Lesson at a Glance

Students learn about the first step in the writing process, generating ideas. They generate five or six possible editorial topics, focusing on issues they encounter in their daily lives that they feel should be changed. Students narrow this list of topics to the single one about which they feel most passionate.

(1) In this lesson, construct a chart of potential editorial topics that can continue to be used throughout the unit. Be sure to create something that is reusable on either your computer or chart paper.

(2) It is important to keep in mind that the topic you choose in this lesson will serve as the basis for the editorial you develop as a model throughout the Writing Editorials unit. In future mini lessons, plan to model focusing a topic, gathering research and taking notes, and writing your editorial on the same topic.

(3) You will need to set up your class in the Online Classroom before beginning Lesson 1.3. Students will require usernames and passwords to enroll in your Online Classroom. See the unit overview and contact your Educational Consultant for assistance.

Prep & Tech

Technology: LCD projector and laptop, Internet access or Writing Editorials CD
Differentiated Instruction Handouts: 1.2a: Find Your Passions
Other Materials: Student folders, writers’ notebooks, chart paper, list of possible editorial topics for the Teacher Model

Limited Tech Options

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

Mini Lesson: Write your list of topics on chart paper.


Students will develop a list of potential editorial topics about which they have prior knowledge and
about which they feel passionately.

Focusing Question

What are the issues you care about most?

Mini Lesson (10 min)

Show lesson visuals, Identify Your Passions.

Tell students that the purpose of today’s lesson is to generate a list of potential editorial topics that they can write about with passion and confidence. Review the purpose of editorials. They aim to persuade readers that something needs to change. When effectively written, they can inspire people to think differently or take action.

Emphasize the value of brainstorming at the beginning of the writing process. Think aloud about the kinds of topics that would be ideal for an editorial. Explain that topics should be something about which you have personal experience or prior knowledge, and universal enough that readers can care about them.

Demonstrate generating a list of potential editorial topics about which you feel passionately by looking for issues you encounter in your daily life. After thinking aloud, record your potential topics on a chart that you will use again later. It may be helpful to show how you consider a topic that is exciting to you, but about which you do not have sufficient background knowledge, and therefore reject as the basis of your editorial.

Have students turn and talk briefly to a peer about what makes them “mad” before they generate their personal list of topics.

Teacher Model

  1. Brainstorm a list of potential editorial topics based on issues in your life that make you mad. Share some of your answers with students.
  2. Model how to go deeper by reviewing a typical day and focusing on what makes you angry, worried, or frustrated.
  3. Demonstrate how you reject a topic because you are not particularly familiar with it or it does not excite you.
  4. Write your list of ideas on a chart.
  5. Reflect aloud on your list. Choose the one item about which you feel most excited. Be prepared to use this topic as the basis of your editorial.


I am going to start my brainstorming by thinking about the things that make me angry in my life. Let’s see, I get mad when the subway is too crowded. I’ll write “subway overcrowding” on my list. I don’t like it when there is too much “litter on the subway.” I get angry when cars cut me off in the crosswalk, so I’ll write “cars ignoring pedestrians.”

Hmmm. Looks like everything on my list so far has to do with my commute to work. I want to think about things that I experience in other parts of my day too. One good way to brainstorm is to think about the different parts of your day and think about each one separately. For example, being at school is a really big part of my day so I’m going to think about things that make me angry at school. I don’t like it when I see students bullying other students so I’m going to put “bullying” on my list. I get upset when I see that we don’t have enough books and computers in our school. That goes on my list. I get annoyed when nobody does their homework. That goes on the list too.

Now I’m going to look back over my list. I need to pick one topic to focus on. I’m looking for one that I really know a lot about and care about, and that other people will care about too. I’m going to select “overcrowded subways” because that really makes me angry. I ride crowded subways almost every day, so I know a lot about this topic. Almost everyone in New York rides the subway so it will matter to people other than me.

Preparing for Writer’s Work Time

Ask students to:

  1. Turn and talk to a classmate about what makes them “mad.”
  2. Brainstorm topics by reflecting upon a typical day. For each part of the day, think about things that they experience that they would like changed.
  3. Write and reflect on a list of five or six possible editorial topics in their writers’ notebooks.
  4. Select one of the items on their list to use as their editorial topic. Their choice should be a topic that they know something about and about which they feel very strongly.

Writer’s Work Time (25 min)

Using their writers’ notebooks, students work individually to create lists of possible topics for their editorials. Circulate among students, encouraging and prompting them to generate a wide variety of topics. Notify students when there are five minutes remaining during Writer’s Work Time to stop brainstorming and select one topic about which they have prior knowledge and that they find interesting.

Individual conferences: Encourage students to think about whether or not their topics are sufficiently compelling to write about and to get others interested. Help students identify which topics are most appropriate and which may be dull or difficult to research and write about.

Differentiated Instruction Strategies

  1. Difficulty using the writer’s notebook? Distribute Find Your Passions (Handout 1.2a) to guide and scaffold students’ responses.
  2. Struggling to generate ideas? Form a guided writing group in which students can generate a collective list of topics before making individual selections.
  3. Difficulty choosing a topic? Students can read DD and JT’s Notebooks in the Online Classroom to see the topics they brainstormed. Encourage students to use the notebooks as a springboard to thinking of topics about which they feel passionately.
  4. Ready for more? Students may visit Prof. P’s Office to browse the titles of editorials written by others or the Study Center for more activities such as What’s The Message?

Sharing and Lesson Summary (10 min)

Reconvene the class. Ask students to share their selected topics with a small group. Many students will be inspired to adjust their topics when they hear others’ ideas. Provide students a few minutes to reflect on and add to their lists of topics if necessary. Remind students that it will be okay to go back to the longer list, if for some reason their initial choice does not work out.


Review students’ lists to determine whether they have selected topics that are relevant to them and reflect the reasons why people write editorials. It is acceptable for more than one student to work on the same topic as long as each student has a personal connection to the topic. It is important to assess these selections before Lesson 1.3, because students will further refine their topics in the next lesson. Use the Teacher’s Checklist to assess what students have completed to this point.

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