This dynasty only lasted about 15 years, but a great deal happened. The Great Wall was started. This emperor also ordered all the writings and teachings of Confucius to be burned. These book burnings were among the first recorded attempts at censorship.

Lesson Plan for Ancient China
Critical Thinking Skills/Government
Debates on Censorship
6th-grade Social Studies
Don Donn; USA


  • This Lesson was designed to be used in conjunction with the study of Ancient China, but is extremely adaptable to many times and cultures.

  • Lesson length: 2-3 class period.

  • This lesson teaches team building, fair play, an open mind towards others' opinions, U.S. government policies, and a better understanding of the meaning of censorship and its place in history.


Quick Qin Times History Note

This dynasty only lasted about 15 years, but a great deal happened. This Emperor readied China to be pulled together as one country. Qin (also called Ch'in) Dynasty 221-207 BCE. accomplished:

  • End of the Feudal System

  • Forced labor to build the First Great Wall

  • Standardized money and system of measurement

  • Burned books, including Confucius texts

  • Started a spy system designed to report those who did not obey the emperor's new laws.

Suggested Transition Statement for new teachers: In our study of ancient China, we have come upon the Qin (also called Ch'in) Dynasty. One of the things that Emperor Chin did, on the advice of his advisors, was to order all the writings and teachings of Confucius to be burned. In addition he ordered the burning of any book that did not deal with math, reading oracles, science, or his history. These book burnings, were among the first recorded attempts at censorship.

Day One (Censorship Debate)
Introduction & Preparation

Introduction/Motivation: Show pictures or videos of book burning taking place in the USA or other places in the world. Have the students Review with you what they know about Censorship.

Definition of Censorship: Have a selected student read from the dictionary, the definition of Censorship, with the rest of the students copying down this definition. (Have the definition written on an overhead transparency for ease in copying.) (This could be incorporated into the daily drill)

Groups: Divide the class into small to medium size groups, approximately 6 or 8 groups.

Instruction: Inform the class that they will be debating the merits of censorship in today’s society

Handout: Provide each group with your rules for debate. You can use Rules of Formal Debate, if you wish, or personalize rules to fit your kids.

The Rules listed below are the rules I gave my kids. You will probably receive quite a few questions on this handout. Students need to understand that whether or not they are in agreement with the side on which they placed, they must debate for their side, and not be sidetracked by their personal opinion, pro or con.


  1. This will be a formal debate.

  2. Each team will be given 5 minutes to present its argument.

  3. Each team will also be given 2 minutes to present the rebuttal to the other groups argument.

  4. Each team will draw a number out of a hat (1-6 or 1-8) this will provide the order in which you will debate, odd numbers will be pro censorship, even numbers will be anti censorship. Team #1 will debate team #2, team #3 will debate team #4, team #5 will debate team #6 and so on. Based on the number you draw, you may be debating pro-censorship or anti-censorship. You may not be in personal agreement with the position you are defending. Your job is to defend it anyway.

  5. There will be no name calling, insults, rudeness or disrespect. Any of the proceeding will result in an automatic disqualification for that team.

    • Team #1 will present its arguments.

    • Team #2 is expected to take notes on significant points. Team #2 will then be given 2 minutes to discuss its rebuttal and then given 2 minutes to present this rebuttal. Team #2 will then present its arguments.

    • Team #1 will be given 2 minutes to discuss its rebuttal and then 2 minutes to present this rebuttal.

    • The teacher (or other authority figure) will be the judge giving points for
      G. Significant and relevant points raised in the argument.
      H. Strong, direct & relevant points raised in the rebuttal.

  6. Rebuttals must be based on fact, you cannot say to your opponent that they are "wrong". You must say things like: “Your argument about the Constitution being sacred does not agree with the facts. The Constitution has been amended many times to fix it.”

Student Prep Time: Allow the rest of the class period for research. If you do not have available material, you may want to prearrange use of the media center or your computer lab. Guide and assist as necessary. For example, you could point out appropriate amendments to the Constitution of the United States, or the need to protect children from violence.

Day Two (Censorship Debate)
The Debates

Before Students Arrive: Arrange your classroom ahead of time for the debates. I used the following groupings

  • Teacher

  • Team #1 Team #2

  • Spectators

Pre-Debate Student Management:

  • With the first two teams facing each other, bring your class to order as quickly as possible since the debates do take time.

  • Have the students sit with their team.

Begin the Debates

After each pair of teams debates, announce the scores and relevant points that you scored. This will help other teams understand how they will be scored. Hopefully, each team debate will improve as the day progresses, as the kids gain a better understanding of how a debate works.

At the end of the day, take a quick poll to find out which students support censorship, and which do not, and briefly discuss why. This gives kids, who argued pro or con in the debate, a chance to verbalize their disagreement with a pro (or con) position. You'll get comments like: "It's really hard to argue something you don't believe in." This provides your opportunity to emphasize keeping an open mind, and/or a quick positioning statement, such as: "You're right! Personal attacks rarely solve anything. But, when you debate someone's reasons for believing as they do.....yes, that's right! You might change their mind. At the very least, you'll discover why they feel the way they do. You can better block them, if you're against it; or support them, if you're for it, if you know what they want to accomplish. Knowledge is power!

Close this day by bringing your class back to the study of Ancient China and the Chin dynasty by asking them what they think Chin may have wanted to accomplish with book burnings.


For complete units, lesson plans & activities on Ancient China, plus links to detailed information on Daily Life in Ancient China, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Legalism, and more, see Ancient China.

Mr Donn's Ancient History Page