Power of the Question

Lesson 1: Preparation, Simple and Last Questions


Draw a large chart (on the board or on chart paper) like the one below. The class will use this chart throughout part one. Have students prepare a similar chart in individual journals.

Power of the Question project with Kelly O'Donnell, a project from Sygiel Solutions
What I know           What I want to know  What I  learned What I still need to know

For this activity, students will respond in the What I know section of the chart, which will be used as a building block for understanding interview preparation.

Ask students to spend a few moments thinking about what they want to learn about interview preparation and record their initial ideas on their journal chart. After they have had a chance to respond, share several ideas with the entire class. As students share, list students’ responses in the What I Want To Know section of the classroom chart. Then ask students to discuss their interview preparation weaknesses.


Introduce students to NBC’s political reporter Kelly O’Donnell, using MSNBC’s bio.

In advance of class, the teacher should highlight three or four facts in the biography that provide evidence why O’Donnell is an appropriate model for the questioning process.

Share a recent Kelly O’Donnell NBC television film clip with the class and ask what in her report demonstrates her preparation for the interview.

Kelly O’Donnell Video

After introducing O’Donnell:

Show video one. Ask students to listen for O’Donnell’s interview preparation suggestions and jot down key phrases in What I learned section of their journal chart. Teacher should preview the video and list the ideas to stress (These include: preparation for an interview is easy when you know the topic, play to your own weaknesses and spend more time learning the background, deconstruct a news event outlining what you already know, simple questions, don’t underestimate why, always have question ready, think of it as strategy, last question).

After viewing the video:

Conduct a class discussion and add to what students outlined and then discuss which suggestions are practical and add to the What I Learned section. Then brainstorm the What I still need to find out section. Add their ideas to the class K-W-L chart. Keep the chart in a prominent place for reference and add new suggestions throughout the following lessons.

At the interview’s conclusion

The Y-Press journalists asked O’Donnell if she had anything to add. Replay that section of video one noting what O’Donnell stresses about the importance of a last question. Have students write a summary of what O’Donnell advises and why in their journals.


Using what O’Donnell shares about interview preparation, research the controversy surrounding John McCain’s 2008 running mate choice.

Use links to have students outline the criticisms.

Talk about how preparation would have assisted in the selection.

Palin Disclosures Raise Questions on Vetting

McCain Vetting Team Didn’t Interview Palin Until Day Before VP Offer

McCain Vetting Process Questioned

McCain’s VP Search: Age Makes Pick More Significant

Background for teacher: Excerpt from Kelly O’Donnell’s interview with President Bush about McCain’s choice. Note, this took place before Sarah Palin’s selection.

June 13, 2008
McCain is getting questions and advice about his choice of running mate everywhere he goes — even the White House Rose Garden.

Kelly O’Donnell of NBC asked President Bush recently: “Sir, how would you counsel Sen. McCain to choose a running mate?”

Bush replied, “I tell him to be careful about who he names to be head of the selection committee.”

Dick Cheney ran President Bush’s selection committee — and ended up selecting himself.

Ask students to write a hypothetical letter to Sen. McCain with question recommendations for the vetting process and suggestions for improving the selection interview. Revisit the class K-W-L chart noting what students wanted to know and still need to know.

Lesson Plan

Power of the Question project from Sygiel Solutions Consulting

Lesson 1

Power of the Question project from Sygiel Solutions Consulting

Lesson 2

Power of the Question project from Sygiel Solutions Consulting

Lesson 3

Power of the Question project from Sygiel Solutions Consulting

Lesson 4

Power of the Question project from Sygiel Solutions Consulting

Lesson 5

Lessons created by Y-Press journalists and Indiana teachers for its power-of-the-question project

Copyright 2009 Y-Press