All week we’ve been gearing up for our Sixth Annual Student Editorial Contest by publishing related ideas from teachers who work with argument writing. Here is a piece by two teachers from Newburgh, N.Y., about a process they use to help their students “break out of the echo chamber” when researching and writing about hot-button issues, and here is one by a teacher in Greenwich, Conn., about his “Follow a Columnist” project.
But this piece, our final in the series, is the most closely related to the contest itself. Beth Pandolpho, a language arts teacher at the West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in New Jersey, writes about how she takes her students through the process of finding and honing a topic, then writing, revising and submitting final drafts to our student challenge.
Enjoy, and please see the contest announcement itself for links to all our teaching materials related to this topic.
Do you have an idea for teaching with The Times? Please tell us about it here. You can also browse our full collection of Great Ideas From Our Readers.
Writing for a Real Audience, About Issues That Matter
When students write for an authentic audience about issues that matter to them, by extension they suddenly care about sophisticated rhetorical moves, carefully selecting their words, and crafting strong rebuttals.
When they really want to effect change, they willingly read articles on the topic, watch TED Talks I recommend, and contemplate the other side of the issue with curiosity and incredulity.
When students are invested in their writing, we engage in rich and nuanced conversations to contemplate what might be their best approach to change their readers’ minds. Choice, provided wisely, is a powerful motivator.
Here is how I have used The New York Times Learning Network’s annual Student Editorial Contest as a way to motivate my students to share their insights and opinions beyond our classroom, because I feel strongly that the world needs to hear what they have to say.
Modeling “Fire and Fury”
I begin our discussion of editorial writing by urging students to choose an issue that not only matters to them, but also lights their head on fire. In an effort to spark their interest, I share with them some of the many issues that irritate me.
“How exactly is social media making people feel more connected to each other? Everyone is looking down at their phones instead of looking at each other! And my favorite part of social media is seeing the smiling faces of people who I thought were my friends at the party I wasn’t invited to! Is everyone really happy all of the time except for me?”
They laugh, but they know I’m not joking. I quickly move on to another issue that frustrates me. “Like standardized tests? How can we possibly measure everyone’s ability on a single exam? Can students possibly feel any more stressed than they already are? How is taking classes to study for a test helping anyone? Isn’t it difficult enough being a teenager without creating more tests that propose to measure their worth?”
At this point in my tirade, my face is starting to get flushed, and they are beginning to understand the fire and fury I am looking for.
I tend to become very dramatic in an effort to motivate them to be argumentative. I have an inclination to be hyperbolic about … everything, but this quality has worked in my favor to infuse excitement in my students. David Brooks may have been talking about me when he wrote that “what teachers really teach is themselves — their contagious passion for their subjects and students.” I am not faking my enthusiasm about students writing a powerful argument to The New York Times about an issue that matters to them, and I am certainly not faking my enthusiasm about the possibility of them being published. I think it’s important, and they very well know it.
I press on with the motivational speaking when I share Anne Lamott’s words about writing from her book “Bird by Bird.” She says:
Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act — truth is always subversive.
We break down these lines together, and discuss why we have a moral obligation to discuss consequential issues, why doing so may cause people to not like us, and why the truth can be subversive to those who believe otherwise. It is after this conversation that they are ready to begin.
Finding and Narrowing Topics
I use many of the resources provided by The Learning Network to support this contest, including questions and suggestions from its webinar with Nicholas Kristof (which can still be viewed on demand), “Writing to Change the World” and its 401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing. I ask students to quietly review the 401 prompts, and brainstorm these questions, adapted from ideas by teacher Kabby Hong shared on the webinar, in their journals.
First, jot down 8-10 ideas that resonate with you from the prompts.
Then, consider the following questions and respond to at least three of them:
• What issues are you struggling with?
• What are you passionate about? What are the issues in your passion?
• When you look at our society today, what worries you/makes you mad?
• When you look at your generation, what worries you/makes you mad?
• What do you get that other people just don’t seem to get?
Students then narrow down their options, and each shares the top two issues that really trouble them. There is a lot of nodding and sighing as I circulate and listen in on a few conversations. I then ask students to share one of their selected issues with the whole class.
Many of my students are, not surprisingly, concerned about gun control and standardized testing, but interestingly also in topics like increased wages for the military, discrimination on gay dating sites, and how veganism may be the solution to global warming. I am always humbled and awed by their honesty and passion, and my head tingles as I say to them with conviction, “Teenagers are going to change the world!”
When they get closer to deciding on their issues, they add to their journal entries by responding to these additional questions:
● How do you think you can persuade people to see this issue from your viewpoint?
● How can you change their thinking and bring them to your side?
● Why is it important for people to know about this issue?
Reviewing Nicholas Kristof’s 10 Tips for Writing Op-Eds
Before students commit to an issue, we review together a handout I created inspired by the 10 tips Mr. Kristof shared in the webinar (which can also be found here, at the bottom of the post). As I go, I project the referenced New York Times pieces on our Smart Board.
Here are the tips, along with the specific editorials I use. For each, students must find an example from the text that illustrates that tip.
1. Start out with a very clear idea in your mind about the point you want to make. Think of the idea as a bumper sticker.
Column: Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack or Your Tax Dollars Help Starve Children
Example from the text:
2. Don’t choose a topic, choose an argument.
It should be an argument that some people don’t necessarily agree with. It might also be an argument that may make some people angry.
Column: On Death Row, but Is He Innocent?
Example from the text:
3. Start with a bang. Catch people’s attention right away with the title and in the lede.
Column: Surprise! It’s Not Guns, It’s the …
Example from the text:
Related: If Americans Love Moms, Why Do We Let Them Die?
4. Personal stories are often very powerful to make a point.
Don’t be afraid to use the first person. Don’t be afraid to tell your story, or the story of your family or friend. Our brains are wired to feel empathy for an individual … not for a large group of people. So first, try to create empathy and a connection with an individual, and then move to the larger data.
Column: This Is What a Refugee Looks Like
Example from the text:
5. If the platform allows it, use photos, video, music or other elements.
Related: The Photos the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Don’t Want You to See
6. Don’t feel the need to be formal and stodgy. Be conversational.
Column: Meet the World’s Leaders, in Hypocrisy
Example from the text:
7. Acknowledge shortcomings in your arguments if the readers are likely to be aware of them, and address them openly.
Column: A Solution When a Nation’s Schools Fail
Example from the text:
8. It’s often useful to cite an example of what you’re criticizing, or quote from an antagonist, because it clarifies what you’re against.
Column: Anne Frank Today Is a Syrian Girl
Example from the text:
9. If you’re really trying to persuade people who are on the fence, remember that their way of thinking may not be yours.
Think of the common ground you might have with people who don’t agree with you. You want to expand the conversation, and lure people in the middle over to your side. Think about your audience and your use of language. For example, an argument about gun control should avoid the term “gun control” because it is antagonistic to the people who are in favor of carrying guns. Mr. Kristof uses the term “gun safety” when he writes about gun control because most people agree with the idea of using guns safely.
Column: We Don’t Deny Harvey, So Why Deny Climate Change?
Example from the text:
10. When your work is published, spread the word through social media or emails or any other avenue you can think of.
Example from Nicholas Kristof’s social media accounts or email newsletter:
Mentor Texts, Writing Conferences and … Submission!
As homework, students choose one editorial by a student who has won a previous Learning Network Editorial Contest and one editorial or Op-Ed from the New York Times Opinion section to analyze and identify the following:
• What is the “issue that matters”?
• What is the author’s position and main argument?
• What relevant background information does the author provide?
• How does this help you understand the argument?
• Does the author cite any outside sources? If so, how does this help support the main argument?
• Where does the author acknowledge counterclaims and/or the opposing viewpoint?
• What is the call to action? In other words, what should people do, think or feel as a result of reading this piece?
• Is the title provocative? Does it arouse your curiosity? How is it effective?
In the following class, students talk about these analyses in their groups, and we create a shared document of best practices for editorial writing, citing textual evidence from the selected pieces to illustrate each practice. (We revisit these same questions again when we peer edit our own final drafts.) Since at this point students have decided on their issues, they begin working on an approval sheet that asks them to complete the following sentence starters:
• My topic is …
• It matters because …
• I am personally concerned about it because …
• My main argument in one sentence is …
• People should care about this issue because … and I will make them care by …
• I think the primary opposing viewpoint is …
• In response to this viewpoint, I will likely say …
• As I result of reading my editorial, I think people should do/think/feel …
I meet individually with each student to discuss their approval sheet, and I am available throughout the writing process to answer questions, provide guidance and resources, and to introduce new skills and techniques as they become relevant.
Students initially focus on writing a strong, convincing argument using at least one New York Times source and one other source for support. They know that they’ll ultimately need to write a counterargument and rebuttal, a call to action, and a compelling title, but I teach strategies for each of these elements as mini lessons once students’ arguments are fully developed and supported.
If you listened in on our editorial conferences, you would hear students asking, “Do you know where I can find _____?” or “How do I make people care about this?” — along with the more difficult question, “How do I acknowledge the opposing side if I really don’t understand their position?”
As students craft their counterarguments, they must consider alternate perspectives, and try to empathize with the people who hold these opposing viewpoints, that are sometimes part of a mind-set that they find offensive. Yet by doing so, it leads students to a deeper understanding of people who might view the world in ways that were previously incomprehensible to them.
In the two years my classes have participated in the Editorial Contest, and from the thousands of student editorials received by The New York Times, four of my students — Ruhee Damle, Neha Narayan, Aarsha Shah and Maya Mau — have had their work recognized by the judges.
Perhaps the best part of this recognition is that a few of these students were genuinely shocked to have their writing recognized, as they certainly didn’t consider themselves to be the best writers in their class. What these students did have in common is that they gave up lunch periods, sent me numerous emails about their pieces, and sought, listened to and implemented feedback that sometimes must have been hard to hear.
In 2017, one of my students, Ishita Bhimavarapu, was recognized at the state level in the Library of Congress Letters About Literature Contest. She wrote about trying to find her voice again after feeling it had been silenced by the criticism of other students. It was a triumph to know that her voice, which she had felt had gotten “small,” was heard by others. That very same year, Ishita was again recognized, this time in The New York Times Student Review Contest. Ishita’s voice is continuing to get louder, and she is one of the many teenagers we all need to listen to.
In a world where young people often feel powerless, these authentic writing experiences make students feel as if there is a real possibility for their voices to be heard … and that they can quite literally write to change the world.
You can find Beth Pandolpho on Twitter @bethpando. She is currently writing a research-based book for Solution Tree that examines how a learner-centered classroom built on strong relationships and a sense of belonging can support student achievement in the development of literacy skills.B:
平码三中三高手【是】【某】【人】【写】【给】【薰】【天】【行】【的】【信】【件】！ 【薰】【天】【行】【的】【鼹】【鼠】【吗】？ 【叶】【非】【凡】【对】【薰】【天】【行】【的】【了】【解】【是】【非】【常】【深】【的】，【但】【这】【并】【不】【意】【味】【着】【他】【知】【道】【对】【方】【的】【全】【部】【底】【牌】……【或】【许】【他】【还】【没】【有】【陨】【落】【呢】？ 【之】【前】【薰】【天】【行】【就】【蛰】【伏】【了】【一】【段】【时】【间】，【有】【人】【猜】【测】【失】【踪】，【有】【人】【猜】【测】【死】【亡】……【但】【叶】【非】【凡】【还】【是】【抱】【着】【怀】【疑】【的】【态】【度】。 【没】【有】【人】【可】【以】【永】【远】【活】【下】【去】，【对】【于】【他】【们】【这】【种】【既】【不】【是】【大】
**【的】【扛】【把】【子】，【是】【一】【个】【瘦】【高】【的】【汉】【子】，【手】【长】【脚】【长】，【走】【起】【路】【来】【虎】【虎】【生】【风】，【应】【该】【已】【经】【是】【名】【进】【化】【者】【了】。 【当】【晚】，【他】【便】【摆】【下】【酒】【宴】，【为】【罗】【乾】【与】【苏】【酥】【洗】【尘】。 【说】【是】【宴】【席】，【其】【实】【也】【就】【是】【泡】【面】【加】【上】【清】【酒】【香】【肠】。 【但】【有】【资】【格】【吃】【上】【这】【些】【的】，**【里】【也】【就】【那】【么】【几】【个】【人】。 【大】【帐】【篷】【里】，【开】**【日】【里】【舍】【不】【得】【开】【的】【大】【灯】，【七】【八】【个】【男】【人】，【加】【上】【苏】【酥】【罗】
【然】【而】，【丹】【田】【的】【存】【在】【迟】【早】【会】【成】【为】【他】【修】【行】【的】【桎】【梏】。【随】【着】【他】【的】【进】【步】，【丹】【田】【将】【严】【重】【制】【约】【他】【精】【神】【海】【洋】【的】【扩】【展】。 “【但】【如】【果】【你】【再】【次】【打】【破】【丹】【田】，【很】【可】【能】【已】【经】【存】【在】【的】【精】【神】【力】【量】【的】【海】【洋】【将】【崩】【溃】。【如】【果】【你】【失】【败】【了】，【你】【不】【仅】【会】【变】【成】【一】【个】【没】【用】【的】【人】。” 【一】【旦】【强】【大】【的】【力】【量】【在】【权】【力】【的】【海】【洋】【中】【崩】【溃】【和】【蔓】【延】，【它】【肯】【定】【会】【摧】【毁】【他】【的】【经】【脉】，【甚】【至】【他】【的】【身】【体】【在】
“【林】【神】【医】，【您】【是】【药】【王】【谷】【在】【当】【世】【的】【唯】【一】【传】【人】，【得】【到】【了】【药】【王】【真】【传】，【还】【望】【您】【大】【发】【慈】【悲】【之】【心】，【救】【鄙】【寺】【太】【师】【祖】【一】【救】，【金】【刚】【寺】【上】【下】，【必】【感】【神】【医】【大】【恩】！” 【听】【林】【宁】【连】【道】【三】【声】“【难】”，【而】【不】【是】【直】【接】【判】【了】【死】【刑】，【智】【海】【方】【丈】【立】【刻】【躬】【身】【求】【援】。 【林】【宁】【闻】【言】，【面】【露】【为】【难】【之】【色】，【道】：“【神】【僧】【此】【时】【神】【智】【还】【是】【清】【醒】【的】，【之】【所】【以】【不】【能】【开】【口】，【他】【心】【口】【的】【伤】，平码三中三高手【在】【天】【魔】【两】【界】【达】【成】【协】【议】【的】【期】【间】，【十】【月】【初】【九】【如】【期】【来】【临】。 【不】【到】【寅】【时】，【石】【玖】【卿】【还】【在】【浑】【浑】【噩】【噩】【的】【睡】【梦】【中】【的】【时】【候】，【便】【被】【一】【群】【喜】【娘】【生】【生】【从】【被】【窝】【了】【拽】【了】【出】【来】。 【纵】【使】【万】【般】【不】【情】【愿】，【但】【石】【玖】【卿】【还】【是】【只】【能】【坐】【在】【那】【里】【任】【由】【她】【们】【摆】【布】。 【回】【想】【起】【前】【日】【那】【些】【事】【情】，【要】【不】【是】【南】【絮】【哄】【了】【她】【好】【久】，【石】【玖】【卿】【真】【想】【一】【撒】【手】【悔】【婚】【得】【了】！ 【那】【日】，【石】【玖】【卿】【是】
**【的】【信】【息】【规】【则】【再】【一】【次】【开】【始】【分】【析】【吉】【塔】【利】【信】【息】，【如】【果】【把】【情】【景】【设】【置】【在】【两】【天】【前】【的】【人】【类】【世】【界】，【这】【句】【话】【就】【非】【常】【应】【景】【了】。 “【啊】～【说】【起】【来】【这】【件】【事】【还】【是】【你】【起】【的】【头】【啊】！”**【感】【叹】【道】。 【看】【见】【吉】【塔】【利】【突】【然】【出】【现】，【德】【雷】【克】【也】【调】【侃】【道】：“【说】【起】【来】【还】【真】【是】【打】【脸】【啊】！【曾】【经】【人】【人】【得】【而】【诛】【之】【的】【叛】【徒】，【现】【在】【却】【成】【了】【最】【有】【先】【见】【之】【明】【的】【智】【者】，【那】【些】【自】【以】【为】【是】