing it to a friend. Do you recognize the
following sentence: “2B or N2B: that is the FAQ.” (Of course, the full sentence is: “To be
or not to be, that is the question.”)
You may enjoy reading Truss’ book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a humorous look at the
state of English grammar.
Learning standard: writing verse
Nebraskan Ted Kooser writes verse that "celebrates the ordinary world" of small-town
and rural life. He believes that poetry gives people fresh ways of looking at what
otherwise might seem ordinary or dull. He says poems are gifts made of words, things of
pleasure and wisdom. For example, read his one-line poem:
O heart weighed down by so many wings.
This simple poem takes an ordinary vegetable and elevates it to a thing of beauty.
Choose three everyday objects from today’s newspaper and write a one-line poem about
Check out the great library of poetry at: www.poetry.com
Learning standard: writing poetry
Actress Kirsten Dunst told USA WEEKEND that as a teenager she enjoyed reading and
writing poetry. Perhaps you would like to try this fun pastime. The newspaper provides a
terrific resource for writing “found poetry.” Choose one interesting story from the
newspaper and write a poem using words you extracted from the article. This activity will
also help you build vocabulary skills.
Writing Letters I
Learning standard: identifying career opportunities, letter writing
Are you interested in finding a summer job? One type of job you may not have
considered is an internship. An internship is a great way to try out a career to see
whether it is something that interests you. Skim the Business section of the newspaper
to identify three businesses where you would be interested in interning. You should write
letters to each company inquiring about the internship opportunities and explaining why
you’d be a good candidate.
Lots of information about internships and summer jobs can be found at:
Writing Letters II
Learning standard: identifying career opportunities, letter writing
Prosthetists are the specialists who create artificial limbs for people who have lost their
own. Prosthetic science is making news more than ever these days because so many
soldiers returning from Iraq need such devices. Artificial limbs are stronger and lighter
than ever before, making them function more like natural limbs. They contain
microprocessors that enhance life-like movement, making it easier for the amputee to
move around. An article in USA WEEKEND introduces readers to some of these brave
amputees who have overcome obstacles to go on to greater achievements, including
bike racing and running. They have become heroes and inspirations to many people.
What is the meaning of the word "inspiration?" Can you find anyone in the newspaper
you think is inspiring? If so, write a letter telling that person how their story inspired you.
Learning standard: writing in a narrative style
The movie, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is the sequel to Bridget Jones’s Diary.
An interview with her in USA WEEKEND Magazine is written in diary format. Choose a
story from the newspaper and write a diary entry from the perspective of one person in
that story. The entry should detail events from the article.
Descriptive Writing I
Learning standard: writing vivid descriptions
Capt. David Dye spent 22 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Now, he advises
moviemakers and makers of video games to help them create lifelike military
environments. Because he knows the area so well, he is able to help them create a vivid
setting for any military story. What article in the newspaper do you think would make a
good setting for a movie or video game? Literary good settings are those with enough
vivid description so that the reader can mentally visualize the scene. Choose an article
that would make a good setting for a movie and game. Then write a vivid description of
Descriptive Writing II
Learning standard: writing descriptions
It’s easier to sell something if you can write a terrific description of it for an ad. Practice
this skill by choosing a House for Sale ad from the Real Estate section and writing a
vivid description of the house. You should feel free to embellish the details to make the
house sound irresistible.
Learning standard: writing from a different point of view
The movie Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is based on the series of
best-selling books for children. USA WEEKEND had an exclusive story by Lemony
Snicket (the pen name of an author named Daniel Handler). The story is told from the
perspective of a lump of coal that dreams of being an artist. Writing from an unusual
point of view is a great exercise. Choose a story from the newspaper and rewrite it from
the point of view of an inanimate object that might have been on the scene of the story.
For help and support with fiction writing, visit: www.writerswrite.com/fiction/
Creative Writing I
Learning standard: writing creatively
A reader wrote to USA WEEKEND asking if there will be a third Spiderman movie. The
answer is yes — but not until 2007. Meanwhile, you might like to create a superhero.
Assemble a “super” person — one with attributes of people that you’ve found in the
newspaper — to create a single person with many abilities.
Creative Writing II
Learning standard: creative writing, identifying wants and needs
The hit TV show Lost mesmerizes millions of fans each week. The plot line revolves
around survivors of a plane crash who are stranded on a deserted island. They have
only the supplies that were with them on the plane and those they can find on the island.
Think about the items you need most every day and what items you would choose to
have with you in an emergency situation. If you were going to be magically transported
to a deserted island and could take with you just three items mentioned in the
newspaper, what would those be and why? Write a five-paragraph essay introducing the
topic, explaining why you chose each item, and ending with a summary paragraph.
Learning standard: essay writing
Americans donate about 7.5% of their earnings to charity. Which do you think is more
charitable — giving money or giving time through volunteer service? Select one form of
charity, either time or money, and find a person or cause in the newspaper to which you
would donate. Write an essay naming the person or cause, why you chose it, and what
you would do.
Learning standard: writing a critique
Tough talent critic Simon Cowell of TVs American Idol has a difficult job. It’s hard to
critique a person, be sensitive to peoples’ feelings and give constructive advice. Try out
the job of critic. Choose an article from the newspaper and write a critique of the writing
style and clarity. You should be very specific in telling what you liked and did not like and
how the writing was good and not so good.
Learning standard: writing directions
USA WEEKEND’s Contributing editor Lou Manfredini shares with readers the step-by-
step method of folding fitted sheets neatly. Write a similar set of step-by-step directions
for reading a newspaper. Describe the actions involved in reading a newspaper.
What do you do first?
Do you skim the front page?
Do you fold it a certain way?
Do you use the index to see what’s in the paper and then turn to a favorite
Read the newspaper freely for five minutes and then write down exactly what you did,
one step at a time.
Learning standard: writing an outline
The movie Sin City is based on a comic book. Read the comic strips in the newspaper
and choose one that would make a good movie. Write an outline of the movie that could
be made from the strip. What would be a good title? You should also describe the
setting, characters and plot.
Writing an Acrostic
Learning standard: writing an acrostic
An article in USA WEEKEND about caregivers is written in an unusual style. It is an
acrostic, that is, each tip begins with a letter of the word "caregiver." (Example: C is for
Consider needs, A is for Accept help, etc.) Write an acrostic poem about yourself. You
should start by writing your first name down the left side of the page, one letter at a time.
Then you should skim the newspaper looking for words in the headlines that begin with
each letter and that say something about you personally. For an interesting graphic
effect, cut and paste the words from the headlines directly onto the paper.
Learning standard: writing editorials, writing opinions with supporting details
Actress Penélope Cruz stars in the movie, Bandidas. In it, she and her best friend,
actress Salma Hayek, play bank robbers who give the money they steal to the poor.
Theoretically, do you think it is ethically acceptable to take from the rich to give to the
poor? Or do you believe that stealing is wrong under all circumstances? You should
write an editorial offering your opinion. First, read some newspaper editorials to see how
they are written. You should identify at least three opinions and the facts that support
them. Then, following that style, write your own editorial.
Read one of the classic tales of the hero who robbed the rich to help the poor, Robin
Learning standard: note-taking, journal writing
USA WEEKEND’s 2005 Women’s Health Report included an article offering readers tips
for increasing their energy levels. Chances are that you could use an energy boost at
times. The article suggests stretching, deep breathing, drinking lots of water and even
taking a quick walk as ways to increase energy. Another tip they suggest is to write in a
journal at the end of a stressful day. Research shows that people who express
themselves on paper score better on tests and get sick less often. You should try and
keep a journal. If you don’t know what to write about, read the newspaper for 10
minutes. Jot notes in the margins recording any thoughts that come to you while you are
reading. A story, ad or photo may spark a reaction or thought. After the 10 minutes, them
write a journal entry telling what you were thinking while reading the newspaper.
Learning standard: writing dialogue
USA WEEKEND’s Contributing editor Soledad O’Brien offered advice to parents about
dealing with teens who may be experiencing stress. One good way for teens and
parents to deal with stress together is to keep the lines of communication open. A good
way for teens and parents to communicate is to talk about an objective topic like a news
story. Choose a story from the newspaper that you think has a good topic for a teen and
parent to discuss. Then, write a bit of the dialogue as it might happen in such a
Letters to the Editor
Learning standard: letter writing, forming opinions
During the holiday season, lots of gifts are exchanged. Sometimes those gifts come in
the form of a charitable donation made by one person in the name of another person.
What do you think of this idea? Would you ever consider giving such a gift? How would
you feel about receiving such a gift? Read some letters to the editor to see how they are
written, then write such a letter giving your opinion about charitable donations for holiday
Learning standard: writing a position paper with supporting details
Whoopi Goldberg talked to USA WEEKEND about her new project, a television show
that follows the lives of young girls on a soccer team. She says that part of the reason
she liked this project is because it busted some of the myths about girls and sports and
what girls could and couldn’t do. She remembers that 40 years ago, girls didn’t or
couldn’t play many sports, but now they can do almost anything boys can do. There
have been other changes during that time, too. Classified ads for work used to be
divided into jobs for men and jobs for women. Working women once had to leave work
or school to have babies. Businesses would pass almost automatically from fathers to
sons, skipping daughters entirely. Ponder the differences in opportunities for men and
women and write a position paper telling whether you think situations are now equal or
still need to change in order to achieve equality. Skim the newspaper for information that
supports your conclusions.
Writing for Different Genres
Learning standard: language arts, cooperative learning, analysis
Family and friends who want to give teens books they’ll like should scour book Web sites
and author blogs. They can also ask librarians, bookstore owners and other teens for
suggestions. The surest way to go, however, might be a gift certificate from the local
Questions for discussion:
• How do you decide which books to read? What sources do you consult to find out
about good books?
• What is your favorite genre? Why?
• What is the best book that you have read in the last year? What aspects of the book —
character development, plot, humor, etc. — appealed to you?
Horror, science fiction, fantasy and other genres are popular, as is the graphic novel.
Choose a very short article in today’s newspaper. Then, jot down its characters, setting,
plot, climax and theme. (Feel free to make up details as needed.) Next, in small groups,
assign each member a different genre (realistic fiction, fantasy, etc.). As individuals,
rewrite the article in the genre you were assigned. After all group members have shared
their work, discuss what makes each genre unique and valuable.
Click on it: The American Library Association Web site provides many reading lists for
teens. Go to: www.ala.org, and click on “Libraries and You.” Then, select
“Recommended Reading,” and “For Young Adults/Teens.”