Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Defending Great Literature

Laura Childers
Santa Rosa District Schools


Responding to a fictional letter by an upset parent, students defend Mark Twain and the study of [Huck Finn] using persuasive techniques, appropriate word choice, and correct letter format.


The student locates, gathers, analyzes, and evaluates written information for a variety of purposes, including research projects, real-world tasks, and self-improvement.

The student drafts and revises writing that: is focused, purposeful, and reflects insight into the writing situation; has an organizational pattern that provides for a logical progression of ideas; has effective use of transitional devices that contribute to a sense of completeness; has support that is substantial, specific, relevant, and concrete; demonstrates a commitment to and involvement with the subject; uses creative writing strategies as appropriate to the purpose of the paper; demonstrates a mature command of language with precision of expression; has varied sentence structure; and has few, if any, convention errors in mechanics, usage, punctuation, and spelling.

Analyzes the effectiveness of complex elements of plot such as setting, major events, problems, conflicts and resolutions


-Writing Utensil
-Copy of the letter (see attached file)


1. Before reading [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn], lead a discussion of censorship and the banning of books-refer to BACKGROUND in procedures section.
2. Define satire, types of irony, and other types of humor found in [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn]-refer to BACKGROUND in procedures section.
3. Review the parts of a business letter.
4. Throughout the reading of [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn], lead discussions on how Twain is utilizing satire and irony-refer to BACKGROUND in procedures section.
5. Make a copy of the letter for every student


Before reading [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn], start a discussion on censorship and the banning of books. Ask students what they know about censorship of music, books, or other forms of entertainment. What does is mean to ban or censor something? Do they have any examples of these entertainment forms being scrutinized because of questionable content?
Give examples of school districts who have banned [Snow White] because she lived with seven -men- or [The Little Red Riding Hood] and how critics had the original -wine- substituted for a different beverage for fear of having children think that wine is acceptable to drink. Make them aware that some novels, such as [Of Mice and Men, The Chocolate War], and even [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn] are banned from certain school districts. Ask students to write a journal about the censorship and consider how they feel about it. Students should also think of WHY people censor or ban books and even concerts in certain areas of the U.S. Also discuss what motives people have for banning or censoring books. Share responses to make sure students have an understanding of censorship and its effects.
Also, before reading [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn], define satire and irony. Tell students that they will be responsible for locating satire through each reading assignment and explain why Twain used it in that situation. You may want to start out by giving examples of something familiar to students, like Saturday Night Live, and explaining why it is satirical. Also advise students that while reading, they need to keep in mind why they feel [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn] may offend others.
Throughout the reading [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn], discuss with students such things as why Huck was upset about escaping with Jim, reminding them of the date that Twain wrote this novel. Also, keep the minds of your students focused on satire and other techniques of humor Twain uses to portray his characters, from the beginning of the book when he is taught about -Moses and the Bulrushers- to the end where Huck and Tom are helping Jim to -escape- in a very unusual way.

1. Review with students their findings as to why some individuals may be offended by the novel [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn].

2. Review with students the elements of persuasion. For example: restatement, repetition, parallelism, rhetorical questioning, etc.

3. Distribute the letter handout.

4. Read the letter aloud along with the directions.

5. Comment to the students how, as an adult, Mr. Smarmy used inappropriate words to speak to another adult. Pick out a few examples such as egg head, etc.

6. Remind students that word choices are made by examining the audience and the circumstances. Students must understand that when speaking to certain groups, certain words would seem more appropriate than others. Appropriate word choices in this writing assignment must be made based on language considered appropriate for a school board official to use.

7. Remind students that this is a timed assignment of 40 minutes. Since students are accustomed to writing for the FCAT in this amount of time, it should not be a problem.

Note: If you will not have time for the 40 minutes writing assignment, review the end of the previous day and read the letter and writing assignment for the following day.


Assess student writing on the following: (These can be duplicated and attached to student's work. Highlight areas that need to be reworked or addressed in order to give formative feedback to students. Allow time to rewrite.)

Topic Sentence/mature word choice
Supporting Details/Examples from the novel
Explanations of how those examples were used effectively by Twain

Heading/Return Address in appropriate place

Persuasive Techniques used -2 or more and included details/reasons for support

Clear understanding of satire and irony demonstrated in explanation to parent
Used appropriate conventions/spelling


This assignment is not only for [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn] but can be changed to fit any piece of literature that may be controversial. I use this assignment in all of my 11th grade English classes, especially honors and AP Language and Composition.

Attached Files

A letter and writing assignment.     File Extension: pdf

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