One Story Lesson Plan — Analysis of enterprise reporting

Title

Analysis of enterprise reporting

Summary

Tampa Bay Times reporter Ben Montgomery wrote “The Lost Bones” based on six years of reporting, the review of thousands of documents and interviews with more than 100 people. His compelling story about mysterious deaths at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, and his journalistic writing style offer a wealth of learning opportunities for student journalists at a variety of skill and ability levels. These lessons are designed to promote informational reading, to allow for a close analytical study of content and journalistic style and to provide a writing opportunity for student response.

Objectives

  • Students will complete a close reading of “The Lost Bones” and respond to its content.
  • Students will discuss the different writing techniques and rhetorical devices employed by the writer.
  • Students will use their personal experiences, knowledge of current events and related research to write a column or commentary in response to their reading.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.R1.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.R1.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.R1.11-12-10.5 Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.R1.11-12-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1.a Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Length

Four to five class periods, three for discussion and analysis of the reading selection and one to two additional class periods for individual research, writing and editing.

Resources

Copies of “The Lost Bones” Part 1: Ground Truth and Part 2: Puzzle Pieces

Videos from the Tampa Bay Times website: “A Conversation about The Lost Bones: Finding the Bodies” and “A Conversation about The Lost Bones: Identifying the Remains.”

JEA Curriculum Slideshows: “Editorials and Columns” and “Evidence to Support Claims”

Column Writing Rubric

Day 1

In preparation for class, students should complete a close reading of “The Lost Bones” (Part 1: Ground Truth and Part 2: Puzzle Pieces). Encourage students to read actively by annotating the selection as they read. One possible way to annotate would be to put exclamation marks in the margin (!) beside passages that seem especially important, question marks (?) beside passages that are puzzling and an asterisk (*) every time a new name is introduced. In addition, students may underline any passages that seem especially well written. These annotations will be used to initiate the class discussion on Day 1.

After asking students to share some of the passages they have annotated and clearing up passages that puzzled them, the discussion can continue with questions such as:

  1. What was your overall impression of “The Lost Bones”?
  2. What was your impression of Dr. Erin Kimmerle?
  3. What challenges did Montgomery face in researching his story?
  4. What challenges did he face in writing his story?
  5. What challenges did Dr. Kimmerle face in her work as a forensic anthropologist?
  6. What motivated Dr. Kimmerle throughout the search? How did her motivations and sense of urgency change?
  7. How did government officials both help and hinder the work of Dr. Kimmerle?
  8. How do you explain the reactions of the citizens of Marianna to Dr. Kimmerle’s work on the campus of the Dozier School for Boys?
  9. What role did The Yellow Jacket, the newspaper at the Dozier School, play in the story?

Group Activity: Divide the class into small groups of four or five students. Have the students go through the two parts of the story and develop a timeline of the Dozier School for Boys from when it opened in 1900 through the search that led to its closing and the research that led to Montgomery’s story in 2014.

Day 2

Begin class by having the groups present their timelines. Clear up any discrepancies between the different timelines.

Have the class watch the two video interviews with Dr. Kimmerle on the Tampa Bay Times website:

“A Conversation about The Lost Bones: Finding the Bodies” and “A Conversation about The Lost Bones: Identifying the Remains.”

Group Activity: Divide the class into small groups of four or five students. Assign each group one of the “characters” from the “The Lost Bones.” Each group should go through the two parts of the story to identify what the reader learns about and from their assigned “character.” What does Montgomery do to make each of these characters come to life? Possible characters may include Dr. Erin Kimmerle, Ovell Krell, Glen Varnadoe, Dale Cox, Charlie Fudge and Art Eisenberg.

Day 3

Have the groups report their findings from the previous day’s work. Then have the class discuss the challenges Montgomery faced in writing “The Lost Bones.”

What did he do to get readers to read his long-form story?

What techniques does Montgomery use to keep readers engaged in “The Lost Bones”? (Possible techniques might include his use of first person, his use of narrative, his character development, his use of description, detail and figurative language, his “chunking” of the character’s stories out of chronological order to build suspense.)

What did Gene Varnadoe mean by his conclusion at Thomas Varnadoe’s funeral: “Some of the Old South slave mindset died hard in Florida”?

The teacher may want to have advanced/experienced students read a recent blog entry from the Columbia Journalism Review, “Rewriting the Rules: The New Voice of Journalism” (http://www.cjr.org/opinion/new_voice_of_journalism.php). While Joyce Barnathan’s ideas are not widely accepted as journalistic practice, students may see evidence in “The Lost Bones” that Montgomery agrees with her.

Days 4 and 5

Have students write a personal column or commentary that addresses the following prompt:

Using the story of “The Lost Bones,” your personal experiences and recent news events, answer the question, how do our modern-day Americans both value and devalue children? How do today’s values related to children compare to the values of 20th century America?

If needed, teachers may use two slideshows from the JEA Curriculum: Writing Lessons (“Editorials and Columns” and “Evidence to Support Claims”) to introduce column writing.

Students may choose to do additional research. A Google search of the Dozier School for Boys will turn up numerous pictures and related websites. The White House Boys website (www.officialwhitehouseboys.org) provides additional information and updates. A related page on the Tampa Bay Times website (“5 Things to Read Before ‘The Lost Boys,’ Our New Report on Dozier School for Boys) includes links to other valuable resources).

After completing first drafts, students may do peer editing to revise and complete their column-writing assignment. A column writing rubric is available for assessment.

Extended Activity

Staffs may want to follow up their study of “The Lost Bones” in their news media by brainstorming a list of story ideas that reflect ways American society both values and devalues children.