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More than 90 minutes
  • Journalism
  • 6-12
  • College/University

This role-playing exercise off the Virginia Tech massacre is to help students understand how seemingly simple decisions about media coverage can take on major significance as a story unfolds. It encourages students to explore the complex interaction and multiple perspectives among media, the public, law enforcement officials and others when an important news story breaks. Note: You may decide that it is too difficult for some students, especially young ones or others who may have a personal connection to this or similar tragedies.

  1. Review the selected case study (download When Tragedy Hits - Teacher Overview) and handouts, and optional background materials on Pinterest.
  2. Make enough copies of Setting the Scene to allow each student to read the material and understand the basics of this activity.
  3. Cut apart the role cards and place them in a hat or bowl.
  4. Divide the class into six groups and ask one member of each group to draw a role card
  5. Once the students are familiar with their roles, have them read Setting the Scene.
  6. Read each installment of the scenario and discuss the questions, giving each group a chance to respond.

  • When Tragedy Hits - Setting the Scene handout (download), one per student
  • Role Cards (download)
  • When Tragedy Hits - Scenarios (download)
  • NewseumED Pinterest board (optional)

  • When Tragedy Hits - Teacher Overview
  • When Tragedy Hits - Setting the Scene
  • When Tragedy Hits - Scenarios
  • When Tragedy Hits - Role Cards

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.

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