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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Letter to the editor: Unit Standard 17370

Teacher: Judy Simpson

Year Level
 11  3 (QF)


Performance Criteria
 ESOL Unit standard 17370: Write expressing a point of view (transactional writing). Summative assessment.  - Structure text in a way that is appropriate for text type.
 - Organise text into paragraphs, with topic sentences and supporting statements.
 - Use cohesive devices correctly.
 - Use modal verbs correctly.
 - Correctly use vocabulary that is relevant to the topic and audience.
 - Use complete sentence structures.


The activities lead up to a summative assessment, ESOL Unit Standard 17370

Teaching and learning activities

What is an issue?

Vocabulary definitions

  1. Students write their own, predicted meanings for the vocabulary (Word 38KB) , and check these later in the unit, as the words come up.
  2. The teacher writes the following questions on the blackboard: What is an issue? What topics or issues are in the news right now?
  3. Discuss these questions in class, and then the students can skim read (Word 20KB) two or three news articles and orally report back on one of these to their neighbour and then to a larger group. If practicable, link students to a news site such as The NZ Herald. The front pages of newspapers can be used otherwise.
  4. Homework: see if there are any noticeable differences between current New Zealand newspaper issues and the newspaper issues from the students' home countries (Online Newspapers website).

Focusing on issues

Beginning to think about point of view

  1. Students recall yesterday's New Zealand newspaper issues and the teacher writes these on the blackboard. Then overseas newspaper issues (students' homework) are recorded, the teacher focusing on the controversial and trying to elicit other points of view. The teacher models the use of appropriate cohesive words (such as: whereas, however, on the other hand).
  2. Students and teacher negotiate and choose one of these issues and brainstorm points of view, writing these on the board. The teacher writes two headings on the blackboard: pros / cons, and sorts one viewpoint into each. The students then complete the task by sorting the remaining points of view and writing them into their books.
  3. The teacher chooses one main idea and students suggest explanations or examples which support it. This main idea and supporting explanations/examples are then written up by the teacher into a paragraph and the students copy the model.

Unpacking a letter to the editor

  1. Display the word "graffiti" to the class. Tell students they are going to read a letter (Word 24KB) about this issue, written by a teacher. Ask them to predict what they think the point of view will be. Read paragraph one, using cooperative reading. The students can check to see if their predictions were right. The teacher displays the opening paragraphs in letters expressing a point of view usually include three things:

    • the topic
    • the writer's point of view
    • the main reasons for this point of view.

    The students can identify these in the letter.

  2. Then use the following jigsaw activity for paragraphs 2, 3, 4 and 5.
  3. Groups 2, 3 and 4: second, third and fourth paragraphs.
    • What is the main point in your paragraph?
    • What are the explanations, the examples?
    • Group 5: final paragraph.
    • What opinion does the writer express?
    • What action does the writer suggest?
  4. Back in their home groups, without the original text, the students each take a turn to summarise the main points, explanations and examples, and the recommendation in the conclusion. The students listen and record the summaries in their books.
  5. The groups then try to reconstruct the first paragraph onto OHT. The class examines each group's opening paragraph and comments on its strengths before looking again at the original.

Connectives and modal verbs

  1. The teacher and students study the original text. The teacher explains connectives and modals to the students by highlighting examples of these in the text. The students try to find further examples and highlight them. The students will need more highlighting practice with other texts. Students can create pointsofview (Word 35KB) using connectives and modals and then work in pairs to identify these in each other's text.
  2. For more examples of letters, see Tearaway or the New York Times student letters site.

Preparing to write

Instructions for students (preparing to write)

  1. Your task is to write a letter to the editor saying what you think about your chosen topic. It is important to make your ideas into a strong argument. You will need to write a rough copy (draft) first. Then check your work to make sure that you have used the best words to give your opinion. Proof-read your work to make sure your spelling, punctuation and grammar are correct. Then write your final copy.

Instructions for students (organising your ideas)

  1. Introduction
    • Begin with "Dear Editor" or "Sir/Madam".
    • Introduce the topic or issue that you are writing about.
    •  Make a clear, short statement giving your opinion on the issue.
    • Outline the (three) main points you are going to make in the next three paragraphs of the letter.
  2. Body

    Write three paragraphs. In each one.

    • State the key point of your paragraph. It must be one of the main points that you made in your Introduction.
    • Add more information to explain your key point.
    • Give an example of your key point.
  3. Conclusion
    •  Sum up your opinion on this topic.
    • End your letter by suggesting some kind of action.
  4. Language
    • Use simple, formal language.
    • Do not use slang or contractions (for example, won't, you're, it's)
    • You can use "I" or "we" to show that this is your opinion but mostly just state your opinion.
    • Do not use you when you are explaining your ideas, for example, "If you saw the mess you would do something about it."
    • Write in full sentences.
    • Use sequencing words to join and/or order your paragraphs, for example, first, second, another reason, finally, to conclude.
    • Use causal, comparative and conditional connectives, for example, therefore, as a result, however, on the other hand, even though, if.
    • Use modals, for example, should, would, can.
  5. Writing the draft copy

Instructions for students (editing and proof-reading)

  1. Carefully check your writing to see if you can improve the words you have used.
  2. Proof-read to make sure the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are correct.
  3. Writing the final copy.
  4. Final proof-reading.

Note: This unit standard requires two letters to the editor, or one letter and one editorial.

Published on: 22 Jun 2009