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Editorial writing: what’s on your mind.

Mario Garcia McCollum High School San Antonio, Texas

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)
  • What are editorials and where do you find them?
  • What is the Op-Ed page in a newspaper and what are its contents?
  • letters-to-the-editor
  • opinion articles
  • 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 (TEKS) 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.

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
  • 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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Writing an Editorial

Another Tutorial by: Alan Weintraut Annandale High School Annandale, VA 22312 [email protected]

CHARACTERISTICS OF EDITORIAL WRITING An editorial is an article that presents the newspaper's opinion on an issue. It reflects the majority vote of the editorial board, the governing body of the newspaper made up of editors and business managers. It is usually unsigned. Much in the same manner of a lawyer, editorial writers build on an argument and try to persuade readers to think the same way they do. Editorials are meant to influence public opinion, promote critical thinking, and sometimes cause people to take action on an issue. In essence, an editorial is an opinionated news story.

Editorials have: 1. Introduction, body and conclusion like other news stories 2. An objective explanation of the issue, especially complex issues 3. A timely news angle 4. Opinions from the opposing viewpoint that refute directly the same issues the writer addresses 5. The opinions of the writer delivered in a professional manner. Good editorials engage issues, not personalities and refrain from name-calling or other petty tactics of persuasion. 6. Alternative solutions to the problem or issue being criticized. Anyone can gripe about a problem, but a good editorial should take a pro-active approach to making the situation better by using constructive criticism and giving solutions. 7. A solid and concise conclusion that powerfully summarizes the writer's opinion. Give it some punch.

Four Types of Editorials Will: 1. Explain or interpret : Editors often use these editorials to explain the way the newspaper covered a sensitive or controversial subject. School newspapers may explain new school rules or a particular student-body effort like a food drive. 2. Criticize: These editorials constructively criticize actions, decisions or situations while providing solutions to the problem identified. Immediate purpose is to get readers to see the problem, not the solution. 3. Persuade: Editorials of persuasion aim to immediately see the solution, not the problem. From the first paragraph, readers will be encouraged to take a specific, positive action. Political endorsements are good examples of editorials of persuasion. 4. Praise: These editorials commend people and organizations for something done well. They are not as common as the other three.

Writing an Editorial 1. Pick a significant topic that has a current news angle and would interest readers. 2. Collect information and facts; include objective reporting; do research 3. State your opinion briefly in the fashion of a thesis statement 4. Explain the issue objectively as a reporter would and tell why this situation is important 5. Give opposing viewpoint first with its quotations and facts 6. Refute (reject) the other side and develop your case using facts, details, figures, quotations. Pick apart the other side's logic. 7. Concede a point of the opposition — they must have some good points you can acknowledge that would make you look rational. 8. Repeat key phrases to reinforce an idea into the reader's minds. 9. Give a realistic solution(s) to the problem that goes beyond common knowledge. Encourage critical thinking and pro-active reaction. 10. Wrap it up in a concluding punch that restates your opening remark (thesis statement). 11. Keep it to 500 words; make every work count; never use "I"

A Sample Structure I. Lead with an Objective Explanation of the Issue/Controversy. Include the five W's and the H. (Members of Congress, in effort to reduce the budget, are looking to cut funding from public television. Hearings were held …)

  • Pull in facts and quotations from the sources which are relevant.
  • Additional research may be necessary.

II. Present Your Opposition First. As the writer you disagree with these viewpoints. Identify the people (specifically who oppose you. (Republicans feel that these cuts are necessary; other cable stations can pick them; only the rich watch public television.)

  • Use facts and quotations to state objectively their opinions.
  • Give a strong position of the opposition. You gain nothing in refuting a weak position.

III. Directly Refute The Opposition's Beliefs.

You can begin your article with transition. (Republicans believe public televison is a "sandbox for the rich." However, statistics show most people who watch public television make less than $40,000 per year.)

  • Pull in other facts and quotations from people who support your position.
  • Concede a valid point of the opposition which will make you appear rational, one who has considered all the options (fiscal times are tough, and we can cut some of the funding for the arts; however, …).

IV. Give Other, Original Reasons/Analogies

In defense of your position, give reasons from strong to strongest order. (Taking money away from public television is robbing children of their education …)

  • Use a literary or cultural allusion that lends to your credibility and perceived intelligence (We should render unto Caesar that which belongs to him …)

V. Conclude With Some Punch.

Give solutions to the problem or challenge the reader to be informed. (Congress should look to where real wastes exist — perhaps in defense and entitlements — to find ways to save money. Digging into public television's pocket hurts us all.)

  • A quotation can be effective, especially if from a respected source
  • A rhetorical question can be an effective concluder as well (If the government doesn't defend the interests of children, who will?)

Go to the library or any computer lab and complete the “webquest” located at



How to Write an Editorial: Your Students' Opinions Matter!

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One World 12: The editorial

By Jackie McAvoy

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Students write an editorial based on the written pages they have already done in class.

Pre-writing tasks - Students do a gap-fill exercise on an example editorial.

Writing tasks - Students write an editorial based on the written pages they have already done in class.

Post-writing tasks - Students listen to editorials being read out and identify the pages being referred to.

One World 12: The editorial - teacher's notes

One world 12: the editorial - worksheet.

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This Lesson Plan is a part of the ED Collection:


Here’s What We Think: Editorials and Opinion Articles

In this activity, students learn the purpose of editorials and opinion articles and evaluate their effectiveness.

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Additional Details

  • Current Events


  • Find out what the class already knows about editorials and opinion articles. Tell them: Most newspapers have an editorial and opinion section. These articles express opinions and ideas. They do not necessarily report news; rather, they comment on current events. Editorials are written by a member or members of the editorial staff of a newspaper and express the opinion or idea of the newspaper as a whole. Opinion articles, sometimes called op-eds because of their traditional position opposite the newspaper’s editorial page, express the opinion or idea of only the person or people writing the article.
  • Discuss: What’s the purpose of editorials and op-eds? What’s the difference between fact and opinion?
  • Explain, interpret or inform
  • Praise, commend
  • Argue, persuade, propose a solution or call for action
  • Criticize, identify a problem
  • These can be chosen in advance to save time or students can find their own articles.
  • Give the class time to read the articles and complete the worksheet.
  • Discuss their work as a class.
  • Here’s What We Think: Editorials and Opinion Articles worksheet (download), one per student
  • Newspapers, magazines or internet access

Discussion Questions

  • Which type of editorial/op-ed was most common?
  • How can an editorial or opinion article open or advance dialogue on an issue?
  • What makes an editorial or opinion piece effective?
  • What influence do they have? How do you know?
  • Compare and contrast editorial and opinion articles.

Extension Activity

Write an editorial. Have students outline or write an editorial. First, have students brainstorm  important issues in their school or community. Write the ideas on a board. Have students vote to narrow the list to one issue. Then divide students into small groups; each group will be “an editorial board” for their school newspaper and decide their position on the issue. Together they should outline an editorial. (Optional: Have students write the full editorial in class or as homework. They may need to do research to get additional facts.)  Follow this format:

  • Begin with an objective statement/introduction of the issue or controversy.
  • Give and discuss the opposing viewpoint. (Who are the opponents? What are their opinions?)
  • Refute the opposition’s beliefs.
  • State your paper’s position and reasoning. Use facts and details.
  • Offer a realistic solution.
  • Conclude concisely.

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  11. Teaching Students Editorial Writing and Persuasive Reading

    TEACHING STRATEGIES AND ACTIVITIES: • Explain to students that the difference between an editorial and a feature article is in the purpose of the piece.

  12. Writing An Editorial

    This resource can be given as an individual supplementary or complementary activity in teaching editorial writing to Grade 6 learners. You may also want to

  13. Here's What We Think: Editorials and Opinion Articles

    Extension Activity · Begin with an objective statement/introduction of the issue or controversy. · Give and discuss the opposing viewpoint. (Who are the opponents

  14. Editorial Writing Lesson Plans & Worksheets Reviewed by Teachers

    This type of writing has long-been neglected in our schools, so this