What's On Your Mind?
After completing this lesson, your students will be able to produce a letter to the editor which addresses relevant social issues and includes an opinion with reasons. They will be able to work cooperatively to edit their work.
Introduction (5 minutes)
- Gather the class in a circle and write an opinion statement on the board. A good example opinion statement could be something like: Every kid should have a cell phone.
- Ask your students to share whether or not they agree with the statement on the board. Remind the class to back up their opinions with an explanation as to why they feel the way that they do.
- Tell to your class that citizens in a city or state can make a difference by expressing their opinions on important matters. Explain that one way to express an opinion is to write a letter to the editor, or the person who is in charge of the final content of a text, particularly a newspaper or magazine.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling (10 minutes)
- Of the topics outlined in the “Letter to the Editor” worksheet, choose a topic and use the SMARTboard modeling web graphic organizer (or a piece of chart paper) to demonstrate the process of writing an opinion.
- Use the outer stems of the graphic organizer to give reasons for the opinion.
- Model the process of writing a letter to the editor.
Guided Practice/Interactive Modeling (15 minutes)
- Distribute the Letter to the Editor worksheets to the class.
- Explain the directions for the worksheet, emphasizing the need for students to include an opinion, reasons for the opinion, and many details.
- Guide the students through the process of constructing their first drafts of the letter to the editor.
- Circulate around the room, providing feedback to individual students.
Independent Working Time (15 minutes)
- Display the writing assessment checklist prior to beginning independent working time. Give the checklist to the students ahead of time so they can evaluate their own work in the "student column" before you evaluate their work in the teacher column.
- Model the process of giving kind and helpful feedback by choosing a student volunteer to help you demonstrate. Give the student an example of a piece of constructive criticism to show students how their feedback should be delivered.
- Divide the students in pairs and have them trade papers. Direct them to then give each other feedback on their work.
- Once the students are ready to revise and make corrections, have them begin their final drafts on the final draft paper and complete their letter to the editor.
- Enrichment: Select editorials from a children’s magazine or from a real newspaper and invite students to respond to the editorials. Teach about how individuals can have differences of opinion and can debate about various issues. Group students together and invite them to create their own newspaper that include various opinions about relevant topics.
- Support: Provide word banks of commonly used words to students who have difficulty with spelling. Provide sample letters to help students get ideas. Work with students in a small group, brainstorming ideas before they begin their writing.
- Scan the students’ work and create an online, digital newspaper. This lesson could be the beginning of a student-written, class newspaper or magazine.
- Invite students to submit one of their letters to a magazine, such as Time for Kids. (Be sure to get parent approval first.)
Related Books and/or Media
Assessment (10 minutes)
- Utilize the writing assessment checklist, adding comments and evaluating whether the writing contains all of the components.
Review and Closing (5 minutes)
- Create an "Author’s Chair" at the front of the room, where students can come and celebrate their writing. Invite individual students to come up and read their letters to the editor.
- Give other students the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions.
- Challenge the students to consider how their ideas could improve their community.