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June 15th, 2008
Gang Violence from L.A. to El Salvador

The WIDE ANGLE film “18 with a Bullet” tells the story of members of the gang “18”, a gang primarily made up of El Salvadorian youths who had been deported from the United States due to criminal and gang activity. El Salvador, ravaged by a long and bitter civil war through the 1980s, is currently a breeding ground for crime and gang violence because of poverty and availability of weapons.

In this lesson, students will look at the harsh realities of gang life, the impact of gang life on El Salvador society, and what is and isn’t being done to resolve the issue of gang violence in this Central American nation. They will use this information to write “letters home” to describe what gang life will be like, or what steps are being taken to curb gangs and gang violence.

Grade Level: 9-12

Subject Matter: Sociology, Social Problems, Global Affairs, Comparative Politics and Government

Time Allotment: : 3-4 days (based on a 50-minute class period)

Learning Objectives

As a result of completing the lesson, the students will be able to:

  • Identify causes and results of gang development and violence
  • Investigate the sociological, economic, and political implications of gang violence in El Salvador
  • Understand concerns, fears, and personalities of gang members
  • Consider solutions to solve political and social instability in El Salvador


This lesson meets the following standards set by the Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (

Behavioral Studies:

Benchmark 1.
Understands that conflict between people or groups may arise from competition over ideas, resources, power, and/or status

Benchmark 2.
Understands that social change, or the prospect of it, promotes conflict because social, economic, and political changes usually benefit some groups more than others (which is also true of the status quo)

Benchmark 3.
Understands that conflicts are especially difficult to resolve in situations in which there are few choices and little room for compromise

Benchmark 5.
Understands that conflict within a group may be reduced by conflict between it and other groups


Benchmark 2.
Knows alternative ideas about the purposes and functions of law (e.g., regulating relationships among people and between people and their government; providing order, predictability, security, and established procedures for the management of conflict; regulating social and economic relationships in civil society)

Benchmark 4.
Understands the argument that poverty, unemployment, and urban decay serve to limit both political and economic rights

Language Arts:

Benchmark 8.
Writes fictional, biographical, autobiographical, and observational narrative compositions (e.g., narrates a sequence of events; evaluates the significance of the incident; provides a specific setting for scenes and incidents; provides supporting descriptive detail [specific names for people, objects, and places; visual details of scenes, objects, and places; descriptions of sounds, smells, specific actions, movements, and gestures; the interior monologue or feelings of the characters]; paces the actions to accommodate time or mood changes; creates a unifying theme or tone; uses literary devices to enhance style and tone)

Benchmark 9.
Writes persuasive compositions that address problems/solutions or causes/effects (e.g., articulates a position through a thesis statement; anticipates and addresses counter arguments; backs up assertions using specific rhetorical devices [appeals to logic, appeals to emotion, uses personal anecdotes]; develops arguments using a variety of methods such as examples and details, commonly accepted beliefs, expert opinion, cause-and-effect reasoning, comparison-contrast reasoning)

Benchmark 11.
Writes reflective compositions (e.g., uses personal experience as a basis for reflection on some aspect of life, draws abstract comparisons between specific incidents and abstract concepts, maintains a balance between describing incidents and relating them to more general abstract ideas that illustrate personal beliefs, moves from specific examples to generalizations about life)

Standard 2, Benchmark 1.
Uses precise and descriptive language that clarifies and enhances ideas and supports different purposes (e.g., to stimulate the imagination of the reader, to translate concepts into simpler or more easily understood terms, to achieve a specific tone, to explain concepts in literature)

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