Unit Plan

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Maggie Cogar


This two-week unit plan is meant for use in an Introduction to Journalism curriculum at the high school level. It can be adapted as needed to fit the needs of the instructor. It is meant as an “ethics crash course,” so to speak, with the needs of a busy scholastic media adviser in mind. There is usually so much to cover in an Introduction to Journalism course (especially if it is only a semester long) and this unit plan acknowledges that loaded curriculum, while still stressing the importance of teaching journalism ethics in a separate unit. The unit plan encourages advisers to focus on teaching journalism ethics solely for two weeks and then encourages weekly ethics discussions to build students’ “ethics fitness” (see research).

Common Core Standards:

The standards below tie this unit plan to the national Common Core Standards, as adopted by 45 states


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1a Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1b Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1a Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.



Click on the links below to access the daily lesson plans and handouts for this unit…

Day 1: Introduction to Ethics

Introduction to Ethics Power Point






Days 2-4: Stephen Glass and the Ethical Need for Verification and Fact Checking

Days 5-6: Introduction to Ethical Decision-Making

– News University Course: Introduction to Ethical Decision-Making

– Society of Professional Journalists: Code of Ethics

Days 7-11Applying Ethical Theories and Decision-Making Models

Ethical Theories Power Point









Ethics Fridays:

After teaching the 11 day unit above, advisers can adapt the idea below to fit their classroom needs and reinforce “ethical fitness,” by practicing ethical decision-making in their classroom.

  • Use a different ethical scenario each week (from the media ethics case studies) and choose an ethical model to practice with students (or let them choose one to use).
  • Use discussion and reflection writings to help reinforce decision-making skills…What ethical decision to you think is best in this situation? Why?
  • Differentiate – Use groups, change ethical models used, etc. to differentiate instruction based on the needs of your class.


*Works Cited in the Unit Plan



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