Lesson Plan: Separating Fact from Opinion
Student Resource: "A
Misspent Youth: The HIV/AIDS Crisis Comes of Age"
Media Type: Op-Ed Essay (Opinion
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Discuss the health and monetary impacts of the HIV/AIDS
pandemic on individuals and society.
- Explore ways in which health education can help reduce
the number of cases of HIV and AIDS infection.
- Apply the reading skill of separating fact from opinion
to an op-ed essay on the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Introducing the Lesson
Bring to class or download from the Internet the editorial
and "op-ed" pages from a newspaper. Display these
facing pages. Ask whether any students in the class read-or
at least recognize-them. Remind students that one of the
developmental tasks associated with reaching adulthood is
showing concern for the welfare of the community and world
Elicit that the editorial pages contain articles on important
issues expressing the opinions of the staff of the newspaper,
generally supported by facts. As you say the words opinion
and fact, write the words on the board. Note that the
op-ed page, short for "page opposite the one on which
editorials appear," is a page on which writers not connected
with the newspaper may express their own views.
Point out that since the first cases of HIV infection were
reported in this country in the early 1980s, the editorial
and op-ed pages of newspapers across the country have contained
opinion pieces about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Tell students
they are about to read such a piece.
Point to the words fact and opinion on the
board. Reveal that one of the most important reading skills
students can learn is distinguishing opinion from fact.
Note that this is particularly true when reading about matters
related to health. Exemplify by writing the following sentences
on the board: "The U.S. government spends nearly $2 billion
a year on HIV research." "The U.S. government should
spend more money each year on HIV research." Ask for
a show of hands of students who can identify the sentence
that contains a fact (the first) and the one that expresses
an opinion (the second).
Explain that separating fact from opinion requires careful
reading. Advise students also to be on the lookout for clues
like the following:
- Phrases that precede an opinion such as it seems,
it appears, and it would make sense.
- The phrases yours truly and this writer,
both of which are used to identify the author of the reading
selection and, hence, a subjective-rather than objective-statement.
After students have completed the reading, you may either
use the following as class discussion questions or assign
them as individual or group work.
- Analyzing. Explain the author's opinion on each
of the following points. Tell which, if any, are supported
- Whether money should be spent on seeking out a cure
- Whether more should be done to ensure that all HIV/AIDS
patients can afford the costs of medications.
- Whether current health education on HIV/AIDS is adequate
for reducing the number of cases of infection.
- Synthesizing. In the second section of the essay,
the author refers to "illnesses that are virtually
unheard of among healthy people." Using information
from your health text, identify what type of illnesses the
author is referring to. Give concrete examples.
- Evaluating. Which section of the essay do you think
contains the most factual reporting? What aspects of the
HIV/AIDS crisis does this section discuss?
- Summarizing. What is Doctors Without Borders? What
is this organization attempting to do?
Writing an Op-Ed Piece
The essay that you read is a strongly opinionated piece about
a complex issue. Working as part of a group, choose some aspect
of HIV/AIDS that is either mentioned in the article or covered
in your health text. Possibilities include:
- Better methods of educating the public and especially
young people on high-risk behaviors that can lead to HIV
- The search for an HIV vaccine.
- The development of effective medications to help people
already infected with HIV.
Write your own essay, using information from your book as
well as from outside resources. Submit your article to a local
newspaper to appear on the op-ed page or to your school newspaper
as a guest editorial.