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Lesson Plan

Censorship in the Classroom: Understanding Controversial Issues

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Censorship in the Classroom: Understanding Controversial Issues

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Four to five weeks
Lesson Author

Beth O'Connor

Westfield, Massachusetts


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • A variety of magazine ads

  • Student response journals

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1. For this type of lesson, it is important not only to preview all of the Internet information, but also to make parents and administration aware of the outcomes of the assignment. Begin by sending a letter home to parents, explaining the lesson and the purpose for exploring the topic of censorship. Include a list of books that will be explored in class for those parents who wish to "guide" their child's selections.

Before sending the letter to parents, be sure your school administrator has been given a copy of the letter, along with a list of the curriculum objectives to be covered in the unit. If your schedules permit, allow for a meeting to present the letter to your administrator in person so that you can discuss any concerns before you begin.

2. Preview the censorship and propaganda resources suggested for use in the classroom. Although all sites are educationally appropriate, some may not be appropriate for all reading levels. Identify areas of concern and make sure that all links are active.

3. Create a list of censored or banned books that meet the needs and reading levels of your students. Suggestions can be found at Frequently Challenged Books, and Banned Books Online. It is helpful to identify books on the list that require an advanced reading level. Ask your school and local librarians if they can place selected books from this list on hold for your class.

4. Gather a variety of magazine ads that illustrate propaganda techniques. Preview the Forms of Propaganda website, which lists and defines the different forms of propaganda used in advertising. Nike, Volkswagen, and Gap have had some of the most effective advertising campaigns of the past few years. By examining various advertisements, students will be able to explore the propaganda techniques that are most often employed.

It also may prove beneficial to gather and have students view controversial advertisements, such as for alcohol or cigarettes. Media Awareness Network: Points to Consider webpage discusses the issue of tobacco advertisements aimed at young people and provides students the opportunity to explore how advertisers use propaganda to persuade and sell their product to an audience.

5. Preview a copy of the Bill of Rights and scroll down to read the First Amendment.

6. Print out two copies of the Analyzing Advertisements handout for each student and make a transparency of it for demonstration purposes.

7. Although this lesson plan is conducted over several weeks, some sessions will take longer than others and it is important to incorporate time for reading. Read through the lesson and adjust the timeframe according to the needs of your class and curriculum.

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