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Say something with columns


This is a lesson on sharing opinions and insights of newspaper column. After the teacher explains what a column is, students will read a column out loud in pairs or small groups and share their thoughts.


  • Students will learn the characteristics of a column.
  • Students will see how other students think about what they read.
  • Students will practice reading strategies.
  • Students will create a backwards outline for the text.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5 Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.


50 minutes


Handout: Say something rules (at least one copy for each group)

Handout: Idea diagram (at least one copy for each group)

Column (see examples)

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 5 minutes

Explain that today students will be looking at columns in groups. Review the difference between a column and an editorial. A column is the point of view of one person. The column conveys that person’s opinion, and it may touch on that person’s life or an experience, if it relates to a newsworthy topic.

2. Say something — 20 minutes

Next, put students into groups of two to three. (This reading strategy works best when groups have a mix of different students with different reading abilities, so it helps to determine the groups prior to class.) Distribute the rule sheet and tell the students they will be reading a story out loud in small groups and sharing their thoughts as they read. Take a moment to ask what ground rules they should have (no making fun of mistakes while reading, respecting different points of view, politely correcting mistakes if someone misses something.) Then walk through the rules: the person sitting closest to the left side of the room goes first and reads a section out loud (recommended one-fourth of a page), loud enough that the rest of the group can hear. After the reader finishes, the group will use a reading strategy with that passage. Everyone summarizes the comment and the next person reads. This continues until the group is done with the reading.

3. Reverse outline — 15 minutes

When groups are finished, distribute the idea diagram. Have students look at the column again, this time to circle the main idea and look for arguments the writer uses to back up the main point. Then have the groups complete the outline with the main idea, reasons for the main idea and evidence they use to back it up. Explain that the column may not have four reasons for the main idea — it may have three or two or five, and it certainly will not have eight pieces of evidence for each reason. Give the groups time to fill out the idea diagram based on the column (some groups will finish much earlier than others, so you may have them start this as soon as they are ready).

4. Large group discussion — 10 minutes

Have students share their overall thoughts on the column. Ask everyone to hold up their fingers to share: one if they disliked it a great deal, five if they loved it and so forth. Then start asking what students liked or disliked about the column, and discuss what made it effective or what parts didn’t work for the students.

Then move onto the outlines. How did making the reverse outline help them think about the column? Did the structure fit the column well? Did all of the reasons have evidence to back them up?


Have students turn their work in for today. The outlines especially should indicate which groups may need help when it comes to writing their own columns.