Writing Meaningful Editorials

Amy A. Smith
Academy of Holy Angels
Richfield, Minnesota

Overview and Rationale
Journalism students need to learn the process of writing editorials based on sound research. Too often, high school students believe that editorials serve as opportunities to “sound off” on an issue and share their uninformed opinions about it. This lesson gives students essential information on the format/writing process of an editorial, as well as topic ideas that go beyond the school community.

Essential Questions

  • What does an editorial look like, and what format does an editorial follow?
  • What are the varied purposes of an editorial?
  • What research needs to be done in order to create an informed opinion?
  • What is the difference between the topic of an editorial versus the angle of an editorial?

Overviews and Timeline
This part of the unit follows a week of introductory work on editorials, including an in-depth study of “professional editorials” (e.g. in the Star Tribune). In this previous week, the students will have studied the characteristics of editorial writing and sample structures (e.g. the lead, the concession, the body, and the conclusion). Also, students would have a good understanding of the interview and research process necessary for writing an informed opinion piece.

Activity One (One 47-minute class)

  • Have students get into groups of two or three. Tell them that they will have 10-15 minutes to brainstorm and record as many “hot topics” as they can think of in the time allotted. Ask them to think of issues that their peers would consider important and interesting. Remind them that these issues can be school-related or not.
  • When the 10-15 minute period is over, begin to share ideas as an entire class. Choose one student to record the ideas on the front board.
  • For the last 10 minutes of class, ask the students if they can categorize these topics according to scope. Hopefully, the discussion (or the teacher) will lead them to categories such as school-based, local, national, and international.
  • For homework, have students come up with at least one editorial idea for each of the above categories. The ideas must be original, but can be inspired by the class discussion.

Activity Two

  • Explain to students that it is now time to put those ideas into action and write three editorials. Read through the assignment description with the class (see attached “Editorial Unit” sheet) and assign due dates. Once questions have been answered, students can begin pre-writing and researching.


Students will be graded on each of the three editorials. Performance criteria include proper format, creativity of ideas, and evidence of research.

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