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Teacher Lesson Return to "What I Learned From the ‘Return the Children’ Protest"
What I Learned From the ‘Return the Children’ Protest
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ELA Literacy & Social and Emotional Learning
The Effectiveness of the Protest

Story Summary: Christina is upset by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, which has resulted in the separation of over 2,500 children from their parents or guardians at the U.S.-Mexico border. She attends a demonstration as a reporter, not a demonstrator. Her observations and interviews with participants and bystanders cause her to question the purpose of protests and how effective they are as a tool for change.

Lesson Objectives and Common Core Connections
• Students make personal connections to a text and successfully participate in story-based activities and discussions.
• Students will respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives (CCLS SL.1).
• Students will read and comprehend literary nonfiction proficiently (CCLS R.10).
• Students will write routinely over extended and shorter time frames for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences (CCLS W.10).
• Students will compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources (CCSS RH.9).

Before Reading the Story (15 min)
This opening activity will activate background knowledge to boost reading comprehension and set the emotional tone for the story.

1. Before the group starts, post two signs on opposite ends of your space. One should read “agree” and the other “disagree.”

2. After welcoming the group, tell them that they will be doing an activity that allows them to move around while learning more about what they and their peers think about a topic.

3. While the group is still seated, review the directions for the Opinion Continuum. Tell them:
• "On either end of the room, there are signs that read ‘agree’ and ‘disagree.’ ”
• "I will read a statement and you will decide whether it’s true for you (agree) or not (disagree). Then you will move somewhere in between the two signs that reflects your opinion. If you’re unsure, you should stand somewhere in the middle.”
• "Once everyone has moved, I will invite volunteers to share why they chose to stand where they are.”

4. Clear a space and ask group members to stand somewhere between the two signs.

5. Read the first statement and ask group members to move to a spot between the two signs that reflects their opinion:
• "I should speak up if I see something wrong happening.”

6. Once all group members have moved in response to the statement, ask them to notice where other group members are standing. (You can support minority positions by moving closer to someone who is alone at one end of the continuum.)

7. Ask at least one group member standing on either end of the continuum to share why they are standing where they are. Tell group members they may change their position if they are influenced by another group member’s opinion.

8. After each question, have everyone return to the middle.

9. Repeat for each statement:
• "If something doesn’t affect me directly, it’s none of my business.”
• "When I disagree with someone, it’s important to let them know.”
• "It takes a lot of people to really create a change in the world.”

10. Have everyone return to their seats and thank group members for sharing their opinions.

During Reading (20 min)
By practicing active reading strategies while reading aloud and discussing as a group, students build comprehension and support fluency.

1. Introduce the story (see the summary above).

2. Share the expectations for a group read-aloud: volunteers take turns reading aloud as much or as little as they would like. As the group leader, you may stop periodically to discuss or check in on active reading by asking students to share their responses to the story.

3. Tell students they will practice an active reading strategy called reading for a purpose. This will help them read for a purpose and be prepared to use the text in later activities.

4. Reading for a purpose directions: Ask students to identify times when the story raises a question for them. When this occurs, students should write a “?” in the margin.

5. While sitting in a circle, read the story aloud together. Stop to discuss periodically, supporting peer-to-peer talk and non-judgmental listening. To do this, ask for volunteers to share what they wrote a “?” next to and why. Alternately, you can pose an open-ended question such as “What stands out to you in this section and why?” Additionally, during the reading, pause or wait until the end to ask students the following:
• "What was being protested?”
• "What kind of protest strategies are being used here?”
• "What made the protest successful or unsuccessful?”

6. When you finish the story, ask the group to discuss their reactions to the story, including the questions it raised for them. They can turn and talk to a neighbor before you discuss as a whole group.

After Reading the Story (15 min)
During this post-reading activity, students will make connections, build understanding, and rehearse positive behaviors.

1. Introduce this activity by saying to the group:
• "Now that we’ve read the story, we’re going to look at some protests from the past similar to how Christina analyzed the ‘Return the Children’ protest.”

• "Your goal is to read and write about another protest and think about the following as we did in the reading:”
• "What was being protested?”
• "What made the protest successful and/or unsuccessful?”
• "What kind of strategies were used?” (for instance, Christina cites having people of power present, having a clear message, etc.)

2. Use the links below to assign students or have them pick a protest to read about:

3. Pass out journals or notebook paper and pencils.

4. Give group members about ten minutes to write down their thoughts and findings.

5. When about ten minutes are up, tell group members to finish their last thought and put their pencils down.

6. Explain to the group that they are now going to do a Pair Share. Tell them to turn to the person next to them and take turns sharing their research.

7. Each member of the pair should take about two minutes to share. Cue partners to switch roles after two minutes. Use a timer or wait until the hum of conversation dies down before closing the activity.

8. Time permitting, lead a discussion by asking group members to comment on what they learned. They can also discuss points they agree or disagree with, new ideas they’ve been given, and questions they still have.

9. Thank group members for sharing.

Extension Activities

1. This activity can be extended to have students do further research on their protests and present to the class or write a larger research paper on the topic.

2. Students can also read the stories “Flipping the Script” by Sashwat Adhikari and “Brooklyn Teens Work to ‘Save Their Streets’ From Gun Violence” by Carolina Ambros to learn about Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.) and discuss alternatives to protesting.
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