Language Arts-9-12

Note to Educators: The following questions and activities are suggestions for enriching your upcoming tour of CNN Center. The materials are organized into before, during and after the trip sections, and they will help focus student learning on the elements of the tour that will best connect to your educational goals and objectives. For your convenience, materials are linked to the Georgia QCC objectives. We hope you and your students enjoy the CNN Tour and that you continue to bring the world of CNN into your classroom every day!

Before the Tour

To prepare your students for the CNN tour, try one of the following suggested activities:
  1. Talk the Talk: To help familiarize students with the media terms they will hear on the CNN tour, distribute the Glossary of Terms ( Challenge groups of students to write sentences using each of the terms. Then, print out a copy of the Control Room Jargon ( Cut up each of the sayings (without definitions) into separate slips of paper and distribute one slip of paper to each student. Have students guess the translations for their sayings and share their predictions with the class. Encourage class members to make additional suggestions. Then, distribute the jargon definitions to students. During the tour, have the students listen for these terms in the appropriate context. After the tour, have student groups write scripts that simulate the dialogue that might take place in the CNN control room.
    • QCC Language Arts: Core Skills (Topic: Core Skills, Standard 6: Learns that words gather meaning from their context and carry connotation and denotation. )

  2. Newsgathering and Production: Invite your school’s television news production group or the school’s newspaper editors to speak to your class about how they gather and produce the news for their programs or publications. Then, a day or two before the tour, have students select a news story to follow on-air or online. Ask: How many people do you think might be involved in the newsgathering and production of this news story? What decisions do you think might go into determining how the story gets reported and in what medium it gets presented? While on the tour, have students look for the processes that are in place at CNN for gathering the news and producing it on-air and online.
    • QCC Language Arts: Journalism I (Topic: Reading, Standard 28: Recognizes different purposes of journalistic writing.)

  3. Preparing Questions: Ask students to create a KWL chart. Students should list “What they Know” about CNN, “What they Want to Know” about CNN, and “What they Learned” while on the tour. Prior to the tour, have students create a list of questions for the tour guides at CNN. Have them categorize their questions by: CNN History, The Control Room, Special Effects, CNN, CNN Headline News, Other News Networks, Entertainment Networks.
    • QCC Language Arts: Core Skills (Topic: Core Skills, Standards 2, 3, 10, 23)

During the Tour

You may want to use one of the following four strategies to help students gather information on the CNN Studio Tour. Encourage students to ask questions and seek answers at each stop on the tour. Inform them that they will need to listen carefully as the CNN tour guides cover a great deal of information.  
  1. Tour Itinerary Student Handout: This is a rough itinerary of the CNN Studio Tour. You may want to review this itinerary with the students and provide student groups with the corresponding activities at each stop.
  2. Scavenger Hunt Student Handout: Distribute this list of questions to students and have them search for the answers on the tour. You may want to organize students into teams for competition.
  3. KWL Chart: Refer students to the list of questions they generated in the Before the Tour section, and challenge them to find the answers to these questions while on the tour.
  4. Careers : Encourage students to identify examples of different journalism and production-related professions at CNN, such as news gatherers, writers, editors, producers, graphic artists, and information technology specialists.

Student Handout: Tour Itinerary

EXHIBIT AREA: This is an interactive exhibit area where you can view video clips of the top 100 news stories that CNN has covered during the past 20 years, log on to, test your knowledge with the journalism ethics display, and trace the growth of CNN as it parallels world events. Travel around the room to the different locations in the exhibit area. Identify and record at least two pieces of information at each location.

CONTROL ROOM THEATER: This is a one-of-a-kind re-creation of CNN's main control room where you will see and hear the truly behind-the-scenes elements of 24-hour news, live.

Student Handout: Scavenger Hunt

  • 1. Name five major events covered by CNN in its more than two decades of news coverage.
  • 2. What is the top story on right now?
  • 3. Why is the control room considered the "heart" of CNN?
  • 4. What is the difference between CNN Air, CNN Program and CNN Preset?
  • 5. What is a router? What is the purpose of routers? What images do you see on routers? How many routers are in the actual control room?
  • 6. What is a show rundown? Who decides what goes into a show rundown? How do the producers and directors use routers when setting up a rundown for the program?
  • 7. On average, how many people does it take to staff the control room? What are their specific jobs?
  • 8. What is a TelePrompTer? What appears on the TelePrompTer? Why does the audience not see the anchor's eyes move from side to side when reading the TelePrompTer?
  • 9. What happens if the TelePrompTer system breaks down?
  • 10. Why do weather anchors use a chroma-key system? Why do they use that particular shade of blue? What other color can be used in addition to chroma-key blue?
  • 11. Why do weather anchors sometimes use broad, non-committal, sweeping gestures in their reports?
  • 12. On average, how many people work in the newsroom? What are the two main areas of the newsroom floor? For what jobs are news gatherers responsible?
  • 13. Describe the general process of how a news story goes from a potential story to on-air. What do the following people do in that process: assignment desk editors, producers, writers and copyeditors?
  • 14. What do the satellite feeds and media operations departments do?
  • 15. What is an IFB?
  • 16. Why can the anchors sit so close to the newsroom floor without noise interference?
  • 17. When did CNN Headline News launch? What was its original name? What are some of the main differences between CNN Headline News and CNN? How might you explain the differences?
  • 18. How would you describe CNN International, CNN Airport Network, CNN Newsource and CNN en Español?
  • 19. What unique feature is built into the floor of the CNN atrium? What do the gold circles represent?
  • 20. Name some of the entertainment networks in the Turner Broadcasting family.

After the Tour

Use the following discussion questions and activities to apply the knowledge students gained on the tour to your core curriculum content.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you think writers and editors can insure that a report is accurate? Why do you think journalists use multiple sources for information? How do you think news reporters and their audiences determine what is objective and what is biased?
    • QCC Language Arts: Journalism I (Topic: Critical Thinking, Standard 26: Tests the validity of an assertion by examining the evidence. )

  2. How is news reported differently on the various CNN networks, and CNN Radio? How might the format affect the message?
    • QCC Language Arts: Journalism II (Topic: Writing/Usage/Grammar, Standard 30: Uses a variety of writing styles for various audiences.)

  3. How do writers develop stories? How do they determine what is balanced and fair? How is a full story condensed into a two- to three-minute story for television or a one-page news story on the Web? What do you think are the roles of the news media?
    • QCC Language Arts: Journalism II (Topic: Reading, Standard 28: Recognizes different purposes of journalistic writing. )

  4. What criteria do you think determines whether or not a news story receives on-air coverage? Do you think the different news networks at CNN (e.g., CNN Headline News, CNN International, CNN en Espanol, and CNN Airport) might interpret the newsworthiness of a story differently? Why or why not? How do you think the criteria for an on-air story might compare with the criteria for a story on Explain.
    • QCC Language Arts: Journalism I & II (Topic: Writing/Usage/Grammar, Standard 33: Analyzes an issue to determine timeliness and relevance to the medium.)

  1. Same News, Different Formats: Review the term "newsworthy" with students. Explain that a newsworthy event is one that meets one or more of the following criteria: is informative; has an emotional effect on the audience; is timely; will have an impact on those who see and hear it; will arouse controversy because of varied sides, opinions, or solutions; deals with people, places, or events that are well known or prominent; contains conflict on either a physical, moral, or emotional level; promotes human interest or empathy; provides an update to any previous story; meets the needs of the network’s audience (e.g. CNN U.S. runs stories that appeal to a national audience), or is unusual in any way. (Source: CNN Student News Journalism Curriculum) Then, have students imagine they are producers for both CNN’s American Morning program and CNN Headline News. How might they create the rundowns for both, keeping in mind the programs’ different formats?
    • QCC Language Arts: Journalism I (Topic: Writing/Usage/Grammar, Standard 33: Analyzes an issue to determine timeliness and relevance to the medium. )

  2. Methods of Reporting: Instruct students to write or record a news report on a current events story that will be delivered using a communication method other than television or the Internet, such as town crier, the pony express, the "penny press," radio, movie newsreel, or newspaper. As students present their reports, discuss the similarities and differences between the ways the story might have been reported 50 or more years ago, with the way CNN might report the story today. Ask: How might the method of reporting the news affect knowledge about the event?
    • QCC Language Arts: Communication Skills (Topic: Speaking/Listening, Standard 29: Uses appropriate criteria to evaluate the messages and effects of mass media. )
    • QCC Language Arts: Journalism I (Topic: Writing, Usage, Grammar, Standard 34: Organizes, selects, and relates ideas and develops them into articles and stories. )

  3. Language Across Different Media: Refer students to the CNN show transcripts found at: Have each student evaluate one script for language and style. Then, have students select Web stories from that address the same topic as the transcripts. Ask: How does the language used for the same story compare in the different media? How might you account for the differences and similarities?
    • QCC Language Arts: Journalism (Topic: Writing/Usage/Grammar, Standard 33: Analyzes an issue to determine timeliness and relevance to the medium. )

  4. Writing to Different Audiences: Ask students to consider the various types of programs available on CNN. For a listing of CNN programs, see Have students consider how the writing styles of each of the programs differ. Organize students into teams and have each team assume the roles of producers of one of the programs. Assign the same 5 news stories to all the teams, and have each group design a show rundown for their program’s specific format and style.
    • QCC Language Arts: Journalism I (Topic: Writing/Usage/Grammar, Standard 30: Uses a variety of writing styles for various audiences. )

  5. Playing Anchor: Encourage students to practice what they have learned by becoming "CNN anchors" at the CNN Virtual Anchor Desk. Once back in the classroom, students can analyze their tapes to see if they used their voices effectively (volume, rate, clarity and inflection) and nonverbal signs appropriately (gestures, eye contact, facial expression, and posture). If students didn’t get a chance to visit the CNN Virtual Anchor Desk while at the CNN Center, set up a Virtual Anchor Desk in your classroom to allow students the opportunity to play the role of CNN anchors. Conduct the same analysis on use of voice and nonverbal signs after each presentation.
    • QCC Language Arts: Oral/Written Communication Speech (Topic: Speaking/Listening, Standard 28: Uses voice effectively, and Standard 29: Uses nonverbal signs appropriately.)

  6. Defending Opinions: Pose the following questions to students for discussion and challenge students to defend their positions:
    • Should the government regulate the amount or type of information journalists have access to, and/or can report, on international, political, and economic issues?
    • Should people be exposed to news programming that depicts street violence or graphic scenes of war?
    • What criteria should journalists use to make choices about programming and content? How do you think these criteria should be prioritized?
      • QCC Language Arts: Core Skills (Topic: Core Skills, Standard 22: Defends conclusions rationally. )

  7. Evaluating Media Messages: Prior to the CNN tour, refer students to CNN, CNN Headline News or to find stories that interest them. Organize students into small groups and have them evaluate their stories using the following questions:
    • What is the story about? When and where did the story occur? Why and how did the event occur?
    • What is the headline or the lead-in to the story? What effect, if any, does the headline or lead have on you?
    • What images or video are used? How do the images make you feel?
    • Is the story presented in a balanced way? How do you know?
    • Is the story subjective or objective? How do you know?
    • What information is included, and what is left out of the story? Why do you think these choices were made?
    • How do the medium and the format in which the story is presented impact your reaction to it?
      After groups have presented their findings, as a class, develop a list of criteria for evaluating the messages and effects of news stories.
      • QCC Language Arts: Communication Skills (Topic: Speaking/Listening, Standard 29: Uses appropriate criteria to evaluate the messages and effects of mass media.)

  8. Careers at CNN: Have students reflect on the many jobs and careers available at CNN. Ask: Would you want any of the jobs that you saw and heard described on the tour? Why or why not? What background, expertise or experience would you need to be successful at these jobs?
    • QCC Guidance: Educational and Occupational Exploration (Topic: Understanding the relationship between educational achievement and career planning, Standard 4: Describe how skills developed in academic and vocational programs relate to career goals.)