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A Class Divided - Frontline/PBS-WGBH Educational Foundation

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This is one of the most requested programs for effectively conveying the reality of discrimination, what it feels like, and how it can change a person. Frontline, the PBS news-magazine...more
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This is one of the most requested programs for effectively conveying the reality of discrimination, what it feels like, and how it can change a person. Frontline, the PBS news-magazine show, produced this gripping piece that tackles the controversy, complexity, and consequences of discrimination that have shaped our society. This film and collection of activities are based on the 1970 documentary of the daring lesson that teacher Jane Elliott taught her third-grade class to give them a firsthand experience in the meaning of discrimination, immediately following the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The film shows what she taught the children and the impact that lesson had on their lives. It includes three major segments: the footage of the original documentary of Jane Elliott's third-graders, (approximately 20 minutes), the reunion of those third-graders 14 years later who talk about the effect her lesson has had on their lives, (approximately 7 minutes), and also Elliott teaching her lesson to adult employees of Iowa's prison system and how their reactions to her exercise were similar to those of the children, (approximately 20 minutes). A Teachers' Guide, as well as an abundance of supplementary materials that allow students to wrestle with realistic ideas, are available on this site.

tag(s): black history (72), bullying (49), civil rights (130), diversity (34), racism (17), segregation (16), tolerance (9)

In the Classroom

Help your students understand why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and raise their awareness of discrimination and the struggle for civil rights by involving them in active viewing of A Class Divided projected on your classroom interactive whiteboard or projector. You can view the film in its entirety, or in separate chapters followed by the Discussion Questions. You may want to give students a specific task to do during the film. For example, you might ask them to listen for a particular issue or the answers to a set of questions, or take notes in preparation for one of the post-viewing activities. As a way to accomplish this and enhance learning in your classroom use playposit, reviewed here. Replay the video or pause for discussion whenever you choose with playposit for focused, in depth exploration. Depending on your students' background knowledge and grade level, you may want to review or introduce some of the basic tenets of the United States Constitution that provide the legal grounding for equality and protection of individual rights. Explain that there are examples in American history when individuals' rights were denied and that many civil rights activists were arrested for either challenging, demonstrating, or breaking rules that they thought were unfair. Pose some of the questions for written assignments and discussion. This is a perfect lesson for Black History Month! Divide the class into groups to brainstorm situations that exist today within our own communities, and how they would feel and deal with it if they were the subjects. Students can easily create mind maps, replacing paper and pen, by using free tools from Teachersfirst, such as TUZZit, reviewed here. Have students choose words from songs to explore themes of freedom and equality, using Stories Behind the Songs, reviewed here. High school students could extend this to a reading and study of the final chapter of "One America in the 21st Century," the 1998 report of President Bill Clinton's Initiative on Race, which lists 10 things that every American should do to promote racial reconciliation. Ask students to add anything they think is missing and make a commitment to continue the crusade to end discrimination.

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