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Mario Garcia
Journalism teacher
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Lesson Plans

Editorial Writing: What’s on your Mind?!




Editorial Writing: What’s on your Mind?!

Mario Garcia of McCollum High School near San Antonio.

Mario Garcia
McCollum High School
San Antonio, Texas

Title: Editorial Writing: What’s on your Mind?!

Description of School and Students

McCollum High School is a public school predominantly composed of 95% Hispanic students (1800 students total). Located on the south side of San Antonio, these students come from middle to low-income families. The class is made up of 10th to 12th graders (approximately 15-20 students) enrolled in the Journalism/Photojournalism course (each subject is taught for 18 weeks).

Unit Theme

How to write editorials / letters-to-the-editor for publication (The Pony Express)

Overview

This unit is to:

  • help me show my students how to write an editorial
  • utilize the English department and Speech teachers in helping teach students to write and submit letters-to-the-editor

Last school year, my newspaper staff had a difficult time writing editorials and getting other students to submit letters-to-the-editor. After the ASNE High School Journalism Institute, I came up with some ideas on how to implement a plan to help with this problem. Basically, we have to go “back to basics” and re-teach on how to create opinion-based writing.

Goals for Understanding (TEKS emphasized)

The student reports and writes for a variety of audiences and purposes and researches self-Selected topics to write journalistic texts. The student is expected to:

  • Locate information sources such as persons, databases, reports, and past interviews; gathers background information and researches to prepare…
  • Evaluate and confirm the validity of background information from a variety of sources such as other qualified persons, books, and reports
  • Use different forms of journalistic writing such as reviews, ad copy, columns, news, features, and editorials to inform, entertain, and/or persuade
  • Select the most appropriate journalistic format of present content
  • Use journalistic style
  • Gather information through interviews (in person or telephone)
  • Essential Questions
    • What are editorials and where do you find them?
    • What is the Op-Ed page in a newspaper and what are its contents?
    • How do you write for the editorial section(s)?
      • editorials
      • columns
      • letters-to-the-editor
      • opinion articles
      • reviews
      • cartoons
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • Where do editorial ideas come from?
    • What are the elements of an editorial?
    • How do you organize your editorial?
    • How do I create and submit a letter-to-the-editor?
    • Does my opinion count in a school of 1,800 students?
    • Am I attempting to explain, evaluate or persuade with my writing?

Performances of Understanding

Because of the new state standardized test (TAKS) that our students are now taking, critical thinking skills are very important for them to know and understand. I have noticed that our students are almost hesitant or lack the critical thinking skills needed to help them with their courses. With the TASS test, they were drilled on writing persuasive pieces. In my three years of teaching, I have seen students master it and others completely miss the whole point. They know from that test about persuasive writing. Now they need to learn how to write something that explains (expository) or evaluates. With this knowledge our students can start becoming more critical thinkers with a voice for their opinion. This unit would probably take approximately 1 week. These students are adjusting to a traditional schedule now being utilized on campus (50 minute classes compared to 90 minute classes). By getting the help of the English and Speech teachers (cross-curriculum), I feel we can meet the objectives of this unit.

Activities

Activity 1:

  • Students will be introduced to editorial writing (that explains, evaluates, persuades) through examples from the various media.
  • “Do you have an informed opinion?” will be the focus question for them to consider at the end of this unit.
  • Topics include:
    • guidelines of where editorial ideas come from
    • four steps of organizing an editorial
    • keeping the target audience in mind
    • how essential proper reporting skills play a role in this type of writing
    • how their reputation as a writer (in general) is based on the accuracy of supported material found in their writing, whatever form it may be.

Activity 2:

  • Students will analyze various forms of newspaper editorials (use 3 to 5 different newspapers so students can divide up in groups).
  • In their groups they will identify main ideas, facts and opinions and author’s viewpoint and discuss among themselves on their findings.
  • Modeling for them at this stage is critical especially for those who need some extra examples or help. Then in turn they will summarize the gathered information and respond in writing by creating their own individual editorial. By doing this they give their own opinion on the topic.
  • This activity can be repeated so students can have several of their essays to choose from to submit for possible publication in the school newspaper or community publication depending on the topic.

Activity 3:

  • Students will now analyze various forms of broadcast media editorials by watching and videotaping television news programs with an editorial format (2 to 3).
  • In their groups they will again identify main ideas, facts and opinions and author’s viewpoint and discuss among themselves on their findings.
  • After viewing their findings, they will summarize and respond in writing by creating their own individual editorial.
  • Then they can compare and contrast the difference of print and broadcast media and how each discusses and handles a similar topic or idea.

Methods of Assessment / Observations:

  • Submissions for student publications
  • Journalism Projects on editorial writing
  • Journalism student portfolio additions
  • Independent community-based journalism opportunities
  • Students engaged in learning activity
  • Students interacting with one another
  • Informal classroom/lab observations
  • Directed questioning
  • Observation of student performance or process
  • Leadership performance

Resources:

  • Rivers/McIntyre/Work, Writing Opinions: Editorials 1988 ed.
  • Ferguson, Donald L., Patten, Jim, Journalism Today 4th Edition
  • Gilmore, Gene, Inside High School Journalism 3rd Edition


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