Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

To Ban or Not to Ban? Intellectual Rights and Responsibilities

Banned Books, Censorship Part 2

K20 Center, Summer Boismier | Published: November 17th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course A.P. Language and Composition, A.P. Literature and Composition
  • Time Frame Time Frame 10-11 class period(s)
  • Duration More 500 minutes


This lesson is designed to take place following completion of another K20 lesson, "Trigger Warnings." Through collaboration, reading, and research, students will continue the study of a controversial work of literature by examining various perspectives on book banning. Students will establish their own views on free speech and explore both sides of an argument around the banning of a controversial work. Students will then refine personal opinions to construct a multi-genre infographic on a banned book, share their reasoning, evaluate each others' arguments, and apply their understanding of intellectual rights and responsibilities to a class novel. While this lesson is currently aligned only to 9th grade standards, it would be appropriate to teach in grades 9 through 12, adjusting standards as needed.

Essential Question(s)

Should free speech have limits? Are all books worth reading?



Students watch a CBS News clip about banning books in a Virginia school district and establish positions on the essential question "Are all books worth reading?" using the Lines of Agreement strategy.


Students work with partners to choose a book from a provided list and find four articles (two pro, two con) that discuss the book's banning.


Students individually complete an annotated bibliography that summarizes each article's position on the banned book.


Students collaborate on an infographic poster that makes a case for or against the banning of their chosen book.


Students share their posters with peers and provide feedback via the Tug-of-War strategy.


  • Student devices with internet access

  • Writing materials (optional)

  • Lined notebook paper (optional)

  • Large poster or butcher paper (optional)

  • Markers, crayons, colored pencils (optional)

  • Construction paper (optional)

  • Glue or tape (optional)

  • Frayer Model

  • Sticky easel Ppad

  • Dry erase markers (to use on Frayer Model)

  • Annotated Bibliography Template handout (attached)

  • Banned Books List handout (attached)

  • Frayer Model GO handout (attached)

  • Project Self-Reflection Form handout (attached)


Inform students they are going to watch a video clip from CBS News that discusses a local school district in Virginia's struggle with whether or not to ban two challenged books, "Huckleberry Finn" and "To Kill a Mockingbird," from its high-school curriculum. Ask students to consider the following essential questions as they watch:

  • Should free speech have limits?

  • Are all books worth reading?

Engage students in the Lines of Agreement strategy by first asking them to commit to a claim for one or both of the essential questions (time permitting). You may need to model potential claims for students.

Ask students to record their claims and explain their thinking in a quick write (no more than 5 minutes). Encourage students to get their positions on paper without worrying about conventions or correctness to start.

Choose an essential question to begin. Instruct students to form two lines facing each other: one line for positions that agree (pro) and one for disagree (con).

Students should then share the thinking they recorded in the quick write that led them to their positions/claims. You will need to establish rules for this discussion (e.g., you will call on a certain number of students per line or each person in each line presents her/his reasoning and the other group follows with a rebuttal) and communicate those rules to students prior to sharing. Make sure to remind students that the best arguments have evidence to back up the claim. Consequently, students may want to include paraphrased evidence from the video as support.

Ask students if anyone would like to switch lines based on the explanations and/or evidence provided.

Discuss, whole-class, the claims made and which were or were not valid. Ask students to consider not only the explanations given but if evidence was provided, as well. Finally, you might want to make a list with the class of reasons why a book might be banned. This might be a good place to discuss the topics of censorship and free speech as they pertain to the banned-books issue.


Brainstorm with students the possible reasons why a book may or may not be banned/challenged in a particular environment. Press students to differentiate between different settings (e.g., high school, college, public library, home). You can frame this discussion either whole class or using a strategy such as Think-Pair-Share.

Divide students into pairs. Provide students with a list of banned books (see "Banned Books List" in Attachments). Each pair will need to select one book from the provided list to research. It is recommended that you have AT LEAST TWO pairs researching the same book. This will make the Extend activity more manageable.

Instruct pairs to find four sources that provide evidence for and against their chosen book (two pro sources, two con sources). Two sources should feature arguments that assert the novel should be banned. The other two sources should make a case for the novel's study. This information will help students set up their own arguments and create infographics illustrating those arguments in the Extend portion of this lesson.

If necessary, provide parameters to guide students' research:

  • Sources must pass the CARS (credibility, accuracy, reasonableness, support) test.

  • At least one source must be from an academic database or journal (e.g., EBSCO, Destiny, Google Scholar).

  • At least one source must be from a nationally-recognized news outlet or newspaper (e.g., "The New York Times," CNN, NBC).

  • At least one source must be from a local news affiliate.

Ask students to work with their partners to complete a Frayer Model graphic organizer (see "Frayer Model GO" in Attachments) that will help students organize their sources effectively. Encourage student pairs to work collaboratively on the graphic organizer. For example, one student may research the pro position and then share findings with her/his partner or vice versa. For each source (four total), have students record the following:

  • Source position (pro/con)

  • Student paraphrase (1-5 sentences that give a sense of the author's argument)

  • A useful/important quotation

  • MLA 8 citation (via EasyBib) *If students are not familiar with MLA, you may need to practice using EasyBib as a whole class.


Students will use the graphic organizer (see "Frayer-Model GO" in Attachments) from the Explore activity to work independently on an annotated bibliography (MLA 8) over their four sources.

Distribute sheets of paper or ask students to format their bibliographic entries using the handout (see Attachments). For each entry (five sentences minimum), students should summarize the source, evaluate its reasoning, and establish its position (pro, con, qualify).

Although students are working individually, encourage them to use their Explore partners as resources. For instance, as students complete their annotations, they can share and compare the results with their partners. Students who finish faster can guide their partners toward completion.

If all your students are searching for sources on an in-class novel, such as "To Kill a Mockingbird," as opposed to selections from the "Banned Books List" (see Attachments), you can ask them to share out the best sources from their research and why they feel those sources are more persuasive.


Now students get to apply creativity to their own opinions/positions on the topic of book banning.

Divide students who researched the same book from the list (see "Banned Books List" in Attachments) into groups of two to four. If possible, group students who have not yet worked together during this lesson.

Distribute the project instructions handout (see Attachments). Give students the option to create their infographic digitally (Google Slides, Padlet, Glogster, Canva) or on paper. Provide groups choosing the latter with a large sheet of poster or butcher paper, construction paper, glue, markers, crayons, etc.

Tell students to take a collective position in their groups on their chosen text (see Explore activity). Ask students to create a claim for their book that makes a case for why the book should or should not be banned. Use your discretion on allowing students to make a claim that qualifies both positions. This is a great opportunity for students to debate in their groups using the evidence gathered in their handouts (see "Infographic Project Instructions + Rubric" in Attachments), especially if group members disagree on whether their book should be banned.

Students will create an infographic that establishes their position on the topic of book banning. Provide examples (see "Infographic Project Instructions + Rubric" in Attachments) for students to reference as they plan/work.

Infographics should include:

  • The group's claim

  • FOUR pieces of supporting evidence (see Explain activity)

  • AT LEAST ONE graphic representation of the group's position (drawing, chart, table, bitmoji/emoji, etc.)

  • Works Cited list (preferably in MLA 8) of sources used

Allow students time to brainstorm/plan their infographics in groups. It may be necessary to assign roles within the groups so each student has a chance to contribute according to her/his strengths.


Ask groups to present their infographics to the class. Groups should use their infographic to support their position on the banning of books/their book. If time is a factor, use the Gallery Walk strategy to give students a chance to view their classmates' infographics and provide feedback. This also allows students a chance to show off their work via a step in the writing process that is often ignored: publishing!

You can grade each group's presentation and/or infographic. Additionally, you can ask students to reflect on the lesson and their contributions to their groups (see "Project Self-Reflection Form" in Attachments).

As an Exit Ticket, ask students to vote on the essential questions below. If students have access to their own devices, use the online polling service Mentimeter to help you with this.