The Rights of Bike Riders

Grade Levels: 4 - 8

INTRODUCTION
Students will write a letter to the editor of a newspaper in reaction to the bicycle helmet safety issue.

SUGGESTED TIME ALLOWANCE
50 minutes

OBJECTIVES
Students will:

  • read some examples of letter-writers' opinions.
  • read about and form an opinion of a debated subject.
  • write a letter to the editor.

    MATERIALS

  • Activity rubric: Rights of Bikers: Writing a Letter to the Editor
  • Website: New York Times Editorials

    PROCEDURES

    1. Discuss with students the bicycle helmet laws in your area. Some state or local governments, perhaps including where you reside, require citizens to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle on public property. Ask students to raise their hands to show agreement or disagreement with this law as it is in effect in your area and discuss the reasons students may or may not agree with having to wear a helmet when on a bicycle.
    2. Have students gather statistics about bicycle helmet use. Discuss the statistics as a class, and explain how to interpret the numbers accurately.
    3. Refer students to the New York Times Editorials. Point out appropriate letters of the day in the right-hand column of this page, paying attention to topics of interest to youth. Read a letter together and ask students whether the writer is successful at giving reasons for his or her opinions. Is he or she clear? Do you understand where the writer stands on the issue and why?
    4. Brainstorm a list of reasons why they do or do not support the current bicycle helmet law (or lack thereof) in your area. Form two columns on the board and write the words "For" and "Against," asking students to fill in reasons under each heading, even if they don't share a particular opinion.
    5. Review proper letter-writing technique, reminding students that a letter begins with a heading (the date and the address to which the letter is being written), the greeting (Dear Tom,), the body (the paragraphs containing the sentiments expressed), the closing (Sincerely, Best regards, etc.) and the signature.
    6. Now have students draft letters to the editor of a local or state newspaper from your area, stating whether they are for or against laws that require bicycle riders to wear a helmet. They should include at least three reasons for their opinions.

    ASSESSMENT
    Randomly distribute the students' completed letters to the class. Give each student a copy of the Rights of Bikers: Writing a Letter to the Editor assessment rubric and ask them to provide a score for the three skills.

    EXTENSION ACTIVITIES

  • Identify other safety issues and discuss students' feelings about laws that could be created to protect youngsters (i.e., scooters, roller blades, skateboards).
  • Write letters to the editor of a school newspaper or newsletter about an issue at your school.

    STANDARDS CORRELATION
    Standards at McRel:
    Students should:

  • write expressive compositions (e.g., expresses ideas, reflections, and observations; uses an individual, authentic voice; uses narrative strategies, relevant details, and ideas that enable the reader to imagine the world of the event or experience).
  • write coherent personal letters (e.g., includes the date, address, greeting, and closing; addresses envelopes).

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