Learning Types of Editorials — And Writing Some

Kim Harris
Randallstown High School
Randallstown, Maryland

An editorial page is one of the most important pages in a high school newspaper. I want students to understand the power they have with their pen in helping bring relevant issues to the attention of the student body and the administration. Students often say they are powerless, this lesson will show they play a part in shaping the school.

Students will be able to recognize the characteristics of and differentiate between the three types of editorials in order to write editorials for the school newspaper

Lesson length
Lesson will take place over a 2-day period

Materials needed

  • pen
  • paper
  • handouts

Select one of the items below; then select a side, and write three points that will persuade an audience that your position is better.

  • a four-period school day/seven-period school day.
  • wearing hats in school/not wearing hats in school
  • being able to use a cell phone in school/not being able to use a cell phone in school


Day 1

  • Students will complete drill.
  • Teacher will emphasize the objective and introduce lesson.
  • Drill assessment: Teacher will share her example.
  • Next several students will be selected to share their statements. The class will then determine whether their statements were convincing by giving the thumbs up signal. If they are not convinced they will give the thumbs down signal.
  • Teacher will explain the three different types of editorials
  • Teacher will give students examples of the three types of editorials.
  • Students will be assessed by dissecting several types of editorials and giving several reasons why the editorials fit a particular category.
  • Students will then share their findings. Additionally, each group will be assigned a specific editorial and will generate an example for class tomorrow.

    Day 2

  • Students will be given information on how to actually write an editorial.
  • Students will be broken up into groups and be given a topic that they must support in at least 2 paragraphs.
    • Our objective today is to learn how to recognize the characteristics of and differentiate between types of editorials in order to write editorials for the school newspaper.
    • Orators make their point with the spoken word. Newspaper opinion writers use the editorial page to advance an argument or discuss important issues of the day.
    • Teacher and students define the word editorial:
      • An article in a publication expressing the opinion of its writers, editors or publishers.
      • A commentary on television or radio expressing the opinion of the station or network.
    • Teacher will ask students what role can editorials play at RHS. For example:
      • stimulating debate and discussion in a high school bring issues to students attention
      • explain policy
    • Teacher will ask what kinds of issues need to be talked about in our school. For example:
      • students loitering in the halls.
      • a particular issue of concern to students
    • Teacher will ask students to focus on the drill again since often an editorial will seek to convince the audience that the opinion expressed is better.
      • Example: students should wear uniforms to school or students should not wear uniforms to school.
        • wearing uniforms stems students’ creativity
        • some disadvantaged student may not be able to afford uniforms
        • wearing uniforms does not allow students to differentiate themselves from others because everyone looks alike.
      • Teacher will ask students to show whether they are persuaded by statements by giving the thumbs up or thumbs down sign. Students will be asked to share their responses. Other students will be asked to determine whether the statements were strong enough to sway them.
    • Teacher will explain there are three different types of editorials. There are three different types of editorials that we will discuss today, Interpretive Editorial, Criticism and Persuasive Editorials and Entertainment editorials. We will start with criticism and persuasive that is most like the drill you had to complete.
      • A persuasive editorial seeks to persuade readers about a sensitive issue.
      • A critical editorial seeks to point out a flaw, to judge severely and find fault.
        • This is likely the type of editorial you are used to seeing. As in our drill, the goal was to attempt to convince the reader that the writer’s opinion is better.
      • Teacher asks students: What is the best way to convince someone that your opinion is better, with facts that back up your perspective or with your opinion?
      • Teacher explains: Persuasive or critical editorials often:
        • use vivid examples that play on your emotion and that also make sense
        • present both sides of the issue and illustrate how your opinion is logically the better choice
        • avoids preachiness
        • the tone is fair and balanced
      • Assessment
        • Students will be given an example of a persuasive editorial chosen by the teacher.
          • Students will read the editorial. Students will then decide if this is truly a persuasive editorial. Students will discern what the author is trying to persuade us to believe.
          • Students will then highlight how the author gets her message across.
        • Students will be given an example of a critical editorial example chosen by the teacher (my example of a Washington Post editorial critical of the President of the United States).
          • Students will read the editorial. Students will then decide if this is truly a critical editorial. Students will discern what the author is being critical about.
          • Students will then highlight how the author gets his message across.
      • Interpretative editorial
        • Interpretation- takes a complex issue and breaks it down.
        • A student will read the first example. For example: your school administrator has decided to decrease the number of student parking spaces on campus. Lately there has been more overcrowding than ever, as well as a series of accidents and minor injuries. The new parking policy is complex, and students, even faculty do not understand it. In an editorial of interpretation, you might ask:
          • Why decrease space instead of increase it?
          • Will there be alternative parking? Where? Who can use it?
          • Will there be “anti-parking”incentives, such as discounted bus passes or vouchers?
        • By analyzing the policy and explaining what it really means, the editorial team assists readers (your fellow students).
        • Teacher will give another example: Your school is about to add more computers for student use. As an opinion writer, you learn of the impending purchase and of the two proposals administrators are considering. Two computer companies have given school officials financial bids. One of the bids is far lower than the other, so it seems the decision will be an easy one-at least until you hear why one bid was much lower. You discover that the company with the best deal wants to unload some units that will be antiquated within six months. While the school cannot afford to do business with the other firm — at least not for another semester, when funds may become available — you suspect that purchasing the less expensive units would be similar to buying a fancy car with no engine. In an editorial you make a list of reasons the school may want to wait.
          • Software manufactured in the future may not work on the units for sale.
          • Warranties on the units are suspect because companies get rid of old parts to make room for the new.
          • It will be difficult to locate someone who can maintain computers with antiquated hardware.
          • Computers cannot be sold used the way cars can.
        • Teacher will ask students what school policies may need explaining to students.
    • Quick Recap: We’ve looked at different types of editorials.
    • Teacher will ask students to identify and define the types discussed in class.
    • We have looked at examples of each or generated answers illustrating our ability to recognize the characteristics of and differentiate between the types of editorials.
    • Now, you will go back into your groups, you will choose a topic that relates to the type of editorial you are assigned. Generate an example of that editorial. You will present the information in class tomorrow.

    Day Two Groups will present their editorials. Teacher will discuss writing the editorial:

  • Tips for writing editorials
    • Don’t use the word I. Your life is not interesting. Your personal experiences are tiresome. Using the first person also sounds preachy and righteous, which alienates readers. Strive for humility,
    • Avoid sarcasm. Odds are you aren’t very funny. Too much sarcasm comes off as immature and can ruin your credibility.
    • The sky is not falling — don’t exaggerate. It makes you seem too emotional and irrational.
    • Challenge authority not personality. Attacking the principal or the coach simply to generate letters to the editor is reckless. But attacking their ideas, policies or actions is terrific fodder for a column.
    • Don’t put away your reporter’s notebook — interview. A column is not a venue to air your ideas. Tell a story. Use quotes.
    • Think big picture. Use a column to get into the gray analysis between the black and white. Compare apples and oranges.


  • Students will be assigned or will select a topic to write an editorial that could/will appear in the school news publication.

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