When Curriculum and Current Events Collide

By Pattie Sloan and Joan Flora

Connecting The Other Side of the Sky and I Am Malala

 It__s_a_Metaphor_by_error19Classroom purists are shaking their heads as we shift from the “core literature” and the pursuit of the “elusive metaphor” to non-fiction and the pursuit of “big ideas” that are currently discussed in  our city and around the world.

Please remember that reading  authentic literature empowers students in the  classroom as it introduces them to:

  • cultural norms they are unfamiliar with
  • controversial issues with teacher-led instruction
  • global ideas that will change the course of their future
  • compassion for the people in their sphere and people beyond their sphere

And with teachers accessing:

  • magazines
  • Internet
  • TV documentaries
  • and even the  local newspaper…

the world becomes open to our students, and they find their place in it.  They realize their importance to make change.

Can I have an Amen!

Prior to the Soviet invasion or 911 , we knew so little about this region.  Wars brought this small region of the world into our home every night-but not the people with their struggles and desires.

Malala and Farah put a face on this region and give us insight into the passions and dreams of the young people.  We cared about them and not about an ideology.

After the class finished The Other Side of the Sky, Malala’s autobiography came out on the New York Times Bestseller list, and it offered fresh insight into the fight for education in Pakistan. As a teacher, I was pumped because the very ideas I was teaching in the classroom were actually being discussed by people throughout our town.

I was relevant!  My students were relevant!

Score 1 for the classroom!

Dunk on!

I have always wanted to be a part of the A-TEAM, and this is how I felt:

Unfamiliar with Malala or a little unsure of her history or campaign?  Check this out:

Jon Stewart interview

Not many people leave Stewart speechless.

Want more?  Read and share he article by Leonard Pitts :  Words of wisdom from a teen:  ‘I Am Malala’

Food for thought:  Two young girls facing similar circumstances, one in Afghanistan and one in Pakistan, share their stories of life under the Taliban.  And their courage demonstrates the best in young people.  What would I have done in similar circumstances?

And for those of us who are unfamiliar with the restrictions placed on women, please read the rules for woman in Afghanistan while under Taliban rule.  

Rules for women under Taliban

I have been involved in education in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the many activities of my classroom or club, but Malala’s book offered a fresh perspective.   It was a true voice of a person living through a conflict, rather that the conflict filtered through field reporters, news stations and finally broadcasters.

Through her book, I heard her tell her story, and I learned of:

  • of a father that was willing to risk everything for the right to educate young people in Pakistan
  • the sacrifice of the entire family to insure that education would be provided
  •  a mother, raised in the tribal ways,  learning to read and write as an adult
  • a daughter so committed to her father’s cause that she will speak out-even though her life has been threatened
  • a family that loves their country, education and one another so deeply that they can weather the storms of unrest together

Lesson Plan for Celebration of a Life Well-lived

  • After finishing the book, pair/share the similarities of Farah and the students in the classroom.  Discuss and post the list.
  • Show the Malala video on You Tube and allow the students to take notes on Malala on the AVID note taking sheet.
  • Pair/share notes after video.
  • As a class, share their notes and post them in the classroom.
  • Introduce the pantoum form of poetry.  Explain that this is from Malaysia and the key is tocreate strong  repetitive phrases.   http://creative-writing.ch/pantoum.html
  • (Remember, poetry is the Calculus of the writing!)
  • Put and example on the document camera and ask them, “What is this poem doing?”  Responses will be varied, but they will soon become aware of the repetition.  Wait time is imperative.  Allow them time to examine the poem and discover its uniqueness. Do not give them the answer, but allow them to peel the poem back and discover its power.
  • Allow them to brainstorm, on paper, the lives of the young women  and then choosing one to create a pantoum.
  • Allow them the opportunity to use the Malaysian form of poetry in an American classroom to celebrate the lives of two beautiful young women from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • When they are done, the authors need to read them aloud to the class.  
  • Remember, the class can only tell them what they are doing well.
  • Celebrate the lives of the women through writing, reading, and now poetry.

For Your Use:



About Teaching it Forward

We are high school language arts teachers in Oregon.
This entry was posted in Education, Litereacy, Social Action and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to When Curriculum and Current Events Collide

  1. Pingback: In Defense of Literature | To Be Continued... Christine

  2. Pingback: What is the best Response to Injustice? Part 3 | Teaching it Forward

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