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Letter to editor

Write a Constitution Day Letter to the Editor

Use this assignment to have your students engage with your local newspaper to share their free expression experiences as a student in your school or community.

Objectives

  • Students will explore the rights of the First Amendment and discern how it impacts their lives.
  • Students will engage in their community through the act of writing a letter to the editor of their local newspaper
  • Students will edit and proof each others work before final submission of a selected letter

 

Common Core State Standards

 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.2.B Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.2.E Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.3.A Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation and its significance, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 11-12 here.)
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

 

Length

 

2 class periods of 50 minutes

 

Materials / resources

Editorial pages explained from the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Letter to the Editor rubric

 

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — 10 minutes

Ask students to brainstorm in small groups of 2-3 what they know about their First Amendment rights and their application to their particular school.

(Encourage students to apply any previously learned court cases for this activity.)

Step 2 — 10 minutes

Ask student groups to share their brainstorm.

Step 3 — 30 minutes

After a discussion of how students in your school practice the First Amendment, introduce the following prompts to the students and ask them to choose one of them to write a 250-word letter. The Star Tribune published an annotated page detailing the purpose of the letters to the editor.

Prompt #1 In honor of Constitution Day, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper that illustrates the benefits of your application of the First Amendment in your school. You may write this from the perspective of a journalist or as a student in general. Make sure you reference Constitution Day.

Prompt #2 In honor of Constitution Day, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper which illustrates the what voices and viewpoints you would empower if you could exercise your First Amendment privileges more freely. Be careful not to make this an attack, focus on the power of your voice and what you could or should be doing with it. Make sure you reference Constitution Day.

 

Day 2

Step 1 — 50 minutes

On the second day, you as a teacher select at least 5 of the best letters and copy them for the students to assess in groups you select using the rubric attached. Each group should select the letter they believe is most convincing and/or representative of their school or community and make suggestions and revisions before the final. The letter with the most votes from different groups will be submitted by the student after final edits.

Differentiation

As a means of differentiating, students may do this activity in groups of 2-4 and may also use the time to facilitate generation of ideas to support one of the prompts.  A teacher may also add on a day before the assignment to brainstorm ideas to support either prompt for the whole class.

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