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Writing Lesson Plan

Writing a Letter to the Editor

Teacher: Greg George
Class Profile: Advanced ESL


Students will identify the main elements/structure of a letter to the editor. In addition, they will brainstorm for thoughts and opinions on a specific topic and write a first draft of a letter to an editor of a newspaper. They will read another student's letter and give preliminary feedback.

Teaching Materials:

Warm Up/Review: (4-5 minutes)

Ask students how many of them read the newspaper. Ask them what their favorite section is, or what section they read the most. Briefly discuss the different sections of the newspaper.

Introduction: (5-6 minutes)

Explain that in the Opinion section of the newspaper there are often letters to the editor written by the newspapers' readers expressing their opinions about current events or articles in recent issues of the newspaper. Show them the Editorial section of the newspaper and where they can find the address to write to. Discuss the fact that letters to the editor usually contain a strong opinion on an issue, whether supporting or criticizing it. Ask them what issues they feel strongly about and would want to express an opinion about.

Presentation: (7-8 minutes)

Hand out the copies of the example letter to the editor. Put the overhead up also. Read through the letter with the students, pointing out the organization of a standard letter. [Addressing editor, stating the topic of opinion, statement of opinion, criteria/justification for opinion, suggested action to other readers, etc.] Mark these on the overhead and have the students do so on their papers.

Practice: (25-30 minutes)

Using the ideas previously suggested (and any new ones students wish to bring up), write various topics on the board. Have each student choose a topic to write on. Divide students into groups according to the topic they choose (and further into pro/anti opinions). Have the groups brainstorm for ideas on the topic. Make sure that they understand this time is not for actual writing, but simply to generate thoughts and ideas.

Instruct each student to write a brief letter to the editor following the basic pattern discussed previously and implementing several of the ideas generated during the brainstorming activity. Ask the students to complete the letter within 20 minutes (Tell them that this will be a very rough draft, and not to get too caught up on spelling/mechanical aspects).

Evaluation: (4-5 minutes)

Ask the students to exchange letters with another student. Instruct the students to read through the letter and give feedback on structure and content (if the purpose/intent is clear and if the letter makes sense). Using that feedback, ask the students to make any revisions they wish to and rewrite the letter before the next class period, where they will hand it in for teacher feedback.


Encourage students to submit their letters to a local newspaper (after needed revision). This will probably be emphasized more when the letters are returned to the students.

Contingency Plan:

If the students have a hard time thinking of issues to write about, have a list of current events ready to write on the board to help them choose. These should be issues that the students would most likely be aware of and would be of interest to them. In addition, the teacher may need to suggest topics (groups) for students to join to ensure that they will be able to brainstorm ideas with other students (though if a student has a strong desire to write about a certain topic, this may be done alone).

Self Evaluation:

After explaining my lesson plan to other students in class and asking them for feedback, I learned some important things. The most prevalent was the importance of application in this lesson. Perhaps requiring rather than encouraging the students to submit their letters to the newspaper would be best. This would increase their motivation to make needed revisions and to write about something they care about. One student even suggested to require the students to keep revising and submitting their articles until they were published! I think that would be unnecessary, but it definitely shows the importance of application. In addition, it was suggested to bring a newspaper for each student, if possible. This would be nice, because I could have them read a letter to the editor on their own before looking at the general example with the rest of the class.

Overall, I like the way this lesson plan turned out. One worry I have is that it is too much to do in one class period. If I emphasized that the letters should be brief and clear, I think they could write them in the time allotted. But I really have no experience teaching or observing writing ESL classes, so I think I might just have to try it out once to see how well it works.

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1997 © Dr. Lynn E. Henrichsen
Department of Linguistics
Brigham Young University
Last Updated: Saturday, November 15, 1997