Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Looking for a Lesson Plan on Censorship?

I received an email from my Assistant Superintendent  a couple of years ago, asking me how to teach "censorship" at the HS level.  What an invitation.   I immediately said, "it has to be hand's on and real world."   What I brainstormed in a couple of minutes ended up being a huge success as a collaborative librarian-ELA-SS teachers short project.   Here's the outline and you can use this to inspire a couple of real-life scenarios for your school: (A variation of this could easily be done at lower levels also.) 

  • Content:  Bill of Rights, 1st Amendment, Censorship (history), Banned Books, Close reading of content. 
  • Essential questions:  Does the government have the right to tell you what's appropriate? 
  • Texts:  Picture books notoriously "banned."  See images below - and gather your list from sites such as this eplBibliocommons There are many picture books that held "hidden agendas" for which they were banned.  The Lorax was accused of that as well as Green Eggs and Ham.  
  • Prepare a graphic organizer to guide the students in their evaluation 
  • Hold a discussion and debate to active thinking and guide students to understanding.  Here are some guiding questions:
    • What did you find offensive? 
    • What historical reasons are people objecting to this book? 
    • How does the Bill of Rights protect or impede this in our society?  
    • Does the Government hold laws of influence? 
  • A short-term research endeavor is a good follow-up to answer additional questions students will have.   The discuss and debate should follow this and demonstrate a more robust understanding of the topic.  Research questions can be brainstormed by the kids and hopefully will include thoughts such as:  
    • Where in the world does censorship exist today?  
    • Would our Bill of Rights fit within their society? 
    • Has Censorship been historically successful? 
This lesson is a snap-shot of a very Common Core aligned lesson where the students are engaged - discussing, closely reading (the SS teacher should be able to find a primary source on censorship he can use within his class also), and endeavoring in "short-term" research assignments to answer questions.  That's an example of how we can incubate the CCSS Anchor standard:  Research to build and present knowledge.  Kids need a reason to research--questions to answer. 

In a one-to-one device classroom, research is easily supported and should include your Point of View databases.  The Common Core would want the students to create an EBC (evidence-based claim) to support their view on Censorship.   Vocabulary of the discipline should be required in all knowledge products.  Students could create PSA's cautioning about : Censorship;  Cautioning about violations of censorship world-wide; caution to travelers headed to foreign lands, or any other "claim" they can support with evidence from their research.  

We all have a moral compass and the intelligence to choose with what we fill our brains,  but should be thankful that the government hasn't defined that for us! 

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