Lesson at a Glance

After being introduced to Writing Editorials by watching the animated program, students learn some of the reasons why editorials are written. They read two editorials and identify and describe the characteristics of this genre, with an emphasis on how editorials persuade readers to change their actions, thoughts or feelings.

Note: In this lesson, it is important to generate a chart of the characteristics of an editorial that can continue to be used in future lessons. Be sure to create a reusable list on the computer or chart paper.

Prep & Tech

Technology: LCD projector, laptop, speakers, Internet access or Writing Editorials CD In Class Handouts: 1.1a: Editorials Packet, school student permission form adapted to reflect your school’s policy toward online publishing Differentiated Instruction Handouts: 1.1b: Characteristics of an Editorial Other Materials: Student folders, writers’ notebooks, chart paper

Limited Tech Options

If there is no access to the technology needed for this lesson, try the following options:

  1. Mini Lesson: Instead of showing the animated program, distribute a provocative editorial from a newspaper and discuss why the writer feels so passionately about the topic.


Students will identify the defining characteristics of an editorial and understand the purpose of this genre in the real world.

Focusing Questions

What are editorials and why are they written? What are the characteristics of an editorial?

Mini Lesson (15 min)

Show lesson visuals, Define an Editorial.

Welcome students to the new unit, Writing Editorials, and tell them that they are going to be part of an exciting project that will enable them to share their writing with students from many different schools by publishing it in an online magazine.

Discuss with students ways in which they make their voices heard in their families, communities, and at school. Explain that writers often make their voices heard by writing editorials on topics about which they feel passionate.

Introduce the genre by showing the animated program for Step 1, Select Your Topic. Describe how editorials are a distinct genre whose purpose or goal is to persuade a specific audience. Editorials state opinions on a topic; persuade readers to think the way the writer does, and motivate readers to take action. Explain that you are going to read an editorial and look for the characteristics that make this piece of writing different from other genres.

Distribute Editorials Packet (Handout 1.1a) to students. Display one mentor text, such as “Dropouts,” or another mentor text from Prof. P’s Office, and use it for modeling. Create a list of characteristics specific to editorials on chart paper.

Display a second mentor text from Editorials Packet (Handout 1.1a) such as “High Price for Cheap Snacks.” Tell students that they should work in pairs to look at this new piece of writing and identify its editorial characteristics.

Teacher Model

  1. Think aloud about some of the characteristics of “Dropouts,” the editorial you just read, referring specifically to passages within the mentor text. List the main characteristics on chart paper or using a computer/LCD projector. Your chart should include some of the following:
    1. Focuses on a specific topic
    2. Makes the author’s purpose clear
    3. Includes the opinions of the writer
    4. Contains evidence to support the writer’s opinion
    5. Offers solutions to a problem or issue to make the situation better.
  2. Ask students to assist you in identifying other characteristics. Clearly indicate where in the mentor text these characteristics can be found.


We’ve read through the editorial “Dropouts.” Now let’s go back and look at it more closely. We need to find the characteristics that make this piece an editorial. What are some things that make this piece different from the other writing genres we have studied? The first thing that I notice is the opening sentence. “Dropout rates are rising and what are parents and teachers doing? Maybe not enough.” That lets me know right away that the writer wants to talk about a specific problem or issue, the dropout rate. I am going to add “Focuses on a specific topic” to our list of editorial characteristics.

It also seems to me that the writer has an opinion on what needs to change to address this issue. At the end of the first paragraph she says, “Parents and teachers don’t stress the fact that staying in school will help students succeed in life,” so I know that her opinion is that parents and teachers need to do more about the dropout problem. In her final paragraph she repeats that idea, “Teachers need attention-grabbing strategies to convince students why they should stay in school.” So I know the writer definitely believes that adults need to address this issue. She is stating her opinion. The writer’s opinion is not something you usually see in a newspaper article or a research paper, so I am going to add, “Includes the writer’s opinion,” to our list of editorial characteristics.

Preparing for Writer’s Work Time

Ask students to:

  1. Work in pairs to read “High Price for Cheap Snacks” from Editorials Packet (Handout 1.1a).
  2. Decide what the purpose of this editorial is and write it on the top of the actual article.
  3. Find and mark the places in the text that demonstrate the characteristics of an editorial by:
    1. Focusing on a specific topic
    2. Making the author’s purpose clear
    3. Including the opinions of the writer
    4. Containing evidence to support the writer’s opinion
    5. Offering solutions to a problem or issue to make the situation better.

Writer’s Work Time (25 min)

In pairs, students read a second mentor text and write its purpose. They identify and mark the characteristics that make this text an editorial by underlining key parts and making notes in the margins. Circulate among students, helping them to identify the purpose of the editorial and recognize its characteristics.

Individual conferences: Listen in on partnership discussions to ensure that students are correctly identifying the author’s opinion, supporting evidence, and possible solutions. Encourage discussion about the purpose of this editorial.

Differentiated Instruction Strategies

  1. Difficulty using the writer’s notebook? Distribute Characteristics of an Editorial (Handout 1.1b) to guide and scaffold students’ responses. Students can also look at DD and JT’s Notebooks in the Online Classroom to see how they completed the same task.
  2. Struggling to identify editorial characteristics? Form a guided group in which students read the mentor text aloud and share their ideas with their peers.
  3. Ready for more? Ask students to analyze the two editorials and find commonalities and differences in order to share with the class. Students may visit the Study Center for additional activities such as What’s The Message? or go to Express Yourself in Prof. P’s Office.

Sharing and Lesson Summary (5 min)

Reconvene the class. Discuss students’ observations about common characteristics of the two different editorials. Explain how the editorials are different. If time permits, ask students to explain how the authors adapted the elements of an editorial to fit their purposes. Before ending the class, have a student share why the second editorial was written.

Distribute student folders. Explain that handouts related to this unit should be kept in the folder. Distribute your school’s student permission form. An example of a school permission form that can be adapted to meet your school’s specifications can be found on the Writing Matters website, www.writingmatters.org. Tell students that they will need to have the form signed by a parent or guardian so that their editorials can be published online at the end of the unit.


Review the students’ comments on the mentor texts to determine whether they understand the characteristics of an editorial. Check to make sure they listed specific examples from the mentor texts they read in class.

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