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Editorial writing: what’s on your mind.

Mario Garcia McCollum High School San Antonio, Texas

Unit Theme How to write editorials / letters-to-the-editor for publication (The Pony Express)

Overview This unit is to:

  • help me show my students how to write an editorial
  • utilize the English department and Speech teachers in helping teach students to write and submit letters-to-the-editor

Last school year, my newspaper staff had a difficult time writing editorials and getting other students to submit letters-to-the-editor. After the ASNE High School Journalism Institute, I came up with some ideas on how to implement a plan to help with this problem. Basically, we have to go “back to basics” and re-teach on how to create opinion-based writing.

Goals for Understanding (TEKS emphasized)

The student reports and writes for a variety of audiences and purposes and researches self-selected topics to write journalistic texts. The student is expected to:

  • Locate information sources such as persons, databases, reports, and past interviews; gathers background information and researches to prepare…
  • Evaluate and confirm the validity of background information from a variety of sources such as other qualified persons, books, and reports
  • Use different forms of journalistic writing such as reviews, ad copy, columns, news, features, and editorials to inform, entertain, and/or persuade
  • Select the most appropriate journalistic format of present content
  • Use journalistic style
  • Gather information through interviews (in person or telephone)
  • What are editorials and where do you find them?
  • What is the Op-Ed page in a newspaper and what are its contents?
  • letters-to-the-editor
  • opinion articles
  • Where do editorial ideas come from?
  • What are the elements of an editorial?
  • How do you organize your editorial?
  • How do I create and submit a letter-to-the-editor?
  • Does my opinion count in a school of 1,800 students?
  • Am I attempting to explain, evaluate or persuade with my writing?

Performances of Understanding

Because of the new state standardized test (TEKS) that our students are now taking, critical thinking skills are very important for them to know and understand. I have noticed that our students are almost hesitant or lack the critical thinking skills needed to help them with their courses. With the TASS test, they were drilled on writing persuasive pieces. In my three years of teaching, I have seen students master it and others completely miss the whole point. They know from that test about persuasive writing. Now they need to learn how to write something that explains (expository) or evaluates. With this knowledge our students can start becoming more critical thinkers with a voice for their opinion. This unit would probably take approximately 1 week. These students are adjusting to a traditional schedule now being utilized on campus (50 minute classes compared to 90 minute classes). By getting the help of the English and Speech teachers (cross-curriculum), I feel we can meet the objectives of this unit.

Activity 1: Students will be introduced to editorial writing (that explains, evaluates, persuades) through examples from the various media. “Do you have an informed opinion?” will be the focus question for them to consider at the end of this unit. Topics include: guidelines of where editorial ideas come from four steps of organizing an editorial keeping the target audience in mind how essential proper reporting skills play a role in this type of writing how their reputation as a writer (in general) is based on the accuracy of supported material found in their writing, whatever form it may be. Activity 2: Students will analyze various forms of newspaper editorials (use 3 to 5 different newspapers so students can divide up in groups). In their groups they will identify main ideas, facts and opinions and author’s viewpoint and discuss among themselves on their findings. Modeling for them at this stage is critical especially for those who need some extra examples or help. Then in turn they will summarize the gathered information and respond in writing by creating their own individual editorial. By doing this they give their own opinion on the topic. This activity can be repeated so students can have several of their essays to choose from to submit for possible publication in the school newspaper or community publication depending on the topic. Activity 3: Students will now analyze various forms of broadcast media editorials by watching and videotaping television news programs with an editorial format (2 to 3). In their groups they will again identify main ideas, facts and opinions and author’s viewpoint and discuss among themselves on their findings. After viewing their findings, they will summarize and respond in writing by creating their own individual editorial. Then they can compare and contrast the difference of print and broadcast media and how each discusses and handles a similar topic or idea.

Methods of Assessment / Observations:

  • Submissions for student publications
  • Journalism Projects on editorial writing
  • Journalism student portfolio additions
  • Independent community-based journalism opportunities
  • Students engaged in learning activity
  • Students interacting with one another
  • Informal classroom/lab observations
  • Directed questioning
  • Observation of student performance or process
  • Leadership performance
  • Rivers/McIntyre/Work, Writing Opinions: Editorials 1988 ed.
  • Ferguson, Donald L., Patten, Jim, Journalism Today 4th Edition
  • Gilmore, Gene, Inside High School Journalism 3rd Edition

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130 New Prompts for Argumentative Writing

Questions on everything from mental health and sports to video games and dating. Which ones inspire you to take a stand?

Our list includes this question suggested by a student: <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/learning/is-it-harder-to-grow-up-in-the-21st-century-than-it-was-in-the-past.html">Is it harder to grow up in the 21st century than it was in the past?</a>

By The Learning Network

Note: We have an updated version of this list, with 300 new argumentative writing prompts .

What issues do you care most about? What topics do you find yourself discussing passionately, whether online, at the dinner table, in the classroom or with your friends?

In Unit 5 of our free yearlong writing curriculum and related Student Editorial Contest , we invite students to research and write about the issues that matter to them, whether that’s Shakespeare , health care , standardized testing or being messy .

But with so many possibilities, where does one even begin? Try our student writing prompts.

In 2017, we compiled a list of 401 argumentative writing prompts , all drawn from our daily Student Opinion column . Now, we’re rounding up 130 more we’ve published since then ( available here as a PDF ). Each prompt links to a free Times article as well as additional subquestions that can help you think more deeply about it.

You might use this list to inspire your own writing and to find links to reliable resources about the issues that intrigue you. But even if you’re not participating in our contest, you can use these prompts to practice the kind of low-stakes writing that can help you hone your argumentation skills.

So scroll through the list below with questions on everything from sports and mental health to dating and video games and see which ones inspire you to take a stand.

Please note: Many of these prompts are still open to comment by students 13 and up.

Technology & Social Media

1. Do Memes Make the Internet a Better Place? 2. Does Online Public Shaming Prevent Us From Being Able to Grow and Change? 3. How Young Is Too Young to Use Social Media? 4. Should the Adults in Your Life Be Worried by How Much You Use Your Phone? 5. Is Your Phone Love Hurting Your Relationships? 6. Should Kids Be Social Media Influencers? 7. Does Grammar Still Matter in the Age of Twitter? 8. Should Texting While Driving Be Treated Like Drunken Driving? 9. How Do You Think Technology Affects Dating?

10. Are Straight A’s Always a Good Thing? 11. Should Schools Teach You How to Be Happy? 12. How Do You Think American Education Could Be Improved? 13. Should Schools Test Their Students for Nicotine and Drug Use? 14. Can Social Media Be a Tool for Learning and Growth in Schools? 15. Should Facial Recognition Technology Be Used in Schools? 16. Should Your School Day Start Later? 17. How Should Senior Year in High School Be Spent? 18. Should Teachers Be Armed With Guns? 19. Is School a Place for Self-Expression? 20. Should Students Be Punished for Not Having Lunch Money? 21. Is Live-Streaming Classrooms a Good Idea? 22. Should Gifted and Talented Education Be Eliminated? 23. What Are the Most Important Things Students Should Learn in School? 24. Should Schools Be Allowed to Censor Student Newspapers? 25. Do You Feel Your School and Teachers Welcome Both Conservative and Liberal Points of View? 26. Should Teachers and Professors Ban Student Use of Laptops in Class? 27. Should Schools Teach About Climate Change? 28. Should All Schools Offer Music Programs? 29. Does Your School Need More Money? 30. Should All Schools Teach Cursive? 31. What Role Should Textbooks Play in Education? 32. Do Kids Need Recess?

College & Career

33. What Is Your Reaction to the College Admissions Cheating Scandal? 34. Is the College Admissions Process Fair? 35. Should Everyone Go to College? 36. Should College Be Free? 37. Are Lavish Amenities on College Campuses Useful or Frivolous? 38. Should ‘Despised Dissenters’ Be Allowed to Speak on College Campuses? 39. How Should the Problem of Sexual Assault on Campuses Be Addressed? 40. Should Fraternities Be Abolished? 41. Is Student Debt Worth It?

Mental & Physical Health

42. Should Students Get Mental Health Days Off From School? 43. Is Struggle Essential to Happiness? 44. Does Every Country Need a ‘Loneliness Minister’? 45. Should Schools Teach Mindfulness? 46. Should All Children Be Vaccinated? 47. What Do You Think About Vegetarianism? 48. Do We Worry Too Much About Germs? 49. What Advice Should Parents and Counselors Give Teenagers About Sexting? 50. Do You Think Porn Influences the Way Teenagers Think About Sex?

Race & Gender

51. How Should Parents Teach Their Children About Race and Racism? 52. Is America ‘Backsliding’ on Race? 53. Should All Americans Receive Anti-Bias Education? 54. Should All Companies Require Anti-Bias Training for Employees? 55. Should Columbus Day Be Replaced With Indigenous Peoples Day? 56. Is Fear of ‘The Other’ Poisoning Public Life? 57. Should the Boy Scouts Be Coed? 58. What Is Hard About Being a Boy?

59. Can You Separate Art From the Artist? 60. Are There Subjects That Should Be Off-Limits to Artists, or to Certain Artists in Particular? 61. Should Art Come With Trigger Warnings? 62. Should Graffiti Be Protected? 63. Is the Digital Era Improving or Ruining the Experience of Art? 64. Are Museums Still Important in the Digital Age? 65. In the Age of Digital Streaming, Are Movie Theaters Still Relevant? 66. Is Hollywood Becoming More Diverse? 67. What Stereotypical Characters Make You Cringe? 68. Do We Need More Female Superheroes? 69. Do Video Games Deserve the Bad Rap They Often Get? 70. Should Musicians Be Allowed to Copy or Borrow From Other Artists? 71. Is Listening to a Book Just as Good as Reading It? 72. Is There Any Benefit to Reading Books You Hate?

73. Should Girls and Boys Sports Teams Compete in the Same League? 74. Should College Athletes Be Paid? 75. Are Youth Sports Too Competitive? 76. Is It Selfish to Pursue Risky Sports Like Extreme Mountain Climbing? 77. How Should We Punish Sports Cheaters? 78. Should Technology in Sports Be Limited? 79. Should Blowouts Be Allowed in Youth Sports? 80. Is It Offensive for Sports Teams and Their Fans to Use Native American Names, Imagery and Gestures?

81. Is It Wrong to Focus on Animal Welfare When Humans Are Suffering? 82. Should Extinct Animals Be Resurrected? If So, Which Ones? 83. Are Emotional-Support Animals a Scam? 84. Is Animal Testing Ever Justified? 85. Should We Be Concerned With Where We Get Our Pets? 86. Is This Exhibit Animal Cruelty or Art?

Parenting & Childhood

87. Who Should Decide Whether a Teenager Can Get a Tattoo or Piercing? 88. Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past? 89. Should Parents Track Their Teenager’s Location? 90. Is Childhood Today Over-Supervised? 91. How Should Parents Talk to Their Children About Drugs? 92. What Should We Call Your Generation? 93. Do Other People Care Too Much About Your Post-High School Plans? 94. Do Parents Ever Cross a Line by Helping Too Much With Schoolwork? 95. What’s the Best Way to Discipline Children? 96. What Are Your Thoughts on ‘Snowplow Parents’? 97. Should Stay-at-Home Parents Be Paid? 98. When Do You Become an Adult?

Ethics & Morality

99. Why Do Bystanders Sometimes Fail to Help When They See Someone in Danger? 100. Is It Ethical to Create Genetically Edited Humans? 101. Should Reporters Ever Help the People They Are Covering? 102. Is It O.K. to Use Family Connections to Get a Job? 103. Is $1 Billion Too Much Money for Any One Person to Have? 104. Are We Being Bad Citizens If We Don’t Keep Up With the News? 105. Should Prisons Offer Incarcerated People Education Opportunities? 106. Should Law Enforcement Be Able to Use DNA Data From Genealogy Websites for Criminal Investigations? 107. Should We Treat Robots Like People?

Government & Politics

108. Does the United States Owe Reparations to the Descendants of Enslaved People? 109. Do You Think It Is Important for Teenagers to Participate in Political Activism? 110. Should the Voting Age Be Lowered to 16? 111. What Should Lawmakers Do About Guns and Gun Violence? 112. Should Confederate Statues Be Removed or Remain in Place? 113. Does the U.S. Constitution Need an Equal Rights Amendment? 114. Should National Monuments Be Protected by the Government? 115. Should Free Speech Protections Include Self Expression That Discriminates? 116. How Important Is Freedom of the Press? 117. Should Ex-Felons Have the Right to Vote? 118. Should Marijuana Be Legal? 119. Should the United States Abolish Daylight Saving Time? 120. Should We Abolish the Death Penalty? 121. Should the U.S. Ban Military-Style Semiautomatic Weapons? 122. Should the U.S. Get Rid of the Electoral College? 123. What Do You Think of President Trump’s Use of Twitter? 124. Should Celebrities Weigh In on Politics? 125. Why Is It Important for People With Different Political Beliefs to Talk to Each Other?

Other Questions

126. Should the Week Be Four Days Instead of Five? 127. Should Public Transit Be Free? 128. How Important Is Knowing a Foreign Language? 129. Is There a ‘Right Way’ to Be a Tourist? 130. Should Your Significant Other Be Your Best Friend?


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