Mini-lessons for advisers when news cycles are slow: Brainstorming and planning

mini-lesson_brainstorming_headerThe student newsroom is quiet. Reporters working in groups have some down time. What should I have my students do to be productive?

What to do, when there seems like there’s nothing else to do, seems to be a common problem for advisers. You are limited with equipment. Only one person can edit at a time. The news event a group is covering doesn’t occur until Saturday, and it’s Monday!

While I believe there is always something that can be done, I too have found this excuse at the forefront from some of my student’s minds.

A major lesson I have learned as broadcast adviser, is that producing a video is a process. The more you repeat the process, the better video producer you can become.

Over the course of the next few weeks and months, I will be offering advisers some of my favorite mini-lessons that I task my students with when news cycles are slow.

Let’s begin with the brainstorming and planning phase.


Students will understand we are all storytellers, that everyone has a story to tell, and brainstorm as many ideas as possible to uncover those stories.

Begin by having students watch the following video.


  1. Create a Google Doc and list as many international and national headlines as you can. How could you localize these topics? Write down as many ideas as possible. Stories are everywhere.
  2. Identify local experts that could speak to your main topics and that would understand these global stories. Examine the staff in your own building, family and relatives. Brainstorm and research all local universities, colleges, businesses, physicians, politicians, athletes, historians, media, and more in your community who may have a comment or opinion about these headlines. Write down as many names of people as you can think of or find through research.
  3. Send out tweets, emails and actually call these individuals on the phone to see if they would be available for a story.
  4. Create a possible production schedule for when these stories could take place.
  5. Complete a planning sheet, and who knows! You may have a story to begin working on.


This is a task that can be done during any class. What you may find is a new pipeline of stories, or a new network of contact people who may be available to comment on future stories as well. This mini-lesson is a productive exercise in creating an open mind flow of ideas and research.

Future video mini-lessons

Be in the lookout for a two-part segment on shooting tips, capturing natural sound, planning for light, microphone techniques, practicing interviews, and editing footage.

Up next

Shooting tips, part 1

Don Goble

Don Goble is an award-winning Broadcast, Technology, Multimedia and Film Instructor at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis. Journalism Education Association's National Broadcast Adviser of the Year in 2015, Don is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, PBS Lead Digital Innovator and author who advocates for media and digital literacy for all learners. Don masterfully engages students to author and craft media messages to build their voice and share their story.

Don Goble has 52 posts and counting. See all posts by Don Goble

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