K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • understand the elements involved in developing a definition composition
  • compose a valid thesis statement presenting the focus (definition) of an editorial
  • provide an opener and background information supporting the focus provided by the thesis statement
  • provide topic and closing sentences for the body paragraphs
  • include specific, valid, and relevant supporting details related to the topic sentences and thesis statement
  • compose a concluding paragraph restating the focus differently and leaving the reader with a memorable statement

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

2 days


Technology resources

  • Arrange to use the media center.
  • A word processor for each native speaking student will be needed when composing the final copy of editorial in the following lesson.
  • The English Language Learners (ELL’s) will use the graphic organizer to create an editorial cartoon strip in lieu of the written editorial.


  • Students will need to be familiar with the writing process and thesis statement.
  • Students will need to be familiar with the editorial genre and its necessary components.
  • Students will need to have understand how to use appropriate language for their particular audiences by incorporating suitable diction (connotation and denotation) to influence the tone of an editorial.
  • Students will read an example of a definition composition aloud in class. See Literacy Education Online’s sample definition essay.
  • Students will receive a handout containing the definition components. With a partner, students will then locate those components within the essay. Using an overhead, the teacher will then discuss these components and examples with the entire class.


Step One

The teacher will provide a list of possible topics; however, students are not limited to those specifically. In small groups of three or four, each student will choose a possible topic and begin brainstorming by listing characteristics of the topic, possible definitions for the topic, support for the topic (evidence, illustrations, examples, etc.), and precise verbs and nouns describing the topic.

The limited English students will use language dictionaries to help with this activity. They may also use picture dictionaries.

Step Two

Once students have brainstormed and discussed their ideas with their group members, they will each be given a graphic organizer template. See Graphic.org or edHelper.com to locate an appropriate graphic organizer.

The teacher will then model the process involved in defining a topic/concept by completing the graphic organizer.

Step Three

Working individually, each student will then complete his/her own graphic organizer based on the topic he/she has chosen. The English Language Learner (ELL) may choose to draw pictures to represent the supporting details related to his/her definition topic or concept.

Students will be taken to the media center to conduct research and gather information to support their thesis and topic sentences. For instance, they may want to incorporate facts, statistics, quotations, evidence, etc. as supporting details. They may also include personal vignettes or illustrations as support.

Step Four

After completing the graphic organizer, students will be placed in peer conferencing groups. Using the rubric, they will evaluate the elements listed on the graphic organizer. The LEP student will be given the modified rubric to be assessed by his/her peer conferencing group.

Step Five

After peer conferencing, students will make the necessary revisions before turning in the graphic organizer.


Use this rubric to evaluate the graphic organizer.

Supplemental information

Alternative assessments

Use this modified rubric for the graphic organizer.

Critical vocabulary

  • definition
  • editorial
  • introduction
  • thesis statement
  • body paragraphs
  • supporting details
  • conclusion


This lesson is designed for a class on block scheduling. Each class is 90 minutes. The lesson can be modified for a traditional setting as well.

This lesson plan was developed during the English Language Development Standard Course of Study lesson planning institutes hosted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and LEARN NC, June and July, 2004. It includes specific strategies, instructional modifications, and alternative assessments which make this lesson accessible to limited English proficient students. Please note that this lesson has been aligned with the goals and objectives of the North Carolina English Language Development standards. The modifications in this lesson can also be used for intermediate level English Language Learners (ELLs).

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Writing

        • Grade 9-10
          • 9-10.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
          • 9-10.W.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.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 10

  • Goal 3: The learner will defend argumentative positions on literary or nonliterary issues.
    • Objective 3.01: Examine controversial issues by:
      • sharing and evaluating initial personal response.
      • researching and summarizing printed data.
      • developing a framework in which to discuss the issue (creating a context).
      • compiling personal responses and researched data to organize the argument.
      • presenting data in such forms as a graphic, an essay, a speech, or a video.
    • Objective 3.02: Produce editorials or responses to editorials for a neutral audience by providing:
      • a clearly stated position or proposed solution.
      • relevant, reliable support.
    • Objective 3.03: Respond to issues in literature in such a way that:
      • requires gathering of information to prove a particular point.
      • effectively uses reason and evidence to prove a given point.
      • emphasizes culturally significant events.
  • Goal 6: The learner will apply conventions of grammar and language usage.
    • Objective 6.01: Demonstrate an understanding of conventional written and spoken expression by:
      • employing varying sentence structures (e.g., inversion, introductory phrases) and sentence types (e.g., simple, compound, complex, compound-complex).
      • analyzing authors' choice of words, sentence structure, and use of language.
      • using word recognition strategies to understand vocabulary and exact word choice (Greek, Latin roots and affixes, analogies, idioms, denotation, connotation).
      • examining textual and classroom language for elements such as idioms, denotation, and connotation to apply effectively in own writing/speaking.
      • using correct form/format for essays, business letters, research papers, bibliographies.
      • using language effectively to create mood and tone.
    • Objective 6.02: Edit for:
      • subject-verb agreement, tense choice, pronoun usage, clear antecedents, correct case, and complete sentences.
      • appropriate and correct mechanics (commas, italics, underlining, semicolon, colon, apostrophe, quotation marks).
      • parallel structure.
      • clichés, trite expressions.
      • spelling.

English Language Development (2005)

Grade 9–12

  • Goal 0:
    • Objective 0.03: Record information on simple topics using graphic organizers.
    • Objective 0.05: Write with guidance following a model on personal and familiar topics.
    • Objective 0.06: Understand the components of the writing process with guidance.
    • Objective 0.07: Use basic conventions (e.g., punctuation, spelling, mechanics).
    • Objective 0.09: Engage in basic one-to-one conversations.
    • Objective 0.11: Use prior knowledge to facilitate comprehension.
    • Objective 0.17: Locate and use resource materials (e.g., picture and word dictionaries).