ESL etc.

Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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A Class Divided

July 22nd, 2009 by Dave · No Comments

A Class Divided is a wonderful episode of Frontline that shows an ingenious two-day activity undertaken by the third grade class of teacher Jane Elliot. In this activity, devised the night Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Elliot divides her class into blue-eyes and brown-eyes. On the first day, the blue-eyed students are given preferential treatment, with extra recess time, extra servings at lunch, and more positive feedback on their classwork. On the second day, the roles are reversed. The effects are dramatic, and powerfully conveyed on each child’s face.

The show itself covers the original lesson, and also has several of the students rewatch it as adults. In my class today, I used only the original lesson, which goes for about 13 minutes starting 4 or so minutes in. The whole video is available on the Frontline website. I also used some of the discussion ideas from this site which has information on Jane Elliot’s continuing development of discrimination education ideas.

This was a perfect video for my current students, who are teachers in the midst of creating lesson plans dealing with democracy and diversity. In addition to being an engaging way to bring up issues of race, it is also a great example of an extremely creative lesson plan.

As a follow-up, I had students discuss the following questions in groups:

  1. What do you think of the activity done in this video? What do you like / dislike about it?
  2. What are some of the divides in your country / classroom? What are the different rules (written or unwritten) for people on each side of the divide?
  3. How would you describe students who are “going to succeed” compared to those who are “stuck in place”?
  4. How are teachers treated differently in your organization? (gender / sexual orientation / race / religion / other)
  5. What are some activities you have done / could do with students to help them learn about discrimination?

Thanks Jane!

Tags: blog · cultural issues · global issues activities · k-12 · lesson plans · listening · politics · racism · speaking · video

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