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McREL Standards Activity

Two Sides, Same Coin

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will understand that political beliefs influence language use.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
Language Arts
 Standard 1.Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
   Level IV [Grade 9-12]
   Benchmark 5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience’s background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)
Language Arts
 Standard 8.Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
   Level IV [Grade 9-12]
   Benchmark 9. Understands influences on language use (e.g., political beliefs, positions of social power, culture)
Language Arts
 Standard 5.Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
   Level IV [Grade 9-12]
   Benchmark 4. Understands writing techniques used to influence the reader and accomplish an author’s purpose (e.g., organizational patterns, figures of speech, tone, literary and technical language, formal and informal language, narrative perspective, rhetoric, refinement of key terms)
Student Product:Two articles written from different viewpoints
Material & Resources:Access to resource materials, primarily magazine articles. Internet access (not required).
Teacher's Note:Prior to completing this activity, students should read two or three magazine articles on the same topic but from different political viewpoints. Teachers should provide students with these texts. Potential sources for these articles include The National Review (available online at, The New Republic (, The Utne Reader (, and Mother Jones ( Teachers should provide magazine articles appropriate to their students’ reading abilities.
Students should read the articles provided them by their teacher, then as a class (and with the help of their teacher) compare and contrast the ways those articles approach the same topic (e.g., the use of terms such as "environmentalism" versus "ecoterrorism," attitudes about the use of vouchers in education). The students should also consider why the authors of each article chose to use the terms and descriptions they used. After discussing why authors may have chosen to use specific types of language, students should select a political topic and write two articles, from different political viewpoints, on that topic. The teacher can provide a list of possible topics, or have students select their own topics. [Allowing students to select their own topic to write about will provide a chance for them to become familiar with online resources, such as online magazines and newspapers].