Author Heather Lattimer describes editorials as reflecting “the essence of our democratic society. Here is a form of writing that is entirely dedicated to civic discourse, changing minds, and effecting change.” (Thinking Through Genre, 2003, p.116) This writing genre can be particularly motivating to young adolescents as they wake up to their surroundings and the associated challenges and frustrations. As teachers, we can capitalize on our students’ emerging passion and their attraction to the controversial by providing them with ways to thoughtfully express themselves on the issues that matter.
When studying this genre in the classroom, middle schoolers have the opportunity to write persuasively in a more compelling way than they have in the past. First, they clearly express their opinions on controversial topics about which they feel passionate. They are challenged not only to support their opinions with arguments backed by evidence found through research, but also to consider an opposing point of view and counter the “other side’s” opinion. Students persuade their audience of the importance of their topic by issuing a call to action. In doing so, middle school editorial writers become empowered to create change in their communities.
Middle School writers will:
Write an editorial that persuades the audience to agree with an opinion about a controversial topic.
Apply a variety of craft strategies and structures to bring out the editorial’s meaning and grab the attention of readers.
Effectively execute several steps of the writing process using technology – drafting, revising, editing and publishing their work.
Acquire writing strategies that can be generalized across the genres.
How to Approach the Unit
Writing Editorials is grounded in best practice in writing instruction, drawing from the extensive body of research on balanced literacy and the “writing workshop” model as well as the recommendations and concerns of educators “on the front line.” Teachers who participate are provided with a professional development institute, on-site mentoring and a unique set of web-based classroom resources for teaching and learning.
Teachers gain access to a complete set of lesson plans, accompanying classroom visuals and the Online Classroom, a user-friendly area where they can collect and evaluate student work and help students publish for a real online audience. Technology-based resources are also provided for students. Their learning is scaffolded with amusing animated shorts, sample writers’ notebooks and other writing samples. Students also benefit from a series of curriculum-based multimedia activities and tutorials that are instructionally on track and, at the same time, highly motivating to high-tech teens.
Recognizing the heterogeneity of today’s classrooms, Writing Editorials offers flexibility. Our most important word of advice to participating teachers is to make this unit their own. To help make the sixweek experience successful, the curriculum gives teachers “breathing room” to re-teach, add their own unique lessons and modify those provided here in order to meet the specific needs of their students.
Other important recommendations to teachers for ensuring successful implementation include:
linking the writing workshop to the reading workshop, providing students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the genre by reading editorials written by adult and student writers as they create their own pieces
preparing students to participate in this unit by inculcating good writing practices such as building stamina by writing every day, and introducing standards for using technology in the classroom
preparing for the project by developing their own editorials to serve as models for students
assessing student progress throughout the process by taking advantage of the activities and strategies housed in the Online Classroom. Lessons offer strategies for evaluating students’ mastery of the particular skills addressed. Moreover, teachers are advised to consistently monitor student progress in individual conferences, via the writers’ notebooks and through the rubric provided. The Teacher’s Checklist will be able to help you with this process.