Lesson 2
Take Action - Writing Persuasively

Defining Commentary


After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Collaborate to form a definition of commentaries
  • Build a list of craft moves in commentaries


In this lesson, students work together to create a list of characteristics found in good commentaries. The class then agrees on characteristics that all commentaries must have.

Guiding Questions:

  • What are the rules of commentaries?
  • What choices do we have as writers of commentaries?
  • How can we make effective choices?

Recommended Time:

45-90 minutes

Common Core State Standards:



Commentary packet that contains the following:

  1. Reading/Research: Writing Commentaries Handout
  2. Copies of the following commentaries and/or appropriate substitutes:

“Starve, Get Aid, Repeat”  by Craig and Marc Kielburger
“Put Your Money Where Your Mouths Are”  by Nick Kristof
“Kyleigh’s Law’ is not the Answer for Connecticut’s Young Drivers”  by Brian Koonz


Technology Required:



Lesson Design:

  • Explain that students will work with a group, using information collected in their Commentary Packet to capture what they notice about commentary writing.
  • Students will create a chart together, listing things under the title, “We notice that good commentary writing…”.
  • Some things worth noticing are: format, point-of-view, tone, content, kinds of sentences, word choice,  paragraphs.
  • Groups should be prepared to share.
  • Class regroups to make one list together.
  • Read through completed list, asking students to consider which of the characteristics are essential (things a commentary must do or include). Highlight or bold these items.
  • A completed list might look like this:

We notice that good commentary…

– May use a conversational style
– Has a title that might reveal claim
– Uses anecdotes to support claim
– Uses rhetorical questions
– Has a powerful lead–hooks reader (anecdote, astonishing fact)
– Uses statistics to support claim
– Has at least three supporting details
– Uses many paragraphs/varied size
– Can be humorous
– Uses background info/revealing why author wrote this
– Integrates quotes (whole sentences)
– Uses fragments
– Includes an ending that tries to change readers’ mind/leaves you thinking
– Has a call to action ending
– Includes a balance of opinion and facts
– Includes lists
– Has important sentences in bold, italics
– Can use first person, second person, third person–all found in these!
– Shows both sides of the issue
– Can be visual like feature articles
– Includes personal experience
– Has an opinion that might be stated, or might be inferred
– Includes quotes from experts or those with first-hand knowledge