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Lesson | 60 Minutes

What Makes a Good Video Story?


What makes a video story good isn’t just about the topic, it’s how you tell the story. In this lesson, you will focus on key elements that make for great nonfiction stories like news packages, video profiles, explainers, and short documentaries.

Central Questions

  • What are the essential elements that make up a good story?
  • What are the differences between news packages, video profiles, explainer videos, and short documentaries?

Learning Outcomes

  • Help students establish the difference between different types of nonfiction video stories.
  • Help students understand the essential elements that make a good video story.
  • Help students strengthen their own story ideas.

When Would You Use This Lesson?

  • At the start of a project to help students figure out what kind of story they want to tell and ensure that they have the elements necessary to produce a successful story.
  • In a unit on Media Literacy to help students understand the essential elements of a successful news story.
  • As a discussion starter on the difference between different types of nonfiction stories.

Media Literacy Connection

This activity will help students think critically about news media and understand how media narratives are constructed.

Civics Connection

Knowing the elements of good video storytelling can help creators understand how to craft compelling narratives about civic issues, helping viewers learn and understand those issues.



When violence strikes or when people argue about actions, events, ideas or policies, we care. Conflict and controversy attract our attention by highlighting problems or differences within the community or between groups. Sometimes conflict can be subtle and manifest as tension.


The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. A generally definition is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. In media-making, creators can have empathy for their subjects and the audience can empathize with the characters.

News package

Video stories about newsworthy issues and topics, factual information, balanced reporting, research, voice overs, soundbites, b-roll footage, infographics, reporter standup, nats (natural sound bites).

Video profile

The story of one person, has voiceover (VO), b-roll, pictures, nats (natural sound), interviews of family members or peers of that one person.

Explainer video

Narration and/or voiceover (VO) with a host, commentary, research, personal experiences, explanations, infographics, nats (natural sound), music, entertainment.

Short documentary

Narration and/or voiceover (VO), scene reconstructions, archival footage, nats (natural sound), b-roll, images, research, lengthy interviews, soundbites.


When a television reporter appears in front of the camera to narrate part of a story – most often at the beginning to set up the story, in the middle as a transition or if there is no good b-roll to cover voiceover, or at the very end.

Source: Berkeley Advanced Media Institute


Narration done by a broadcast reporter, usually reading from a script. The reporter's voice is recorded over a sequence of video clips that tell a story.

Source: Berkeley Advanced Media Institute

Natural sound

Sounds produced in their actual setting. Natural sound, commonly known as NAT sound, puts the viewer in the place the story was told by enhancing the scene(s) with video containing rich audio such as a musician singing at a train station, a storm approaching, or the sound of a tractor plowing the field.

Speaking and Listening - Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

Describe the diversity and variety of functions within the Journalism & Broadcasting Career Pathway.

Digital Citizenship

Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical. (ISTE)

Knowledge Constructor

Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others. (ISTE)

Writing - Text Types and Purposes

Creative Communicator

Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. (ISTE)

Speaking and Listening - Comprehension and Collaboration



Video Production

Media Literacy

Digital Literacy/Citizenship







Post It Notes

White board, chalkboard or other visual board

Video Conference Software. IE: Zoom or Google Meet

Padlet, Jamboard or other app for group collaboration



Estimated Time

60 Minutes