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Lesson: Editorials and News

Title

Editorials and News

Description

A lesson on how editorials are often connected to news stories

Summary

Students will look at both news stories and editorials on the same topic in the same newspaper and discuss why there is a need to have both, and how the two complement each other. On the second day, students will examine newspapers to find stories they want the paper to address in an editorial, discuss stances and assign editorials to group members.

Objectives

  • Students will be able to explain the different roles of news and opinion writing.
  • Students will understand how editorials and news can complement each other.
  • Students will form leadership teams to assign editorials.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1a Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1b Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills — Student Outcomes

Skills P21 outcomes
Creativity and Innovation Think creatively
Work creatively with others
Implement innovations
Critical Thinking Reason effectively
Use systems thinking
Make judgments and decisions
Solve problems
Communication Communicate clearly
Collaborate with others
Information Literacy Access and evaluate information
Media Literacy Analyze media
Create media

Length

50 minutes

Materials

Examples of news stories with editorials that go with them (there are pairs of editorials and news stories in Resources, or use recent examples in print papers or online)

Editorials in the news (copies for the class)

Handout: Editorial Brainstorming

Recent copies of school and local newspaper (or access to newspapers online)

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Explain to students that editorials are most effective when they connect to topics the paper covers in its news section because readers can read an objective story that researches all points of view (or many) on that issue and is focused on just giving the facts. When connected to a news story, the newspaper staff can write an opinion story later that shows what staff members really think.

This balance helps everyone. The reporter covering a sports team isn’t allowed to say “Congratulations on the state title!” at the end of a story; reporters must remain unbiased, but the opinion section can cheer the achievements of the school (as well as criticize its problems). The paper can be unbiased in its reporting but still take a leadership position on topics that matter to the audience.

Basing editorials on stories the newspaper is covering also allows the publication to take a leadership role on something that really matters. Plucking topics from the headlines of other media can make for editorials without teeth. For example, child marriage is a problem in many countries, but few high school papers in the United States cover it because it isn’t a problem in their communities. An editorial on a topic like that takes a stand, but an audience of American teens can’t do very much to change things. (On the other hand, if a school group is working to raise money to help the problem, covering that in the news section, then writing an editorial commending them and encouraging students to donate makes sense.) When editors use their news section to get ideas for editorials, they focus their efforts on areas where they can truly make a difference.

Explain that today the class will examine how newspapers can effectively pair editorials and news coverage, and tomorrow students will form their own editorial leadership teams to look at what the newspaper is covering and assign their own editorials.

2. Reading editorials and news stories — 30 minutes

Divide students into groups of 3-4. Distribute copies of a news story to each group (later to be paired with its editorial), as well as the Editorials and News worksheet. Assign each group to read the news story and complete the chart. Then provide copies of the editorials that go with the news stories for students to read, completing the rest of the worksheet afterward.

3. Discuss — 10 minutes

As groups finish, ask them to share their thoughts on having editorials connected to news stories. Which story would they prefer to read first? Do readers need to read the news story to understand the editorial? Did the news story stay unbiased? Did the editorial connect well with the news story?

Day 2

1. Review from yesterday — 10 minutes

Review why editorials are strongest when connected to stories the newspaper is already covering. Ask students to share what they learned yesterday. Briefly review the different types of editorials. Remind students that editorials don’t always have to argue a point or point out flaws (though that can be important); they also can explain topics more in depth or praise good things that are going on in school.

2. Looking for editorials ideas — 20 minutes

Have students get back into their groups from yesterday, and distribute out copies of newspapers to each group (if necessary, include two issues, a local paper, or even newspapers from other schools so students have a fair number of topics to choose from. The groups do not need to have the same publications.)

Distribute the Editorial Brainstorming handout. Assign students to look through the newspaper to find news stories (and maybe feature or sports stories) they can comment on.) Encourage them to check out the big stories first, front page, double-page spread, any multiple page stories or full-page stories. If a newspaper staff has nothing to say about its top stories, it may want to reconsider why those stories are top stories. Have the groups read these stories and record the main idea on the worksheet.

Next, invite students to look for other stories they want to comment on — these may be smaller stories, but editorials can also bring attention to a topic that doesn’t get enough notice. Have them add this to their Editorial Brainstorming sheet. (If groups have more than six stories, they can add their own paper you can give them additional worksheets. If they have fewer than six stories, they need to keep going back until they get six.)

3. Deciding on a stance — 15 minutes

Assign each group to look over the topics and discuss each one as a group to decide what stance they would take if they were the editors of the student newspaper. Remind students that their stances do not have to be one extreme or the other — they can acknowledge something is working but would work better with improvements, or that reports of bullying have gone down, but the school still needs to keep working on that issue. Also remind them these are issues the newspaper should be able to take a leadership position on — what specific group are they addressing, and what do they want those people to do? If the group cannot decide on a stance to take, have them discuss their views and see if there is a compromise stance they can take (and if that still doesn’t work, have them vote.) Each group should have stances worked out for six topics.

4. Assigning editorials — 5 minutes

Have the groups decide which topics are most important to cover and assign one topic and stance to each group member. Consider which group members are most passionate about the group’s stance on that topic, or who in the group has a writing style best suited to the topic.

Groups should turn in their list of the stances they are taking and who is writing which editorials.