ESL Death Penalty Lesson Plan

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

In this lesson plan, ESL students will learn about the death penalty. They will review vocabulary as well as details of the opposing viewpoints on this controversial topic. Students will write an opinion piece as a culminating activity.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the death penalty using appropriate vocabulary
  • Craft an argument and defend a stance about death penalty laws and policies


45-60 minutes

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1.a

Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4

Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.


  • Blank graphic organizer with six boxes in a horizontal line
  • Chart paper
  • Copies of lists of states and their death penalty stances


  • Death penalty
  • Murder
  • Arrested
  • Indictment
  • Guilty
  • Death row
  • Execution


  • Prior to beginning the lesson, let students know that today's content is going to be a very serious topic that might be upsetting to them. Tell them that this is a safe space where they will be able to express their emotions as they arise.
  • Ask students, 'What do you think should happen to someone if they commit a crime?' Talk about responses as a group. Follow up by asking, 'What do you think should happen to someone if they kill another person?' Talk about responses as a group.
  • Tell the students that in some states, people who kill are given the death penalty. This means that they are put to death by the state. Talk about initial reactions with students.

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