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Ethics, leadership and reviews


In this lesson exploring ethical situations reviewers may encounter, students will discuss ethical dilemmas and scenarios that often pop up with writing reviews. The class will discuss these situations and will write about the way they would handle each.


  • Students will consider common ethical situations from multiple points of view.

Common Core State Standards

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.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1c Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.


50 minutes


Handout: Sample scenarios for ethical consideration

Handout: Group discussion roles (one per group)

Ethics and reviews slideshow

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Ask students to share some of their goals in life right now. Answers may include things like earning good grades, getting a job, being a good friend, having fun and so forth. Ask them if there are ever times where one goal competes with another goal — where having a job makes it harder to get good grades, or being true to yourself means hurting a friend’s feelings. Ask students how they decide what to do in these situations.

Now ask the class to brainstorm the goals a newspaper may have. If copies of newspapers are available, it may help to pass some local or school publications for students to examine. If they get stuck, ask them about the parts of the newspaper — why an opinion section? Why ads? Answers should include inform audience, entertain audience, make money, be accurate, promote community, etc. Once students share several answers, see if you can determine which goals are most important, and ask how these can contradict each other at times.

2. Groups organize discussions — 10 minutes

Explain to students they will be discussing some situations where writing reviews can put some of those goals to the test. Divide students into four groups and distribute the group discussion roles sheet. Explain that each group member will have a different job when the group presents to the large group. Group members may have multiple jobs (or you may eliminate or combine jobs to fit class size).

  • One group member will present the scenario to the class.
  • One will be in charge of asking questions to keep the discussion going.
  • One will be in charge of summarizing points of view (at least once during the discussion).
  • One will be in charge of trying to find compromise, or things different views have in common.
  • One will be in charge of questioning points of view or playing devil’s advocate.
  • One will be in charge of keeping the discussion on topic.
  • One will be in charge of keeping track of time.

Suggested questions: What information do we need to get before we decide? Who would be helped? Who would be harmed? How will this affect how people see the newspaper? Who should make this decision?

Distribute the ethics scenarios and give the groups a few minutes to assign roles and plan.

3. Discussions — 30 minutes

If possible, arrange the class so it is easy so students are sitting in a circle or can easily see each other. Have the first group leading discussion hand you their sheet of jobs so you can mark whether students do their jobs. Then let the students lead the discussions. As they reach the time limit or discussion winds down, have the class vote on what they would do.

4. Follow-up — take home exercise

Assign students to complete the ethics scenarios activity. What would they do if they were the newspaper editor in those situations?