A lesson plan based on the downloading article by Karen Pinto in the November-December 2003 issue of L.A. Youth.

By Libby Hartigan, Managing Editor

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language arts, social studies
Suggested time allowance: 45 min.-1 hr.

Overview of lesson plan: In this lesson, students learn how to write persuasively by convincing others of their point of view about music downloading.

Students will develop persuasive rhetorical strategies.

Resources and materials:
— pens, paper
— copies of L.A. Youth November-December 2003 issue (one per student)
— blackboard

For many teenagers, music is the cultural place they can call their own. It’s a way to have fun, relieve stress, cope with depression or stay connected to others. For some it’s a way to establish their identity and learn about dealing with life’s big issues like love and loss. Sometimes music is a way to rebel against adults or society, or maybe just parents.

So it’s no wonder that teens, who are always broke, have jumped at the chance to use Internet software that allows them to download songs for free. Now that the recording industry has sued some young downloaders, many young people are afraid and confused about the issue. A classroom assignment can give teens a chance to explore their views and learn about writing.

1. Reading:
Ask students to read Karen’s article on downloading on pages 6 and 7.

2. Brainstorming:
Ask the class to work in small groups. Tell each group to make two lists on a sheet of paper. One list is the reasons to download. The other is the reasons not to download. They should make their lists as long as possible. Tell them to be specific. Don’t just write, “It’s wrong.” Tell why it’s wrong. Students should consider the facts and come to their own decision.

3. Discussion:
Have each group report its list to the class. (If it’s convenient, write each list on the board as it is reported.) By now, the room has been filled with many reasons for and against downloading, which is a rich base for a short writing assignment.

4. Writing:
Writing: 15-20 minutes. Tell the students that they must choose a position for or against downloading and develop a persuasive essay in the classic five-paragraph style. They should open with a statement of opinion. This should be more than just, “Downloading is bad.” Urge them to think of a sentence which grabs the reader’s attention: “Downloading music without paying for it is no better than taking a friend’s CDs while he’s out of the room.”

The strong opening should be followed up by three paragraphs of evidence. Each paragraph should focus on one specific reason that supports the first statement. If a paragraph mentions that people who download music buy fewer CDs, it could be backed up with the information that record sales have dropped 14 percent. Concrete evidence makes the writer’s argument more persuasive. Writers can use information in Karen’s article, facts from this lesson or ideas from the classroom brainstorming exercise.

The final paragraph should restate their opinion and summarize the reasons.

Extension activity:
Develop a plan which would solve the downloading problem. Should artists give their music away? Should the record companies try to sue everyone who downloads, rather than just a few people? Should music-downloading software companies be stopped?