Journalism teacher and newspaper adviser
Exploring Ethical Issues
Eldorado High School
Title: Editorial Writing
Thesis: I have found that students often have opinions but cannot communicate them effectively. In order to write good editorials, students need to learn to formulate strong arguments and defeat opposing arguments without loosing their focus. I have often been disappointed in my students' ability to write solid editorials and I think the unit I have planned will help them improve their persuasive writing skills.
Formulating logical arguments in editorial writing.
- Notes, discussion, and student generated quiz on logical fallacies
- An outline of a logical argument on a controversial subject
- An editorial (persuasive) speech
- A critique of peers' speech and arguments
- Analysis of editorials in local newspaper
- A written editorial on a controversial subject of the student's choice for publication submission.
- Essential Question
- What makes an effective editorial?
- Critical Engagement Questions
- Why do people write editorials?
- Why do people read them?
- What influence do they have?
- What is their purpose in the newspaper?
- What are the possible repercussions of an editorial?
Three Week Action Plan
Although there are opportunities to assess student learning incorporated into nearly every step of this plan, I have only identified some of these as "assessments".
- Over the course of several days, students explore the editorial pages of the local paper.
- In pairs students keep a list of the following:
- What topics are covered in each of the editorials?
- What purpose does each article seem to serve?
- On the third or fourth day, pairs get together with other pairs to form small groups of four to six. Each group compiles a list of "purposes" they discovered.
- Groups report their lists to the class.
- Teacher puts a list of "Purposes Editorials Serve" on the overhead and students compare the class list to the teacher list. Are there any "purposes" on the teacher list that are not covered by the students' list? If so, spend some more time looking through the editorial pages to see if we can find an example of an editorial that fits that purpose. The teacher list is adapted from the following handout http://www.jteacher.com/PDF/editorials.pdf
Day 5 -- Assessment
- Students form new pairs and identify/list on butcher paper three possible topics for a school paper for each "purpose" discussed in class. The writing on butcher paper should be large enough to be seen from 20 feet away. Post lists on wall.
- Students share highlights from their lists with the class as time permits.
- Discuss characteristics of effective editorials.
- Individually or in pairs, read and analyze stories from our school and other school papers
- Compile a student-generated list on the overhead.
- Students take notes on a 10-minute introduction to logical fallacies. Notes should include information about why logical fallacies are important to understand. Students also receive a list 25 types of logical fallacies and a list of three Web sites to go to for more instruction and examples. (See suggestions for notes and Web sites at the end of this document.)
- Students explore the Web sites, develop an understanding of the different types of logical fallacies, and create a 10-item quiz on logical fallacies and an answer key. Each question must cover one of the types of logical fallacies from the 20-item list they received.
- Teacher reminds students each day that their goal is to not only create a 10-item quiz, but also to prepare themselves to take a quiz by familiarizing themselves with all 20-types of logical fallacies.
- Groups that finish early can test each other, but they may not share the quizzes they wrote.
Day 9 -- Assessment
- In pairs students take another pair's quiz. They may refer to the Web sites on their list. Not only must the type of logical fallacy be identified, but an explanation for their thinking should be included.
Day 10 -- Assessment
- Pairs grade the quiz they wrote, carefully considering the explanations that the quiz takers wrote. One point should be given for each correct answer and the students, on a separate piece of paper, must write if they still agree with the answer they wrote on their answer key.
- Students review the list of "Characteristics of good editorials" written on Day 6, and they decide if they need to add to or revise the list. (The main goal here is to refresh student memories of the list and to link the items on this list to the logical fallacies we've been studying.)
- Students form groups of three to four and each group is assigned a group letter.
- Within each group, students should be assigned a number 1-4.
- Groups are assigned a "purpose" from the class list that was created while reading editorials.
- Groups pick one topic listed under that purpose from the butcher paper lists on the wall.
- Students work for two class periods to research, outline, and plan a five-minute speech that logically achieves the purpose assigned, being careful to avoid logical fallacies.
- Students are told that each person from the group should be ready to give the speech on day 13.
Day 13 (This may take two days if you have a large or very participatory class)
- Before speeches begin, review audience behavior and develop a short list of characteristics we will be looking for.
- Discuss feedback techniques -- sandwiching improvement suggestions between compliments.
- Draw letters from a hat to determine which group goes first and use a die to choose a person from each group to give a speech. Thus, only one speech from each group is heard, although, theoretically -- that person's speech will be essentially the same as the speeches of the other members of that group would have been.
- Students give speeches as their group's letter and individual number is drawn.
- Speech givers and their group receive feedback from peers and instructor about how well their speeches meet the requirements of an effective editorial, as discussed in class.
Day 14 -- Assessment
- Class notes -- specifics for writing editorials -- i.e. including no first or second person
- Due day 15 -- students write an editorial for the same topic as their speeches, incorporating any appropriate feedback they received.
Day 15-16 -- Assessment
- Individual students choose a new topic/purpose on which to write a new editorial. Two days of class time is dedicated to brainstorming and researching. The editorial must be turned in on Day 19 with notes from research and at least two drafts showing significant revision. The version of the editorial turned in on Day 19, should be good enough to be submitted for publication.
Days 17-19 in class will be spent on other activities, so much of the writing must be done at home.
- "Beyond Argument: A Handbook for Editorial Writers," Edited by Maura Casey and Michael Zuzel, 2001, National Conference of Editorial Writers. (A link to order the book is here.)
- Downes, Stephen. "Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies." http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/index.htm
- Editorial Writing. http://www.jteacher.com/PDF/editorials.pdf
- The Nizcor Project: Fallacies. http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/