The Pulitzer Center Has Shared the Top Ten Lesson Plans of 2021! 

As they start the new year, the Pulitzer Center has shared the top ten lesson plans of 2021!  The Pulitzer Center, based in Washington, DC raises awareness of underreported global issues to cultivate a more curious, informed, empathetic, and engaged public.

Every year the Pulitzer Center education team and their community of educators create standards-aligned lesson plans for K-12 classrooms. In 2021, they published 66 new lesson plans and highlighted student work through their international poetry and letter-writing contests. They are deeply grateful for every educator who contributed to their lesson library and their mission of cultivating a more curious, informed, empathetic, and engaged public.

The following 10 lessons were selected by the Pulitzer Center education team to spotlight a range of subjects and geographies. They explore a variety of global issues including COVID-19, racial justice, migration, climate change, indigenous rights, and more. 

1. The 1619 Podcast Listening Guide

Image by New York Times Magazine.

“1619” is a New York Times audio series, hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, that examines the long shadow of American slavery. To help students explore and engage with “1619” we created a listening guide. The “1619” listening guide includes time-stamped sections, guided questions, and extension activities for each episode. Students will not only be able to engage meaningfully with The 1619 Project, but they will also explore podcasts as a storytelling tool.

2. ‘Extra Life,’ a PBS Series: Lesson and viewing guides

Extra Life is a multi-platform project that traces the modern history of life expectancy. In this project, author Steven Johnson explores the history of global health inequities and evaluates the way that global challenges inspired medical innovation which increased life expectancy. In this lesson plan, students watch one to two clips of each episode from the series Extra Life and complete an accompanying viewing guide that includes warm-up activities, key vocabulary, comprehension questions, discussion questions, and extension activities.

3. ‘I Am Omar’: Exploring Identity and Representation

Imam Omar ben Sayed Gadio holds a painting of his father, Omar ibn Said, at his home in Gabeba, Senegal. Omar is a familiar name throughout Futa Toro, including El Hadj Omar Tall, a revered Muslim leader. Image by Gavin McIntyre.

In this lesson, students explore a story about Omar Ibn Said, a Muslim scholar from Senegal. Said wrote the only surviving autobiography in Arabic by an enslaved person in the United States. By analyzing Said’s autobiography, students consider questions about identity and representation and expand their knowledge of Muslim Africans who were enslaved in the U.S.

4. Pandemic: A Child’s Perspective

Little girl wearing face masks and smiling.

In this 5-day unit plan, students journal about their experiences with COVID-19, evaluate underreported news stories about the pandemic, and conduct interviews with children around the world about their experiences. The lessons are designed to help students connect, process, deal, and heal. This unit was created by Olivia StandingBear, a fifth grade teacher in Tulsa, OK, as part of the fall 2020 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Media, Misinformation, and the Pandemic.

5. Celebrating Latinx Community Organizations and Leaders on the Frontlines

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, this lesson plan focuses on a collection of stories that highlight how Latinx leaders and organizations have played a critical role in meeting the needs of their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. From dispelling misinformation about the pandemic to fighting hunger in food deserts to keeping arts and cultural programming alive, these organizations and leaders have been critical in understanding and meeting the various needs of their communities. After learning about Latinx leaders across the country, students will research and celebrate local community organizations and Latinx leaders building a better world in their own backyard.

6. Reframing the Gaze: Incorporating Joy into Our Truth-telling

Johannesburg, South Africa – December 30, 2017: A festival attendee joins in on a mosh pit and cuts loose after hours of waiting. Many people remained despite the worsening conditions in hopes of experiencing the concert they’d long awaited.

A music fan dances in a mosh pit at the African debut event of the Afropunk music festival hosted at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. Image by Melissa Bunni Elian. South Africa, 2017.

This conversation-based unit guides students in telling fuller truths about marginalized people’s experiences and struggles for justice by centering stories of joy. This unit was created by Jairus Hallums, an ELA teacher at Shiloh Middle School in Snellville, GA, as part of the fall 2020 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Arts, Journalism, and Justice.

7. Are the Founding Principles Applicable to All Americans? 

In this unit, students explore how the rights of marginalized groups in the U.S. have been denied by government policies and negligence, resulting in unemployment, housing insecurity, poverty, challenges in healthcare access, stolen lands, and discrimination. This unit explores photojournalism and centers on the stories of Black Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants. This unit was created by Tania Mohammed, an ELA teacher, in collaboration with Nina Kogut-Akkum, a 10th and 11th-grade social studies educator at The Manhattan International High School in New York City as part of the fall 2020 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Arts, Journalism, and Justice.

8. “The Living Century” from The New York Times Magazine: Underreported stories of medical progress

Students read “The Living Century” by Steven Johnson and then examine factors that have led to the doubling of human life expectancy over the past century.

9. Voices in the Shadow of Death: The Lost Narratives of the Bubonic Plague and COVID-19 

In this unit, students analyze sources from the period of the Black Death in Medieval Europe and compare them to coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout their analysis, students practice historical skills of comparing, contrasting, and analyzing the purposes of sources. Students also employ critical thinking skills by analyzing the credibility of each source, evaluating their inherent bias. Students will also identify whose stories are being told and whose stories are being ignored. This unit was created by Adam Guerrero, a history teacher at Crowley Independent School District in Crowley, Texas, as part of the fall 2020 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Media, Misinformation, and the Pandemic.

10. Journalism, Justice, and Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Project Based Learning

This 15-day unit focuses on the fragility of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and our responsibility to uphold the document. It looks at the role of the media in defining our universe of obligation and highlights the importance of underreported news stories. In the culminating project, students leverage journalism skills to address an underreported violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights within their community. This unit was created by Stephanie Naegele, a ninth-grade history teacher in Chicago, IL, as part of the spring 2021 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Journalism and Justice.

Vero Communiqué has an affiliation with the Pulitzer Center.

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