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PDF version of Byline Syllabus with Lesson Table »

You don’t strictly need a syllabus or lesson planning table to follow the course, since it is self-directed, but they will be helpful if you need to:
  • Adapt the course to a group setting or a different pace (we are happy to help by email and phone as well!)
  • Plan logical breaking points around holidays or special events.
  • Submit information to your student’s advisor/teacher at a charter school.
  • Submit evidence that the course is worth 1 high school English credit.


Course Description

Award-winning author Daniel Schwabauer, creator of the highly-praised One Year Adventure Novel and Cover Story, fuses journalism with history in an innovative essay writing course. In the guise of a 1930s newspaper editor, Daniel Schwabauer teaches his newest cub reporter—the student—how to think critically, how to separate fact from interpretation, how to follow a lead, and how to use supporting evidence in a persuasive and ethical way. Under his training, the student reads the work of journalists of the past and writes personal essays, narrative essays, persuasive essays, and expository essays, all in the form of articles for the fictional Metropolitan World.

Course Credit

Byline is designed for grades 9–12 and is 1 high school English credit. With some additional reading and writing, the course can also be listed for 0.5 credits of high school History, as detailed on the website. The course takes approximately 120 hours to complete.


Byline trains students to think and to organize their ideas into essay-style content. The objective is original and coherent essays that are not simply formulaic. Students will log 9,000+ words during the course. Skills students will learn:

  • Critical thinking
  • Separating fact from interpretation
  • Writing intelligently without jargon
  • Following leads
  • Using supporting evidence

Types of Written Content

Even higher education writing sites don’t use the same terminology for essays. Byline was therefore designed with the idea that there are four types of essays that all the other types are based on:

The Narrative Essay (“Telling a Story”)


  • Biographical essays
  • Autobiographical essays

The Descriptive Essay (“Painting a Picture”)

Offers more artistic freedom.

The Expository Essay (“Just the Facts”)

Structure: Thesis–Body–Conclusion
Often includes:

  • Definition and example
  • Comparison and contrast
  • Cause and effect
  • Analysis (Some analytical essays are Persuasive Essays.)

The Persuasive Essay (“Convince Me”)

Also known as the Argumentative Essay.
Structure is similar to the Expository Essay but contains an opinion.
Analytical Essays (such as the book report or review) are often types of persuasive essays.

Although presented in journalism terms, the writing in Byline corresponds to these four types of essays.

For example:

  • Editorials are often persuasive essays.
  • Hard news is usually a form of expository essay.
  • Features are generally narrative or descriptive essays.
  • Sports columns and features tend to be narrative or descriptive or a combination of both.

“Flex” Projects

To make the course accessible for younger or struggling students, six of the 22 writing assignments are marked as Flex Projects. This means students do not need to write the actual paper to receive full credit, provided they complete the readings, exercises, and outlining included in the Training Manual and Reporter’s Notebook.

Byline is divided into six units, with one Flex Project per unit. Students on the Flex Track complete 16 projects/essays by the end of the school year, instead of all 22. A student on the Flex Track will log at least 5,000 words, as contrasted with the 9,000+ logged by the standard student.


Grades are based on a point system. Points are awarded for four things:

  • Training Manual lessons
  • Reporter’s Notebook entries
  • Completed project writing
  • Unit tests

For a full breakdown on points and grading rubrics, please see the Teacher’s Guide pages 6–10 and 146–153. “Flex” projects are noted, and an adjusted grading rubric is provided.

Approach to Grading

Grading may be done at your convenience. However, we recommend teachers grade all the work for each unit at the end of the unit. This amounts to spending one or two hours each month when your student has completed all twelve unit lessons.

The main reason for grading at the end of a unit is that it allows your student(s) to be creative without feeling that they are being evaluated on their ideas. Many writing courses teach students to self-edit as they write. By separating the creative process from the analytical process, Byline helps students enjoy being creative. They need the freedom to jot down bad ideas as well as good ones, and that’s hard to do when someone is looking over your shoulder. Waiting till the end of the unit also allows students to change or expand answers as they progress, instead of feeling stuck with their previous answers because they have already been graded – which can be an extra obstacle to creativity.

Applying This to Groups

Our general suggestion to grade at the end of each unit is probably unrealistic for a group setting, considering how many students’ work you may have to evaluate. It is fine to grade more often, as long as you grade piece-by-piece rather than lesson-by-lesson. We recommend allowing students a gap of time between handing in a piece and receiving feedback on it—we suggest at least one week. It is much easier for students to be objective about their writing pieces after they have some emotional distance.


Students read the works of historic journalists, all of which are printed in the textbook (The Training Manual):
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • H. L. Mencken
  • Mark Twain
  • G. K. Chesterton
  • Ray Stannard Baker
  • Jack London
  • Julius Caesar
  • James Connolly
  • Jacob A. Riis
  • Nellie Bly
  • William Allen White
  • Damon Runyon
Two newspapers are also included with the program. These newspapers are not required reading, but they are both designed to provide students with examples of the pieces of writing assigned in Byline. The examples in the Metropolitan World are written by the instructor himself, in the persona of the Editor in Chief. The articles in the Retro Metro are real, historical pieces of journalism. Journalists represented who are not already listed above are:
  • Stephen Crane
  • Richard Harding Davis
  • Russell B. Porter
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Grantland Rice
  • Henry Stanley
  • William Randolph Hearst
  • Westbrook Pegler
  • Francis Church
Your student can read them at any point, but the Training Manual alerts the student to relevant examples they can find in these newspapers.

Additional Resources


Our website offers a variety of extra items under the “Resources” tab, such as online auto-graded unit tests, writing aids, links to research tools and musical recordings referenced in the course videos, and other helpful articles.

Historic Journalism Podcast

The Byline Podcast is a great opportunity to supplement your student’s experience, and it’s completely free! Twice each month Daniel Schwabauer highlights captivating news stories of the past and digs deeper into the lives of the reporters who covered them. Listen on the podcast webpage, or wherever you download podcasts. See the Lesson Table for suggested points in the course to listen topodcast episodes.

Extra! Extra!

Dedicated to sharing fascinating old news stories we don’t have space to feature on the Byline podcast, this section of our website is a great place for students to supplement their coursework and find ideas for stories of their own.

0.5 History Credit (Optional)

With a little extra work, Byline can count as half a high school History credit. That’s in addition to a full Language Arts/English credit! Here is what’s required:

    • Read all the articles in the Metro and Retro World newspapers.
    • Read 3–5 stories from the Extra! Extra! page on the website or listen via the podcast.
    • Write two additional articles of 500–800 words using any of the strategies described in the program. These articles should be inspired by something in the printed newspapers or on the website/podcast, but can be hard news, feature stories, editorials, etc.

It is your decision whether you wish this half credit to be U.S. History or World History. If your student writes exclusively about U.S. events and personalities, list it as “U.S. History”; if, instead, your student covers historical topics in other countries, list it as World History. Visit the “Optional 0.5 History Credit” page on the website to find a handy breakdown of which podcast episodes relate to U.S. History and which ones to World History.


We run an end-of-year competition, The Witherspoon Awards, to showcase the work produced by the year’s reporters-in-training. The competition is framed as an award sponsored by the Metropolitan World’s fictional owner, Madge Witherspoon. The results are announced in a live webinar. See the contest webpage for information.

About the Instructor

Daniel Schwabauer, M.A., is editor of Crosswind Comics and creator of The One Year Adventure Novel, Byline, and Cover Story writing programs. His professional work includes stage plays, radio scripts, short stories, newspaper columns, comic books and scripting for the PBS animated series Auto-B-Good. Daniel’s young adult novels, Runt the Brave and Runt the Hunted, have received numerous awards, including the 2005 Ben Franklin Award for Best New Voice in Children’s Literature and the 2008 Eric Hoffer Award. The series culminates with The Curse of the Seer. He graduated from the University of Kansas Master’s program in Creative Writing in 1995. He lives in Olathe, Kansas, with his wife.


Lesson Table

The Lesson Table is only available in PDF format. It shows lesson topics and creative pieces the students write. It breaks the lessons down to show you natural breaking points in the course. If you don’t plan to cover 3 video lessons per week or if you have to plan around trips or holidays, these natural breaking points should help you choose good places to pause.

See the Syllabus with Lesson Table PDF »

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