Giving their opinionPublished 4:15pm Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Even though newspapers are most often used as a source of information and a way to learn about many different issues, students at Russellville Middle School recently used newspaper articles as a way to hone their writing skills and to practice forming opinions and taking a stance.
Students in Patrice Smith’s eighth grade English classes have been studying editorials and letters to the editor as different forms of writing.
Smith said the Alabama Course of Study provides that students must know the formats and characteristics of each of these types of writing mediums, so she thought using the local paper with topics the students would be familiar with would be a good way to illustrate this form of writing and also to get them thinking about everyday issues.
Smith said the students wrote their own letters to the editor based on different articles they found in The Franklin County Times.
She said she told her students to go through the articles they found and choose an article they had a strong opinion about and write a formal letter to the editor stating why the agreed or disagreed with what the writer said.
Smith said her students chose a wide range of topics to write about and she was very pleased with how the assignment turned out.
“The students really seemed to grasp the letter writing format and really got into their responses,” Smith said. “They learned the proper way to write a letter and the correct format to use.”
But she said the learning didn’t stop there.
“The students also discovered that, no matter what the article seemed to be, they could have an opinion on it one way or another,” Smith said.
“It is so important for these students to know how to express their own opinions. They must learn to form opinions about what’s going on around them, and it is their right to be able to state their own thoughts and feelings.
“Expressing their opinions allows them to become contributing members of society, and they could even change the opinions of others through this.”
Eighth grader Wesley Holt said the assignment was one he actually enjoyed.
“Reading the editorials was interesting because you got to see what other people thought about an issue and see how they got their point across about it,” Wallace said.
“That was useful when we started to write our own letters because we could see how other people did it and stated their opinions.”
Judd Ward, another of Smith’s eighth grade students, said the assignment made him more interested in the world around him.
“There are a lot of issues out that that we wouldn’t know about if it wasn’t for newspapers,” Ward said.
“Reading the newspaper is a good way to be informed, and the more informed you are about a topic, the better you’ll be able to form your own opinion and express that to others.”
Eighth grader Slate Wallace agreed.
“It’s good that we’re doing this activity now because later in life when we’re asked what we think about something, we won’t just shrug our shoulders,” Wallace said. “We’ll know how to think for ourselves and have an opinion based on accurate information from both sides of the issue.
“This has definitely made me more interested in the news and keeping up with what’s going on in the community and in the world around me.”
Smith said she hoped that feeling was something that stuck with her students for years to come.
“We have too many passive people in society that just sit back and don’t care what goes on,” Smith said. “It’s the ones that really care about issues who are the ones who will get out there and make things happen. I hope those are the kind of people my students will be. I hope that’s what they end up taking away from this.”