THE JOURNALIST: Media literacy 101

Create a classroom newsroom. Learn the basics of editorial writing, including how to write and present an editorial pitch and how to package it into one of the four editorial types: ‘argument and persuasion’, ‘information and interpretation’, ‘tribute, appreciation or commendation’, and ‘entertainment: satirical treatment of a serious subject’.


  • Understand and critically evaluate a social issue.
  • Collaborate with peers.
  • Explore editorial types/ purposes.
  • Exercise persuasive writing skills.
  • Philosophically engage with a piece of media.
  • Research and evaluate a film topic. 
  • Exercise presentation and communication skills.


Select an example of each editorial type and share copies or links with students. Ask them to read each one for tone and purpose, then lead them to distinguish the differences between them. On a large whiteboard or screen make three columns and label each with EDITORIAL, ARTICLE and  OP-ED. Facilitate a discussion using the following prompts:

What is the purpose of each editorial type?

How does the tone of the writing differ between them?

Hint: If your students are unfamiliar with these terms, you may consider assigning a reading or research question to be completed before this activity.


Prior to viewing the films, introduce the SIFT Worksheet. This is a graphic organizer designed to help students keep track of their reactions while viewing the films. Using the worksheet during the film viewing, ask students to notice and record any physical SENSATIONS, any IMAGES that are particularly evocative, any FEELINGS that they experience, and any THOUGHTS that occur to them. Be sure to supply one worksheet per film for each student. 

In addition, ask your students to write down any thoughts and questions they had while watching the films.

Screen the film(s). After watching each film, allow time for students to discuss their reactions either as a class or in small groups. 

Hint: This reflection is a critical step in learning from the film as it allows an opportunity for participants to make an emotional connection to the issues through the storytelling.


Divide your students into 3 groups and assign each group to explore one film and emerging social issue. Ask students to create and complete  a KWL graphic organizer in order to generate discussion and research questions about the film topic. 

To create a KWL chart, make three columns on a large paper or whiteboard, and label the first column with Know, the second with Want to know, and the third with Learned. As a group students should complete the graphic organizer by first brainstorming what they know (column 1) and recording any questions or curiosities (column 2)  that arise while doing so. Students then conduct research to answer their own questions and explore the topic in more depth.


Using the Writing a Headline Exercise template, students continue working in their groups to create a headline and subheading as if they were writing an article, OpEd and editorial about the issue shown in the film. How do their titles vary according to the type of piece you are writing?

Ask each group to present their findings to the class.


This lesson will require two to three class periods depending on the length of the film and word count requirements.


Review the resource links at the end of this lesson plan and familiarize yourself with the concepts and differences between an editorial, an article and an OpEd piece. Select three films related to topics you would like your students to explore (or allow students to choose their own).

Alternative Option

You may wish to have each student select a film about an issue he/she cares about, as well as choose a type of journalistic piece. Each student writes their own work. With this option, more films will be addressed and students will write individually instead of in groups. (Consider assigning this as homework.)