CIVIC ENGAGEMENT FOR YOUTH: The Power of an Individual (Lessons 5-11)

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT FOR YOUTH: The Power of an Individual (Lessons 5-11)

SESSION 5: The Power of You

Writing into the Session: Brainstorming (3-5 minutes)
Teacher instructs students to number their Writer’s Notebook as is shown below:

1. Full Name
2. Community of Residence
3. School Name
4. Grade Level
5. Someone you admire
6. Two Defining Experiences
8. Social and/or community issues you care about

Instruct students to take 3-5 minutes to respond to the listed prompts.

Writing Your Narrative

  • Students will write a narrative of no more than 100 words using the “Writing into the Session” as a springboard to their complete author’s bio. This should include your interests, special skills, hobbies, involvement in the community and anything that helps a reader understand why they should value what you have to say. Teacher should share model Author’s Bios and Pics with students.
  • Students will take a selfie to include with their author’s bio.
  • Students will upload their completed author’s bio with photo to a shared Google document.

SESSION 6: Change Agents

Writing into the Session (5-7 minutes)
Teacher will instruct students to turn to a new page in their notebooks and respond to the following prompt:

  • What person has most inspired you in your life? In what way is this person an inspiration? How has this person impacted your life? Think about family members, teachers, coaches, community and religious leaders and friends.

Teacher will encourage students to share what they wrote with a partner.
Teacher should share an example from their own experience as a way to stimulate whole group sharing. This is an important step in fostering a sense of community within the group, so be sure to allow everyone the opportunity to share.

The Heros Among Us

SESSION 7 AND 8: Exploring Texts that Promote Change

Throughout history, individuals have fostered change in the world by sharing their ideas, hopes and dreams.

Writing into the Session
Teacher instructs students to turn to a new page in their notebook and respond to the following prompt:

  • What songs have you listened to that inspired you or made you think? What documentaries or articles have your watched or read that helped you learn something new? What stories have your read or listened to that taught you something about the world. Think about what you’ve experienced in school and in your everyday life.

Social Issues thru the Ages – A Scavenger Hunt with Texts (75-80 minutes)
Every generation and community has its own challenges and issues to contend with and evaluating how individuals addressed the challenges they faced can inspire and motivate today’s youth to tackle issues they care about.

Scavenger Hunt with Text
Teacher explains to students they will be engaging in a scavenger hunt using different types of texts to identify social/political/cultural issues from various points in history.
Teacher will explain that students will each conduct the scavenger hunt with three texts of their choice. However, they do have to choose one text from each category.

  • Distribute the Scavenger Hunt Notecatcher and model how to complete the notecatcher with John Lennon’s Imagine.
  • Students evaluate chosen texts and use any additional resources to complete the notecatcher.
  • Teacher will circulate and guide students, when necessary.
  • When notecatcher is completed, students will add their texts to the timeline drawn on the whiteboard or other common space.
  • Teacher facilitates a class discussion based on scavenger hunt findings.

*Note:  This activity can be assigned in pairs to promote community building and encourage problem-solving skills and communication.  However, it can also be assigned to be completed individually.

Poetry and Song



*Note:  There are countless texts to choose from for this session.  Teachers should not feel limited by the suggested texts and should feel free to substitute alternate texts to better meet the needs of students and/or curricular goals.

Writing Out of the Session: Reflection
Teacher instructs students to turn to a clean page in their notebook and respond to the following prompt:

What did you learn about the way individuals have used texts in the past to highlight issues they care about? Did any of the texts promote change? Where there issues that were addressed repeatedly over time? Be sure to think about your own discoveries and our class discussion.

SESSION 9: The Op-Ed as Change Agent (45-50 minutes)

In this session, students will analyze the features of an Op-Ed in preparation for ultimately writing their own Op-Ed on a topic of their choice.

Is Digital Connectedness Good or Bad for People?
To begin, the teacher has students create a t-chart in their notebooks. Students label the left column “Images” and the right column “Words.”

  • After viewing the video, students free write in response to an open prompt:
    • What do you think about this topic? Include examples from texts you have read or personal knowledge and experience.
  • While students are writing the teacher passes out the second shared text “A Way to Explore and Build Relationships We Wouldn’t Otherwise Form Students then read and code the second text, highlighting or underlining interesting details and writing a key word that captures the importance of each detail in the margin. (*Note: All of the texts used in this session are part of a text set from the New York Times Room for Debate. When you click on the links provided it may be necessary to scroll down to the correct Op-Ed.)
  • After reading the second text, students write again in response to a more focused prompt:
    • Now, I’m thinking…?
      • Freewrite to add to your investigation of this topic. Push for opinions/claims.
      • Use details from the text to support and explain your thinking.
      • Write a claim that captures your current view on the social issue.
  • While students are writing the teacher passes out the third shared text, “Online Sharing and Selfies Erode the Value of our Private Lives,and students collect details add key words in their t-charts.
  • To close the lesson, students write in response to one more prompt:
    • Now I’m thinking…?
    • Freewrite to add to your investigations of this topic. Push for opinions/claims.
    • Use details from the text to support and explain your thinking.
    • Write a claim that captures your current view on the social issue.

SESSION 10: Immersion into an Argument Genre
45-50 minute session

This session will focus on supporting students in identifying, describing and explaining decisions writers of Op-Ed use so they might apply those wiring decisions as they write their own Op-Eds. (This session is adapted from the C3WP “Making a Case in an Op-Ed” Instructional Resource).

Writing into the Session: Creating a Culture of Argument (12-15 minutes)

  • Teacher leads students on an open tour of the New York Times Room for Debate digital texts to identify the column’s format and structural decisions. The teacher and students will tour the website together, taking suggestions from different students for which Op-Eds to click on.
  • Before beginning the tour, the teacher points out the submission process and decisions of an Op-Ed written as a digital text (especially hyperlinks that impact the use of the sources).
  • The teacher will provide students with specific questions to guide their tour of the website and analysis of the Op-Ed genre:
    • Writer: What do we learn about the writers? Why is this helpful?
    • Audience: Who is the audience for each Op-Ed?
    • Headline: What are the keywords that focus the argument?
    • Length: Why so short?
    • Textbox: Why is this sentence emphasized? How does it impact the way the reader makes sense of the argument?
    • Hyperlinks: What purpose do the hyperlinks serve? Why use hyperlinks?
  • After completing the tour, the teacher and students create an Anchor Chart to name what they have learned about the decisions Op-Ed writers make, using the categories below for the Anchor Chart.

Notice Examples of and details about author’s decisions

Name the decision    How does this decision impact or help a reader?   

Students Practice Independently (30-35 minutes)

  • The next step is for students to do a close analysis of Op-Eds from the New York Times Room for Debate.  In this analysis, students, working in pairs, will identify and analyze the structure and organization of evidence in two Op-Eds.
  • The teacher tells students that they will be doing a multi-draft reading of two model texts and that they will notice as they study the Op-Eds that there is no formula or “right” way to organize an Op-Ed.  The teacher then passes out the two Op-Eds, “Online Activism is Having a Positive Effect in the Real World,” New York Times and “The Constant Sharing is Making us Competitive and Depressed,” New York Times.
  • The teacher provides students with a specific reading and annotation task for each read.  The teacher can consult this handout on Multi-Draft Reading and Annotating for more support in facilitating the process.
  • For the first reading task, students trace the organization by underlining words that repeat or emphasize key points in the argument.  To help with this step, students should look for repetition and/or synonyms of the key words.
  • For the second reading task, student will identify claims and commentary, highlighting claims in one color and commentary in a different color.
  • For the third reading task, students identify common  “moves” Op-Ed writers make. If students have experience with the “Harris Moves,” the teacher can remind them of those moves and direct them to identify the moves in the Op-Eds.
  • To close the lesson, return to the Anchor Chart to add any new things students noticed about authors’ decisions in the Op-Eds.

SESSION 11: Understanding Your Local Op-Ed and Getting to Know Your Audience

(45-50 minutes)

Writing into the Day: Evaluating Your Publication Target (7-10 minutes)
Distribute a handout of four Op-Ed letters from the local newspaper. Ask students to choose one of the letters to read in preparation for a class discussion. Facilitate a class discussion that analyzes:

  • the topics covered,
  • tone of the letters,
  • any potential biases,
  • the context of the letter – local, regional, global, and
  • length of letters

A Deep Dive into the Local Newspaper – Guest Speaker (35-40 minutes)

*NOTE: It is preferable to arrange for a representative from the local newspaper to be a guest presenter for this session. However, the teacher can also lead students through this process.

The representative will lead students on a tour of the online and print versions of the publication.  Students will use the analysis strategies, questions and anchor chart from the previous session to inform the discussion relative to the local newspaper.  Students need to understand the following:

  • Submission Requirements:  Is there a word limit? Is a title required? What personal information is required?
  • Audience:  What is the readership online? In print? What is the demographic information for the readership?
  • Options: Will hyperlinks be included? Can images be submitted with letter?


  • CCR Anchor Standards:
    • Reading Standards for Informational Text (6-12)
      • 1, 2, 6, 7, & 8
    • Writing (6-12)
      • 1, 4, 5, 6, 9 & 10
    • Speaking & Listening (6-12)
      • 1, 2, 3 & 6
  • History/Social-Science CLIC Frameworks
    • Literacy, Inquiry and Civic Engagement
  • Aligned with NGSS Cross-cutting Concepts
  • Social-Emotional Learning Standards
    • 1A, 1B, 1C
    • 2A, 2B, 2C
    • 3A, 3B, 3C