Thinking critically about editorials can help students become stronger readers.
Fifth grade often introduces students to opinion-oriented writing like editorials. While a piece that expresses an opinion might sound simple on the surface, students must learn that an editorial combines a clearly stated main point with solid research and examples. You can help your fifth-graders grasp the concepts of a well-written editorial through activities that creatively examine its elements.
A good editorial is like a sandwich — it opens with a clear statement of your viewpoint, contains well-supported reasons for your opinion and concludes with a call to accept your position. Give students a copy of an editorial to read in class. Then, have them cut out pieces of bread, lettuce, cheese and meat from sheets of craft foam. On the first piece of bread, they’ll write the editorial’s main argument, while each of the inner ingredients will contain a supporting point. The final piece of bread will include the author’s call to action for readers. Have students glue the sandwich pieces together and share their work.
As the name implies, editorials are written by the editor of a publication stating the staff’s opinion on a particular issue. After reading a sample editorial in class, ask students to write letters to the editor where they respond to the piece. Whether they agree or disagree with its stance, they must support their positions by providing direct references to the editorial’s main points. You might try obtaining the sample editorial from somewhere close to home, such as the local newspaper or high school student paper, allowing students to send their letters to the publication.
Persuasion with a Purpose
Along with a statement of your viewpoint, an editorial contains clearly explained main points, a well-organized, logical structure and supporting examples from quality research. You can teach these elements through reverse outlining, the process of making an outline of an article’s main points after reading it. Have students write the author’s purpose at the top of a sheet of paper, then outline each main point, including the examples and evidence the author backs it up with. In groups, students can compare their outlines and share their thoughts on the editorial’s effectiveness.
To practice their critical reading skills, have students read and evaluate two editorials that take different positions on the same topic. Then, put them in groups to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both pieces, thinking about the structure of an editorial, the authors’ use of evidence and the development of their supporting points. After letting them discuss the editorials, bring the group back together and take a poll of which editorial was most effective. Asking students to give reasons why the pieces did or didn’t persuade them can help them put the concepts you’ve been practicing into words.