First, have students choose an article to work on. After they have read it carefully, ask each to review the five W's for it--who, what, when, where, and why--and write a summary. Then ask students to write a critique of the article or an editorial about it. This will require applying the information in a subjective way.
If the students get really interested in the topic, form small discussion groups or teams. Formulate a question or issue for the students to discuss, and then ask them to do some research to find facts to back up their opinions. A class discussion or debate based on such research should be rich. And students can feel knowledgeable about a current issue while developing their research and writing skills.
Choose an article in News for You that students may find controversial. Have students read the article. Then ask each of them to take and defend a position on that controversial topic. They can do this in writing or orally, individually, or in groups. Encourage them to "disagree agreeably." These discussions can lead to good topics for essay writing.
First, model and explain that "who," "what," "where," "when," "why," and "how" questions can be literal (facts from the article) or inferential (no "right" answer in the article). For inferential questions, students must either give an opinion or gather evidence from the story to make a judgment.
Tape two large pieces of paper on a wall. Label one "Literal" and the other "Inferential."
Ask each student to read one article and then write at least 3 questions about it, each on a sticky note. One of the questions should be inferential.
Students exchange sticky notes with a partner. The partners answer their questions. Then the partners decide which of their questions are literal and which are inferential. They stick the notes into the appropriate sections of the papers on the wall.
Discuss with students whether the questions are in the right groups. Sticky notes can be moved if necessary. Finally, have the class group the questions into other categories (such as settings, themes, etc.)
Have students write an opinion about, not a condensation of, an article topic for homework. Then look at their work, circle places where it needs to be revised, and let the students try to make the corrections. If necessary, tell the students what is expected. Later, the students read the corrected pieces aloud. This helps students become increasingly secure in oral work. It also often leads to discussions.