Class Project: County Chronicles

Connecting Social Studies and Language Arts to Civics

Using the historical information gathered from the What Was It Like? and City Spotlights lessons, and additional information gathered from the ReporterÕs Notebook lesson, students will design a San Mateo County historical newspaper for a certain point in time. The newspaper can include advertisements, world events, political news, sports, with a special emphasis on county news.


Grade Levels: 3rd- 8th




Time: five class sessions (approx.)



Local community newspapers

Daily newspapers (SF Chronicle, SJ Mercury News, the Examiner)

Chart paper

Peer Editing and Review Sheet

Word processing computer software

Desktop publishing software (optional)



1.     Start project by sharing a variety of different newspapers with the students (community newspapers as well as larger papers that are circulated daily).  Have students identify key components of the papers.  Have them also compare the community papers with the larger circulation papers.  How is the content and writing approach different? Record ideas on chart paper.


2.     Instruct students that they will be participating in a newspaper project called the County Chronicles (or whatever name your class chooses to call it!), where they will use the information that they have researched from previous lessons to help them write articles for their paper.  Their first job will be to decide what point in time they would like the newspaper to exist. Brainstorm time periods of San Mateo County History with the class and decide which era would be the most interesting and fun for them.


3.     Next, identify the sections that they would like to include in their newspaper.  Refer them back to the different types of papers that they looked at to help them decide on the sections and the overall reporting approach (note that the community newspapers tend to be heavier in special interest stories, while the larger newspapers provide more news articles).  Remind students that they can include advertisements, classified adds, comics, national news, etc. if these areas are overlooked.


4.     Once the sections are decided, have students begin to form teams for each area.  The teams will need to meet and decide what angle they would like to take in their section and the amount of articles they will produce.  This will be determined by the age of the students as well.  Once the teams have met, have them present their plan to the editor in chief (teacher) and the rest of the journalists.  Post their plans on a bulletin board or chart paper to keep a record of their progress. Let the young journalists know that they will need to keep tight work deadlines to publish on time (designate a deadline for them).


5.     Begin the writing project.  Conduct a mini lesson on writing for a newspaper. An overhead created from a couple of local stories will work well for this.  Show students how journalists make sure to include the five Ws and H (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) in their storiesŃand itÕs usually found in the first paragraph.  In addition, point out how important both the headline and the lead areÉcircle both and let students know how the title and opening paragraph really need to grab the reader and give a sense about where the story is headed.  Inform students that although some of the information that they put into the articles may have to be made up because they canÕt interview the people, they should try to make it as factual as possible.  Instruct students further that they will be editing each otherÕs work before they publish the newspaper.  Share a copy of the Peer Editing and Review Sheet with them, so that it can help guide their writing process further (and they know what will be expected of them). Have students work on their pieces.


6.     Once students have composed their articles, demonstrate the peer editing process with students. Using a volunteer studentÕs draft with the Peer Editing and Review Sheet, review the content together. Instruct students how to do the same for their peers (you may need to have more than one peer review per article).  Once peer reviews are completed, have students rewrite their articles.


7.     To publish fully edited articles, all writers will need to type their articles into a word processing program in columns.  You can then decided to either cut and past the layout onto larger paper or use the computer to create the layout (a drawing program with text boxes would work if you do not have a formal desktop publishing program, such as Adobe Page Maker or Quark Xpress) You may want to have additional pieces of the newspaper worked on as well, such as crafting an attractive title, drawing comics and advertisements or dressing the students up for mock photos to insert.


8.     Rubric Assessment: Before teaching this lesson, you should determine how your rubric will be designed so that you can share the elements that youÕll be evaluating with your students. You may already be using rubrics as a grading method, or you may be new to this method of evaluation. Regardless of your level of experience, the Rubistar website ( is a wonderful resource and tool for all teachers.


CA Social Studies Standards

Grade 3: Continuity and Change 3.3 Students draw from historical and community resources to organize the sequence of local historical events and describe how each period of settlement left its mark on the land.

Grades 6 Š 8:  Chronological and Spatial Thinking 1. Students explain how major events are related to one another in time. 2. Students construct various time lines of key events, people, and periods of the historical era they are studying.

Grades 6 Š 8:  Historical Interpretation 1. Students explain the central issues and problems from the past, placing people and events in a matrix of time and place. 2. Students understand and distinguish cause, effect, sequence, and correlation in historical events, including the long- and short-term causal relations. 3. Students explain the sources of historical continuity and how the combination of ideas and events explains the emergence of new patterns.


CA Language Arts Standards

Grades 3rd & 4th:  Writing Strategies Students write clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea. Their writing shows they consider the audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of the writing process (e.g., prewriting, drafting, revising, editing successive versions).

Grades 5th- 8th: Writing Strategies Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays. The writing exhibits the studentsÕ awareness of the audience and purpose. Essays contain formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students progress through the stages of the writing process as needed.

Peer Editing and Review Sheet


JournalistÕs name                 ________________________________


Newspaper section for article            ________________________________


EditorÕs name                       ________________________________


Directions: Read your peerÕs article and review it by answering the questions that follow.  Please make suggestions about how to improve the article whenever possible.



Does the headline grab your attention?  Does it match the articleÕs content?





Opening Paragraphs:

Does the article provide the Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? information in the opening paragraphs? What is missing?






Body Paragraphs:

Do all of the paragraphs have one main idea? If not, suggest ways that the author can break up ideas into separate paragraphs.








Is there a proper conclusion that summarizes the article? If not, suggest ways that the author can do this.


Peer Editing and Review Sheet adapted from ScholasticÕs Writing with WriterÕs  peer review process.