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Anthony Grandinetti
Journalism teacher
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Lesson Plans

Expressing Opinion for Mass Consumption

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Expressing Opinion for Mass Consumption

Anthony Grandinetti of San Marcos High School in San Marcos, Texas

Tony Grandinetti
San Marcos High School
San Marcos, Texas

Title: Expressing Opinion for Mass Consumption

Topic of unit

Opinion writing and the high school student

Overview and Rationale

The editorial page is the insight that spices meat-and-potatoes news. It’s the opportunity for the newspaper’s interpretation function. It translates the events of the day. It puts into perspective what we do and why we do it.

— Ron Johnson ,The Prairie Journalist’s Companion

High school students express their opinions on a wide range of subjects on a daily basis. Most of this expression of opinion takes place in conversation among friends or in classroom discussions. This unit teaches students how to develop and express an opinion on various topics relevant to the high school community by using the mass media. The students must demonstrate proficiency in identifying topics, gathering information, formulating an opinion, building a consensus, and communicating opinion in writing to a mass audience.

Generative Objects

  • overheads, handouts, class notes
  • variety of editorials, columns, letters to the editor, editorial cartoons
  • texts on drawing cartoons
  • textbook and web sites on editorial writing
  • UIL materials
  • desktop publishing program

Questions and issues to address

  • The difference between news writing and editorial writing
  • Why have editorial pages?
  • Types of opinion writing
  • Determining editorial position
  • Writing an excellent editorial
  • Other parts of editorial pages
  • The Editorial Board
  • Freedom: What are the limits?
  • Potential problems in opinion writing in high school

    (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills covered: 2F, 2I, 2B, 2C, 2H, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E, 2E, 2M, 1B, 1C)

Activities

What are editorials? (small groups)

  • students search for and clip opinion writing in a daily newspaper
  • students separate various forms of opinion writing – editorials, columns, and letters to the editor, reviews
  • students list the writer of each piece (addresses staff’s stance question)
  • students summarize each editorial and column for main topic and opinion
  • students evaluate effectiveness
  • what research was done?
  • role of the editorial

Formulate an Editorial Board

  • inform the students to read from a variety of sources (homework)
  • inform students to openly share opinion (whole class)
  • explain consensus (whole class)
  • present topic – start soft, increase level throughout session; relates to news and/or feature (whole class or groups – depends on number of students in class)
  • examine the pros and cons of the issue (whole class or group)
  • allow students to gather facts – research and interviews (homework)
  • allow students to sort facts (individual assignment)
  • attempt to build a consensus (whole class or group)
  • what’s our opinion? (whole class or group)
  • question potential flaws and validity of sources (whole class or group)
  • discuss potential coverage in news and features (whole class or group)
  • summarize staff’s stance in a sentence (individual assignment in class)

Write an editorial

  • topic
  • type of editorials
  • check for understanding and relevance of topic
  • background research – information and/or interviews
  • discuss do’s and don’t of editorial writing
  • basic format
  • rough draft
  • discussion of draft – positives and negatives
  • second draft
  • peer edit
  • discuss effectivness

UIL format (UIL is Texas’s University Interscholastic League)

  • examine the UIL editorial format
  • write editorials using the UIL format
  • analyze the editorial

Column writing

  • re-examine differences between editorials and columns
  • the role of the columnist
  • choose and discuss a topic of student interest
  • research topic
  • formulate opinion
  • discuss do’s and don’t of column writing
  • write draft
  • peer edit
  • rewrites
  • discuss effectiveness

Other component of editorial page

  • compose a letter to the editor
  • draw an editorial cartoon

Discussion of key questions

  • Freedom: What are the limits?
  • Potential problems in opinion writing in high school?

Construct an opinion page (group work)

  • use editorials, columns, letters to the editor, and cartoons
  • use design elements
  • make layout

Assessment

Each student will be graded using the following criteria:

  • Writing criteria (rubric criteria or grade for each criteria):
    • Introduction presents the problem as well as providing a staff stance
    • The lead grabs the reader’s attention
    • Evidence is provided to support the staff’s stance
    • Direct quotes are used properly
    • Active verbs are used as well as tight, precise writing
    • Other viewpoints are presented in addition to the staff’s viewpoint
    • A solution and/or solutions are provided when necessary
    • The conclusion recaps the staff’s position and contains a call to action if appropriate
    • The editorial’s tone is fair, balanced and mature
    • Preachiness is avoided
    • Information gathering
    • Relevance to audience
    • Basic grammar and spelling
  • Other considerations
    • Deadlines
    • Participation
    • Presentation of editorial page

Bibliography

  • "The Prairie Journalist’s Companion: Fundamentals, tips and trends," Ron Johnson, Student Publications, Inc. and the A. Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications Kansas State University
  • "Journalism Contest Manual," Bobby Hawthorne, University Interscholastic League

Suggested readings

  • Edited by Maura Casey and Michael Zuzel. "Beyond Argument: A Handbook for Editorial Writers," National Conference of Editorial Writers, 2001
  • Sloan, W.David, and Laird B. Anderson. "Pulitzer Prize Editorials: America’s Best Editorial Writing 1917-1993. 2nd ed." Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1994
  • Bobby Hawthorne, "Journalism Contest Manual." University Interscholastic League
  • www.highschooljournalism.org
  • www.freedomforum.org
  • www.scholastic.com
  • www.library.thinkquest.org
  • Bruce Blitz, "How to Draw Blitz Cartoons"
  • Jack Hamm, "Cartooning The Head and Figure." Perigee Books published by The Putnam Publishing Group, 1982.


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