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  • Lesson plan
  • Grades 11-12,
  • Grades 9-10

What Do I Believe? Considering Controversial Issues Like the Death Penalty


Have students read several editorials expressing a range of viewpoints in favor of or opposed to the death penalty. Ask each student to pick an editorial and write a letter counter to their own personal POV to the editor of the publication that published the chosen editorial, expressing support for or against the POV of the author. Here are a few samples:

The Washington Post, "The Supreme Court Should Strike Down the Death Penalty," November 2, 2017

U.S. News and World Report, "How the Death Penalty Saves Lives," September 29, 2014

The New York Times, "Capital Punishment Deserves a Quick Death," December 31, 2017, "Time to Question Sanity of Death Penalty," July 26, 2015

Have students watch the TED Talk "Lessons from Death Row Inmates" given by Texas attorney David R. Dow and then have them write letters to him sharing their personal viewpoints on his talk.

Have students create an annotated website bibliography on organizations working to abolish the death penalty, such as Equal Justice Initiative, and those working to uphold the death penalty, such as Nebraskans for the Death Penalty.

Engage your class in a discussion using this fact sheet from the Death Penalty Information Center that details a range of sociopolitical issues surrounding this issue. Ask students to examine critically all the statistics, including determining whether the sources cited are credible news sources.

Expand research to the use of the death penalty internationally. The Death Penalty Information Center consistently updates this page with the latest facts and figures:

About the authors


Blueshift is a team of education specialists with background in environmental and social impact work. The team recognizes and builds on the power of documentary film in reaching broad audiences to spark energy for deep and lasting social change. The team works with filmmakers, photographers and writers to develop innovative educational strategies, experiences, tools and resources that bring stories off the screen and into viewers' lives.