Editorial Writing as a Catalyst for Discussion of Important Issues

Kimberly Aleski
Freehold Township High School
Freehold, New Jersey

Overview/Rationale for Unit: In order to increase student interest in the newspaper, students will brainstorm and decide on which issues are most important to our student body. Through cooperative learning groups, students will decide on topics and positions about which to write editorials. As a group, they will have to brainstorm, outline, write, edit, and revise their editorials. In order to choose a topic and a position, students will have to have meaningful discussion about which issues they feel most strongly and on which positions they can come to a group consensus. Students will then complete all steps of the writing process. This unit will not only encourage student discussion and engage them in the steps of the writing process, but it will also create a “public forum” for the newspaper and help students master persuasive writing skills need for the New Jersey High School Proficiency Assessment exams.

Essential Questions:

  • What school, local, national, and global issues are most important to students? Why?
  • How can editorial writing create a dialogue for students to discuss these important issues?


Day 1

  • Pre-­class work: Students will have 5 minutes to brainstorm (in notebooks) what they believe to be the most important issues
    • in school
    • in the greater world (either local, national, or global).

    At the end of five minutes, students will have another five minutes to review their brainstorming and pick out their top three most important issues (a mix of both school and world issues). They then must write brief explanations as to why they feel these issues are the most important.

  • Lesson: When students have completed their brainstorming and explanations, each student will share their top three issues and read their rationale for each. As students share their responses, the teacher will keep a running list of issues on the white board.
  • When every student has shared his/her “top three,” the class will vote on what they believe to be the most important issues.
  • The teacher will then post the top five school issues and the top five greater world issues on chart paper around the classroom.
  • Follow up posting with a discussion of the different positions one could take on each issue (make sure students take notes!)
  • Closing activity: Assign homework. Each student will need to bring in an editorial tomorrow (either from local or a larger paper). Students must briefly summarize the issue present in the editorial, the position that the editorial takes, and an assessment of whether or not the argument is effective (and why it is or is not effective).

Day 2

  • Pre­-class work: Check and review homework. Have students read their summaries/assessments aloud to the class.
  • Lesson: Have students complete a KWL for editorials. The class will begin discussing what they already know about editorials.
    • The teacher will write what the student knows in the “K” column on the board.
    • The class will then discuss what they want to learn, and write these items in the “W” column.
  • Note-­taking – define and discuss editorials. Give notes on the five types of editorials:
    • editorials that explain
    • that evaluate
    • that persuade
    • that call for action
    • that provoke discussion
  • Give out packets with sample editorials. With a partner, have students read editorials and decide which type of editorial each article is.
  • Closing activity: Students will have five minutes to complete “L” column (what we have learned about editorials).
  • Homework: If students have not finished reading and identifying editorials, they can complete for homework. They then must choose one editorial that they feel is the most effective and explain why in several sentences.

Day 3

  • Pre­-class work: Review homework.
    • Put class into groups of four. Each group will be an “editorial board” for their paper.
    • Divide the class in half; half of the groups will choose a “school issue,” and the other half will choose a “greater world” issue.
  • Lesson: As a group, each editorial board must decide on an issue and a position to take on said issue that will represent their “paper.”
    Once students decide on their issue, they must complete the handout of “5 Basic Steps of Writing an Editorial.” On this handout, they must:

    • Introduce their issue/subject.
    • State the paper’s position.
    • Discuss the opposing points of view.
    • Back up their position with supporting facts and details.
    • Draw a conclusion.

To complete this handout, students will have to decide what further information (research, interviews, surveys) must be completed before they can write a convincing editorial.

Recommended Readings/Sources

  • “School Newspaper Adviser Survival Guide”

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