November 25th, 2004
The Sidney Poitier High School
Procedures for Teachers

Media Components

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM and/or Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Software: Any presentation software such as Power Point or Hyperstudio (optional)

Bookmarked sites:

Students would need the following supplies:

  • Markers
  • Large-sized newsprint pad of paper
  • Paints
  • Copies of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” for the Reader’s Theater group


Introductory Activity:
1. Who is Sidney Poitier? Before watching the AMERICAN MASTERS episode and beginning their research, the students in the class will share what they know.

2. Has anyone seen his movies? List Poitier’s movie credentials, and ask students which they have seen. (Go to the Internet Movie Database at,+Sidney for a list of his acting, directing and producing credentials.)

3. Briefly introduce the idea that the school will be renamed “The Sidney Poitier High School” and that the class has been appointed as the planners of the dedication ceremony. Tell the students that the superintendent of your school district, in consultation with the student and parent body and the faculty, has decided on a new name for your high school. Starting next September, it will be called “The Sidney Poitier School.” As part of the celebration, your class has been selected to plan the hour-long dedication ceremony.

4. Brainstorm ideas about what students will need to find out about the man and his worthiness as a namesake. Write each individual question down on a large piece of newsprint paper. Responses should include the following ideas:

  • What are his ideals and philosophy on life?
  • Why is he important enough to be a namesake?
  • What does his name represent or signify?
  • Why is he a role model or how can he serve as a role model for students in your high school?

5. Show students the AMERICAN MASTERS episode, telling them to keep in mind the questions they brainstormed as they watch.

  • After Poitier talks about his childhood and his family, review his philosophy on life and his work ethic with the students.
  • After Poitier describes his first few attempts at acting, ask the students why it was important to include that in a documentary about his life.
  • Poitier spends a lot of time talking about the types of roles that he wants. Why is his choice of roles important to note, and what does it say about his ideals, philosophy and convictions?

Learning Activities:
1. After watching the episode, divide the class into equal sized groups to brainstorm the answers for one of the questions on the newsprint paper. They should jot down their thoughts in bullet or note form.

2. After 10 minutes, groups will swap questions so that each group of students is answering a different one.

3. After another 10 minutes, bring the students back together and share all of the answers with the entire class.

Culminating Activity/Assessment:
1. After sharing all of the discussion points, describe the objective of the culminating activity again. The class has been appointed the designer and planner of the dedication ceremony for the renaming of the school. It will be an hour-long school-wide assembly. They will use the assembly time to highlight Sidney Poitier’s career, demonstrate his commitment to Civil Rights, and to show appreciation for the honoree. In order to keep the student body interested and focused, it is important to include a variety of activities and presentations.
Note: The different types of projects will bring the Multiple Intelligences approach into the classroom. According to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory, teachers are able to see that visual arts, music, and dance can be just as valuable to students’ understanding of the world they live in as traditional academic subjects. Thirteen/Ed Online’s CONCEPT TO CLASSROOM has a workshop devoted to the theory at

2. The dedication ceremony must include the following components. (Each component requires students to use a different reading strategy. The strategy and the assignment are listed within the parentheses. Some assignments, such as the choral reading of “Harlem: A Dream Deferred, will require less time than others. In those cases, students should volunteer for additional tasks such as arranging the order of the assembly and designing the program.) Teachers should also hand out the “General Assessment Rubric for Sidney Poitier High School Activity” now so the students have clear expectations of what is expected for this unit. Ideas for the dedication ceremony include:

  • The principal’s speech about why the school chose Sidney Poitier (Guided Reading assignment using the introduction from the PBS AMERICAN MASTERS site at — see the Guided Reading Questions on Sidney Poitier Organizer.)
  • Poetry reading (Choral Reading assignment of Langston Hughes’ “Harlem: A Dream Deferred,” which contains the line “A raisin in the sun,” at
  • A scene from “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry (Readers’ Theater)
  • Selected readings of their own choice from Poitier’s autobiographies The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography and This Life. The former is available in paperback and the latter is out of print. (Choral reading)
  • The Web sites that contain general information can be used by all of the students for more background information about Sidney Poitier.

3. Other ideas that could be incorporated into the program include:

  • An art exhibit of paintings and collages with accompanying essays to explain why a student has chosen to express his or her research and ideas in that medium.
  • A PowerPoint presentation with photos from different stages of Poitier’s career.
  • Pretend that you are Poitier’s speechwriter and write his thank you speech to the school.
  • The students could also come up with their own ideas of what to incorporate into the ceremony.


Cross-Curricular Extensions:

  • Research other African-American figures who were pioneers in their fields
    • Jackie Robinson of baseball
    • Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court
    • Tiger Woods of golf
    • Althea Gibson of tennis
    • Martin Luther King Jr. and the Nobel Prize

  • Write a review of any one of Sidney Poitier’s films
  • Debates – In the AMERICAN MASTERS episode, the filmmakers interviewed Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington about how people consider him “the next Sidney Poitier.” He is conflicted about this comment himself. In small groups, you will argue this point for him. Is this a racist comment or is this a compliment?


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