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Lesson Plan

Copyright Infringement or Not? The Debate over Downloading Music

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Copyright Infringement or Not? The Debate over Downloading Music

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Eight 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Suzanne Taylor

Frostburg, Maryland


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



This lesson takes advantage of students' interest in music and audio sharing as part of a persuasive debate unit. Students investigate the controversial topic of downloading music from the Internet. They draw upon their prior knowledge and experience by discussing their own sources of music and Internet practices then conduct Internet research to investigate the history and legal issues of copyright infringement related to sharing audio files. Students use graphic organizers to synthesize information as well as to evaluate content and point of view. After students map their information, they take a stand on the controversy and develop persuasive arguments on their position that they present in a class debate on the subject of downloading.

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Debating Music Downloads Web Resources: Students use these Web resources to become familiar with the issues related to music downloads.

Analyzing Opinions on Music Downloads Chart: Students can use this chart to analyze the music download debate from multiple perspectives.

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Providing students with an opportunity to explore contemporary issues through formal debate focuses instruction on argumentative and persuasive structures within the context of an active rhetorical situation with a clear audience. As Randi Dickson explains, "Integrating writing and debate encompasses multiple strands of language arts: students read and view a variety of texts for information and understanding, write for real purposes, hone their listening skills, and practice speaking in front of an audience. They incorporate research and library skills and often include historical and scientific texts. A unit on argument also moves the traditional literary texts out of the forefront and makes room for teaching through a variety of texts" (35).

Second, the focus of debate on contemporary issues increases student engagement in the project and prepares students for participation in a democratic society. Dickson asserts, "Students who engage in writing and debating about current social, political, and historical issues learn to participate in making judgments and understand why beliefs are formed and held" (35). This process of informed exploration and debate encourages critical analysis rather than snap decisions and encourages students to consider building support for the positions that they take.

Further Reading

Dickson, Randi. "Developing ‘Real-World Intelligence': Teaching Argumentative Writing through Debate." English Journal 94.1 (September 2004): 34-40.

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