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Unit: Stories of Shelter

Introduction

This unit draws from THE NEW HEROES video episode called "Dreams of Sanctuary." The three videos focus on transitional and transformational spaces that support people who are in need of shelter in order to grow and develop new lives. The theme of shelter is an important one and can be understood in all communities. We also focus on the act of storytelling and story "listening" as a critical process in understanding and supporting the growth of other people's lives.

The three videos describe individuals who have listened and understood the needs of others. These individuals listened to others' stories, helped document them, and provided physical and emotional shelters for these people, who can continue to develop their own "life stories." Students create a persuasive and powerful story or documentary profiling a local shelter and publish them in some format as a collection by the end of the unit.

Key Concepts:

  • Shelter as safety, a refuge, asylum
  • Sanctuary - the act of being protected
  • Joining a temporary community, a "family" within the shelter
  • A physical place that has special meaning
  • The idea that people pass through a gate in these shelters ... transitional and temporary, providing time to heal and prepare for a new direction
  • People in shelters will encounter others like them. They will not feel alone
  • Exploitation
  • Apathy
  • Intentional support from "outside"

Time Needed and Unit Structure

This teacher resource is a thematic unit, which includes up to 10 activities for 10 to 12 class periods of approximately 50 minutes each. Three of the activities require viewing a 20-minute video segment from the New Heroes PBS broadcast from the episode Dreams of Sanctuary. Activities can also be done as independent, stand-alone lessons. Suggestions for extensions are included in each activity. Overarching goals for the unit are provided as well as specific learning objectives for each of the activities.

Unit Overview

Activities:

Grade Level:

Grades 6-12

Subjects:

English, Language arts, Journalism, Social Studies, Service Learning, Community Service

Outcomes and Key Concepts:

Students will explore, understand, document, and publish persuasive and informational pieces about local shelters and those who support them. They will practice interviewing skills, peer editing, revising, fact checking, and writing for an audience. They will investigate what it means to need, receive, and provide shelter. Also, students will learn how shelters support members of the community and how a community supports its shelters. Students will have opportunities to improve writing skills, edit, use video technology, and present their work to community members. Each of three videos will be used to exemplify a shelter, and how and why it exists.

National Standards:

Standards for the English Language Arts from the National Council of Teachers of English:

  • Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

See MCREL for additional connections to Standards in Historical Understanding, Life Work, and US History. www.mcrel.org/compendium/search.asp

Materials

  • PBS Broadcast video episode "Dreams of Sanctuary: from THE NEW HEROES broadcast. Each of the three video stories is 20 minutes long.
  • Print:

    • NCTE Book: It's Our World Too: Socially Responsive Learners in Middle School Language Arts Author(s): Beverly Busching, Betty Ann Slesinger.
      This book is a valuable resource for middle school and high school teachers who want to use significant social issues such as race, class, and poverty to invigorate their teaching of literacy and communication skills through student inquiry and collaborative learning.
    • The Curricular Stance: Active Learning into Active Citizenship, www.ncte.org/library/files/Store/Books/Sample/38330chap01.pdf
  • Web:

  • Recording technologies (digital or film): Video cameras, still cameras, audio recording devices (tape recorders, iPods, etc).
  • Computers connected to the Internet
  • Community representative/s from a local shelter (homeless shelter, battered women's shelter)

Activity 1: The Power of Stories

Time:

One 50-minute class period

Materials:

  • Student writing materials
  • Articles from the 2005 tsunami news stories

Learning Goals:

  • Students will understand what makes a powerful story. Students will read stories intended to cause action.
  • Students will practice interpreting visual media (video).
  • Students will analyze video techniques for framing a story.

Standards:

NCTE Standard #5

Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

MCREL Language Arts Standard 9.

Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.

Level IV [Grade: 9-12] Understands effects of style and language choice in visual media (e.g., use of long-shots to signify both real and metaphoric isolation; rapid editing in a television commercial; juxtaposition of text and color in a billboard; words in headlines intended to attract attention).

Activities:

Brainstorming and gathering a list of characteristics of powerful storytelling, reading articles and news stories on the 2005 tsunami, modify class list.

Procedures:

  1. Brainstorm a class list of what makes a story powerful. Answer questions such as: What are the components? What moves you emotionally versus moving you to actual action? How did the video make you feel? Could a story in print have the same impact? How do visual images impact a viewer? How do you feel after a powerful story? Does it make you want to do something? Share it with someone? What subjects make powerful stories? (Stories of struggle, children/animals, the helpless, overcoming challenges, survival, crisis, transformation.) Why were the stories of the tsunami so powerful? What is the difference between causing action versus causing understanding? Identify differences between being persuasive versus emotionally impactful.
  2. Collect stories from the tsunami. Ask students to read them and look for the qualities from the class list.
  3. After review, modify the class list. This list will be used when students write their own stories.

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

Understand how a story is compelling. Discuss concept of writers who write powerful stories with artificial embellishment (artificial power versus authentic power.) Explore the idea of melodrama.

Assessment Suggestions:

Class participation.

Resources/Examples:

Suggested Extensions:

Have students write compelling short stories to reinforce the qualities of writing a powerful story. Look at newspaper stories for authentic impact versus artificial embellishment.

Activity 2: Shelters of Success

Time:

One 50-minute class period

Materials:

  • Video Clip about Mimi Silbert from "Dreams of Sanctuary" episode [20 minutes, segment begins at 21:00]
  • Video Handout: Mimi Silbert
  • Meet the New Heroes biography of Mimi Silbert
  • Meet the New Heroes slideshow about Mimi Silbert

Learning Goals:

  • Students will understand the impact of how a documentary can elicit support for an important community cause.
  • Students will begin to understand the power of a visionary.
  • Students will understand what a shelter is.
  • Students will learn how to prepare to interview someone.

Standards:

  • NCTE Standard #8

    Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Activities:

Students watch a 20-minute video; engage a class discussion; students individually define "shelter" by writing a definition; begin to consider interview questions for upcoming activity (Activity 4).

Procedures:

  1. Introduce the video by asking the students to define shelter. Ask them what they know about shelters. An additional topic might be discussing "criminals." Ask students what kinds of people are criminals. Because the video story talks about criminals in new ways, students may have their assumptions challenged. Be sure to engage students in this discussion if needed.
  2. Watch 20-minute video featuring Mimi Silbert talking about Delancey Street projects.
  3. Identify ways the video uses elements to make the story meaningful and impactful. How important was the interview and voice of the main visionary? What would you want to ask Mimi Silbert if you could interview her? Do you think she had an "agenda?"
  4. 4. How is Delancey Street a shelter? What elements make it a shelter? Who are these people? Has your understanding and perceptions of criminals changed in any way? How? Extend the discussion by having students read the Meet the New Heroes biography of Mimi Silbert and watch the slideshow about her.
  5. Ask students to write a short definition of the word/idea "shelter."
  6. Develop a set of questions the class might ask someone who ran a shelter in preparation for the guest speaker in Activity 4. What would the students want to ask Mimi if they could have interviewed her?

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

Shelter, poverty, documentary, journalism, someone's "personal agenda."

Additional Resources/Examples:

Use the dictionary or dictionary.com to find examples of definitions.

Suggested extensions:

Excellent connections to looking at and writing about data on correlations of poverty to jail; also race, culture and socioeconomic status and their relationship to crime.

Activity 3: Community Shelters: Learning Locally

Time:

One 50-minute class period

Materials:

  • Brochures from local shelters, local phone books, access to Internet.
  • URLs of local shelters. How to find local shelters (animal shelter, battered women) www.volunteersolutions.org/mv/org/221202.html
  • Call your local police or sheriff's department. The department should be able to refer you to a shelter in your area
  • Ask your local YWCA if it provides or knows who provides shelter in your area.
  • Contact your local family court. The staff there should know where to find shelter.
  • Go online to the Family Violence Prevention Fund (http://endabuse.org/) and click on "Getting Help" at the bottom of the page. This will help you locate a shelter in your area.
  • Call (800) 799-SAFE to find out how to contact a family violence program in your area.

Learning Goals:

  • Students will identify and learn about local shelters.
  • Students will conduct research on what shelters do, and construct questions based on what they want to know.

Standards:

  • Social Studies Standard 6, High School IV.

    Individual Development and Identity. Meeting performance expectations f and g:

    f. Analyze the role of perceptions, attitudes, values, and beliefs in the development of personal identity.

    g. Compare and evaluate the impact of stereotyping, conformity, acts of altruism, and other behaviors on individuals and groups.

Activities:

Students will research local shelters by using the Internet, phone book, and local authorities. At end of class, students will generate a set of questions intended to be used as interview questions for guest speaker in Activity 4. Use Social Studies standards as a guide.

Procedures:

  1. 20 minutes: Generate a class list of local shelters and their affiliated domains (animal, battered women, homeless, etc.) that students know or think exist. Conduct research locally and online to make a list of local shelters in specific domains of interest to students. Find local shelter Web sites and read their mission statements. Answer questions such as: How many shelters does it take to support our community? How does our community support these shelters? How does our community contribute to the need for these shelters? Define a set of questions students would like answered about shelters. Identify possible people to interview in class or in scheduled sessions.
  2. 20 minutes: Introduce the idea of documenting the shelter's needs and successes for presenting to the community.
  3. Explain how students will be hosting a guest speaker next class period. Identify the goal of the interview. What is the point of the interview? Talk about specific interview techniques based on what the students want to know: Facts and data of stories and narratives? Explain about the need for specific kinds of questions in order to get the needed information.
  4. What is good interviewing? Encourage preparation, knowledge, clear goals for interview, generate set of questions beforehand. Role play may be a good process for learning in younger grades. Be careful about the sensitive nature of the subject. Open ended questions (avoid yes or no answers), active listening, and what is "good follow up."
  5. Plan to publish. Plan which technologies may be useful to support documentation. This may include tape-recording, videotaping or taking images. Entire class may conduct interview or small groups might work if there are multiple speakers. This would allow students to compare their perspectives and perceptions. Be sure students are ready to interview.

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

Understand the different types of shelters (what defines battered women, the homeless… there are legal definitions, and limits to use of shelters based on these definitions.

Additional Resources/Examples:

Suggested Extensions:

Role model and simulate interviewing someone. Students might practice interviewing someone who is particularly difficult to interview, or how to help interviewees feel comfortable. Describe what may happen when someone has a particular "agenda."

Activity 4: Leading Shelters

Time:

One 50-minute class period

Materials:

  • A local authority or administrator of a shelter in the community — a guest speaker for the students to interview.

Learning Goals:

  • Students will learn how to conduct formal interviews, what questions elicit important answers, how to "follow up" an open-ended question etc.
  • Students will take notes in preparation for writing a profile or story on the person and/or shelter.

Standards:

  • MCREL Language Arts Standard 4

    Gathers and uses information for research purposes. Level III, grades 6-8 Gathers data for research topics from interviews (e.g., prepares and asks relevant questions, makes notes of responses, compiles responses).

Activities:

Students will listen to, interview, and write about a guest speaker and their role at a shelter. Person should be from a community shelter.

Procedures:

  1. Review the questions the students plan to ask the guest speaker. Amend if needed.
  2. Most of the class period should be spent interviewing and listening to the guest. Document with photography, video, or sound recording if possible.

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

Fundraising, non-profits versus for-profits, boards and volunteer organizations, contribution.

Assessment Suggestions:

Students could compare and review their notes, sharing ideas and perceptions.

Online Resources:

Suggested Extensions:

Additional interviews could be generated with other community organizations if the students are older and can drive.

Activity 5: People, Places and Culture: What Causes the Need for Shelters?

Time:

One to two 50-minute periods, depending on the time allotted for researching into actual causes of shelters.

Materials:

  • Video Clip about Kailash Satyarthi from "Dreams of Sanctuary" episode of THE NEW HEROES. [20 minutes, segment begins at 3:00]
  • Online resources on poverty, class, abuse — local or global topics related to those issues that generate a need for shelters.
  • Meet the New Heroes biography of Kailash Satyarthi
  • Meet the New Heroes slideshow of Kailash Satyarthi
  • Rugmark's Web site: www.rugmark.org
  • Poverty Mapping site: povertymap.net

Learning Goals:

  • Understand the connection between shelters (public and private assistance) to local and global cultural issues.
  • Understand the effects of the past on society.
  • Practice looking at data for research and data gathering in preparation for writing.

Standards:

  • NCTE National Standard #7

    Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

  • NCTE National Standard #8

    Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Activities:

Watch 20-minute video on Rugmark and profile of Kailash Satyarthi; class discussion; students conduct research and explore the causes of shelters (class, poverty, disease, tradition/culture) in this and the next class period, or as homework.)

Procedures:

  1. Introduce the video students will watch with the question "How do stories of children differ from those of adults?" Remind them of the Delancey Street video, and prepare them for this video by handing out the video overview handout. Ask students to look for the causes of the problem when they watch the video.
  2. Watch video segment on Rugmark (20 minutes).
  3. After watching the video, ask the students in a class discussion (or in groups):
    • How did the movie make you feel?"
    • How do stories of children differ from stories of adults?
    • What does criminal mean? Who are the criminals in the Rugmark story?
    • Extend the discussion by having students read the Meet the New Heroes biography of Kailash Satyarthi and watch the slideshow about him.
  4. Identify what students believe the causes of the slavery to be. Students may conduct research to explore causes of poverty in India, and how poverty can cause many different kinds of needs.
  5. Research on poverty, slavery, traditional cultures, childhood, class and caste systems should be a part of what students will need to do to understand the causes of shelters here and worldwide. Make the connection from India to the United States.

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

Investigative journalism, caste systems, disenfranchisment, marginalization of people, understanding the effects of the past on society.

Assessment Suggestions:

None needed in this class period. Research conducted in preparation for writing could be assessed either as a standalone document of effort or embedded in the published pieces.

Resources/Examples:

Suggested Extensions:

See the article above for the idea of holding a class "tribunal" on the causes of, in this case, slavery (the article focuses on the cause of the sinking of the Titanic). Students create a mock trial where the guilty parties must be identified and examined by lawyers and judges. Students learn how to understand words like "guilt" and "cause."

Activity 6: Shelter as Metaphor

Time:

One 50-minute period

Materials:

Examples of metaphors as methods in writing powerful and persuasive work.

metaphor, n. a figure of speech by which a thing is spoken of as being that which it only resembles. -adjs. metaphoric, -al. -adv. metaphor'ically. -n. met'aphorist. -mixed metaphor, an expression in which two or more metaphors are confused [Gr. metaphora-pherein to carry]

"We understand experience metaphorically when we use a gestalt from one domain of experience to structure experience in another domain."

— George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980) Metaphors We Live By

Learning Goals:

  • Students will understand metaphor and its use in writing by exploring the meaning of shelter and what it means to those who need it.

Standards:

  • MCREL Language Arts Standard 8

    Uses level-appropriate vocabulary in speech (e.g., metaphorical language, specialized language, sensory details)

  • NCTE National Standard #4

    Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Activities:

Students practice writing using metaphor. Discuss metaphors for "shelter."

Procedures:

  1. Introduce students to metaphor and its definition. Provide examples. Poetry examples could be illustrative of metaphor.
  2. Discuss new concepts and terms based on metaphor and other definitions of shelter. Share concepts of "limbo" and "liminal" periods in people's lives. What do words like passages, transformation, threshold, metamorphosis, and blossoming mean? Teenagers experience many rites of passage. What are their shelters or transformational periods? One mark of passage is learning to drive. Are there others?
  3. Have students write a short piece about passages in their lives or some metamorphosis they have experienced. Ask them to imagine the transformations of the people they have watched in these video stories.

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

Metaphor, shelter, sanctuary, frontier, metamorphosis, transformation, sanctuary.

Resources/Examples:

  • PBS TeacherResource on Metaphor in Language Arts

    www.pbs.org/teachersource/thismonth/feb99/index.shtm

    "Follow the Drinking Gourd" is an African American folk song about the work of an Underground Railroad 'conductor' named Pegleg Joe. This song and others like the spiritual "Steal Away" provided hints for slaves escaping to freedom: the "drinking gourd" represented the North Star and Harriet Tubman used the song "Steal Away" as a signal to slaves awaiting her help. Use these songs and other spirituals to explore the idea of metaphor in language arts and escape from slavery in social studies classes.

  • Web site on Using Metaphor in Language:

    www.jasonmahoney.com/metaphor/index.htm

Suggested Extensions:

Art or poetry writing activities would work well. Partner with the art teacher, or use words and images for collages.

Optional Recommended Activity

The Power of One Lesson

Time:

One 50-minute class period

Activity 7: Telling the Stories

Time:

One 50-minute period

Materials:

  • Student notes from earlier assignment on interviewing.
  • Class list of what makes a powerful story. Students write a short piece on metaphor to use as a guide.

Learning Goals:

  • Students will begin to draft stories for publication about selected topics related to shelters and those who support them and work in them.
  • Students will understand how storytelling is a critical part of garnering support for ideas
  • Students will understand bias and motive in writing

Standards:

  • NCTE Standard #7

    Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts (video), people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

  • MCREL Language Arts Standard 1

    Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process (persuasive writing).

  • MCREL World History Standard 2

    Understands the historical perspective. Level III, Benchmark 6. Knows different types of primary and secondary sources and the motives, interests, and bias expressed in them (e.g., eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos; magazine articles, newspaper accounts, hearsay).

Activities:

Students will write persuasive stories and begin to make them into presentations or prepare for publication based on interviews.

Students either use notes from interviews, or have stories from local newspapers and Web sites to use as reference material.

Procedures:

  1. Students should have raw materials from which to work. These notes or raw materials should be regarding the topic "need for shelter". (Perhaps families or people who they know have endured a rough time in their lives — the depression, recovery, military service — interview them about their experience)
  2. Students should formulate their approach to the story, and who they are trying to convince or impact. Consider audience and strategies for writing powerful, and true, stories.
  3. Work on draft documentary presentations

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

bias, primary and secondary sources, motive

Assessment Suggestions:

Use Language Arts Assess writing samples through the 6-trait writing process rubric: www.nwrel.org/assessment/department.php?d=1

Resources/Examples:

Other Web sites or news stories of shelters:

Suggested Extensions:

Additional ideas include the creation of a Web site, a school newspaper, articles for the local paper, a video, or a photo essay.

Activity 8: Providing Hope

Time:

One 50-minute period

Materials:

Learning Goals:

  • Students will learn more about causes of shelters (aids, poverty).
  • Students will expand writing skills by adding material on reasons why shelters are important.
  • Students will use persuasion in writing.

Standards:

  • NCTE National Standard #12

    Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Activities:

Watch 20-minute video on schools for orphans. Engage a class discussion. Students write pieces.

Procedures:

  1. Introduce the video with the following questions: Question: How is school a shelter? Review: What causes the need for shelters? More on government, culture, policies, traditions, lack of information. (Use video handout)
  2. Watch video.
  3. Discuss key ideas after watching the video. If you can only help 300 out of millions, should you still do it? When is enough worth doing? (Another suggestion is to watch the movie "Hotel Rwanda," if teaching older students.) Extend the discussion by having students read the Meet the New Heroes biography of Moses Zulu.
  4. Revise and review final pieces. Use a peer review process. Check facts, use and cite references, data. Be sure students allow any actual subjects of the piece to review.
  5. Plan for publication.

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

AIDS, orphans, understand world data on AIDS impact

Assessment Suggestions:

Use 6+1 Writing Trait Rubric for Assessment of writing.

Resources/Examples:

Activity 9: Caring, Convincing, Compelling

Time:

One to two 50-minute class periods, or to be completed as homework.

Materials:

Students' writing, materials for selected publication.

Learning Goals:

  • Students will learn to create a publication with an intended audience and outcomes.
  • Students will use images and written word to communicate effectively.

Standards:

  • NCTE Language Arts Standard #4

    Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

  • NCTE Language Arts Standard #5

    Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Activities:

Students will complete their publication. Identify methods of distribution. (Web site, print publication, etc.)

Procedures:

  1. Remind students what the goal of the published piece is. Publish the stories after choosing a means: literary magazine, Web site, book, newsletter, articles in the local paper.
  2. If this period will be used by students to polish their writing, make sure students allow any people who are the objects of the stories to read and review it first.

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

Profiles of people (what is a profile?) Publishing for an audience, "intentional publication. Discussion of use of imagery.

Assessment Suggestions:

Writing assessment using the 6+1 writing trait rubric. Develop a rubric with the students about their definition of success for the publication. How many viewers do they want to read their work? How will they get feedback? What strategies have they employed for telling others about their new publication?

Resources/Examples:

Suggest using a search engine and type in "Student Publications" to review examples for high schools and colleges.

Suggested Extensions:

Students might create a Web site or start a newsletter that is ongoing, continuing to publish stories of impact worldwide. Students could offer ideas to the publishing "team" from the readership, and stories could continue to highlight career choices and organizations for volunteering in the community.

About the Classroom Content

These teacher resources were developed by the Learning Innovation and Technology Consortium (LITC). LITC develops educational programs and materials in support of problem solving, innovation, and social entrepreneurship.