IV. Preparation

When we started this project in the fall of 2007, we realized that our students had little to no understanding of what social justice meant or what types of issues were social justice issues. The first thing we did was to give students a packet of reading (need examples) that included excerpts from newspapers, literature, and poetry, as well as a list of terms and definitions. Students worked in small groups and used the jigsaw protocol, which required them to read a section of the selected text and share it with others. The final activity was to use the headlines thinking routine from Harvard’s Project Zero, which required students to use headlines to summarize their understanding/thinking of social justice issues.

The students also watched the movie Howard Zinn; You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, a documentary about the life of activist/history teacher Howard Zinn who dedicated his life to educating people on their rights as human beings and as American citizens.

After we watched the movie, we brainstormed with students a list of social justice issues that they might be interested in researching. Students selected their top five issues and spent approximately two hours conducting initial research on the topics in the school library. Students then divided into small groups, based on their topics of interest, which allowed for students to work with peers who they didn’t normally work with. Each group was expected to develop an overarching essential question for their social justice project. Each student was also required to develop their own essential question based on their individual passion/curiosity about the topic.

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