August 15th, 2013

The Top 15 Lesson Plans for Back to School


With students heading back into the classroom, NewsHour Extra is here to help teachers with their back-to-school lesson plans and classroom resources.  We compiled a list of our top 15 lessons and resources, which cover core academic subject areas ranging from civics to math, and shed light on some of the summer’s most important news stories, including the George Zimmerman trial and the ongoing turmoil in Egypt.

Many of our lessons are tailored for both middle and high school students, and include activities designed with each group in mind. Don’t worry if you can’t devote a whole class to a full Extra lesson plan; resources come in different forms to fit your time and depth of content needs.

Video blogs provide engaging video clips from the NewsHour with accompanying summaries and questions to engage students with the news without using a whole class period.  Full lesson plans are longer and provide a complete start-to-finish package that includes multi-media resources, an aggregated collection of lesson materials and alignment to Common Core standards.

Want powerful and engaging lessons with interactive multi-media about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington? Visit NewsHour Extra next Wednesday, August 14, when we unveil our resource package for the March on Washington, which will include content that covers Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous  “ I Have a Dream” speech and the history and faces of the civil rights movement in America.

1. The Great Gatsby Curve | Lesson Plan



“Is the American economic system fundamentally unequal, perpetuating income inequality and stymieing upward economic mobility? Or do families — by virtue of their differing genes and values — reproduce income inequality?”PBS NewsHour

Students will get to explore this question themselves with this timely economics lesson plan.

2. Child Labor in Burkina Faso | Lesson Plan



“Children in Burkina Faso don’t just work in mines, they pick cotton, herd goats, and sometimes are forced to beg. 37% of kids there are engaged in child labor instead of going to school. But child labor isn’t just a problem in the Colorado-sized country of Burkina Faso, 215 million children around the world work full-time.”

This Labor Day, teach your students about the state of child labor in the dangerous gold mines of Burkina Faso and around the world.

3. “I Have a Dream” as a Work of Literature | Lesson Plan



Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable speech from his life as an activist, “I Have a Dream,” was delivered August 28, 1963 before more than 200,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

This August marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic March on Washington. Make sure your students know the importance of this iconic demonstration and the speech that defined it.

4. March on Washington Package | Lesson Plan + Interactive Tools



If you want to get a little more in-depth on the Civil Rights movement and the March on Washington in your classroom, please check out our recently released package of seven lesson plans and one resource page on the subject. The lessons cover all grade levels, including students with learning disabilities, and include interactive elements.

5. Immigration Reform: Understanding the Issue From Different Points of View | Lesson Plan



“Each year millions of people cross the U.S. borders illegally in search of the American dream — a land of freedom and opportunity that can provide them and their families with a quality of life they cannot enjoy in their home countries.”

Immigration is a hot topic in the news now, with both Republican and Democratic politicians acknowledging that the country’s immigration system needs to be mended. Still, the topic continues to divide the country in an emotional way. Help bridge the gap in your classroom with this lesson plan meant to introduce students to both sides of this critical issue.

6. Saving Children from Forced Labor in India | Video Blog + Lesson Plan



“Despite laws that mandate school up to age 14, as many as 50 million underage children are estimated to be working in India’s growing, but largely unorganized, economy. Many of these children have been sold to their employers by their families in an attempt to survive dire poverty, and face harsh working conditions.”

Use this stunning video and lesson plan to teach about child labor practices in the textile industry in India, and what some activists are doing to reform the system.

7. Middle East and North Africa Geography | Lesson Plan

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“Throughout history, the geography of the Middle East has been at the heart of many of its most critical political and cultural moments. An understanding of not only its present-day geography, but also its historical geography, is essential for any student eager to understand what’s going on in the region, and why.”

This lesson plan gives students an overview of the region’s geographical past, while exposing students to the complexity and diversity of the region. It also ensures a basic geographical starting point for any unit plan about the region, or for any mini-unit delving into Middle Eastern current affairs.

8. Egyptian Military Cracks Down on Morsi Supporters | Article + Teacher Guide



“Less than a month after a military coup ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, President Mohammed Morsi, dozens of pro-Morsi supporters were killed in clashes with police and military forces this past weekend.”

The ongoing violence and political turmoil in Egypt provides a living example of what struggles a nation can face on the road from autocracy to democracy. Use this story and interactive timeline, along with NewsHour Extra’s other Egypt resources, to bring these far-away events to life for your students.

9. Debating Race, Justice and Policy in the Case of Trayvon Martin | Lesson Plan



Perhaps the most emotional and divisive story of the summer was the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in a Florida subdivision. These deeply divisive topics can be hard to breach, so we’ve put together a lesson plan to help out. Be sure to check out Extra’s article on the subject as well.

10. Facebook and Twitter Crack Down on Hate Speech | Article + Teacher Guide



“After a string of consumer complaints and court cases, social media giants Facebook and Twitter are cracking down on hate speech broadcast through their platforms. The companies are trying to strike a difficult balance between protecting freedom of expression for users while also creating an open and welcoming community.”

Most of your students are on social media in some way or another, and have probably seen first-hand just how mean the Internet can be. Use this article and teacher guide to help open a discussion about free speech v. community standards online and in the real world.

11. Are Colleges Still Affordable? | Lesson Plan



“In this lesson, the students investigate a mathematical model that compares the cost of education to potential earnings in order to decide if the investment is a good one. The students compute the amount to be repaid each year for the life of the loan and then they compare the answer to some probable starting salaries.”

With tuition continuing to rise, some high school students are wondering if it’s worth it to go to college. With this math lesson plan, students can discover for themselves whether investing in a college degree is a good value.

12. Tech and Privacy Advocates Clash Over Possibilities for Google Glass | Article + Teacher Guide



“Internet giant Google’s latest venture, a computer worn over the eye like conventional glasses, is sparking debate between privacy advocates and tech champions.”

With technology innovating faster than the government can legislate it, freedom and privacy issues are often being dealt with by companies and citizens. How do you think the government and companies like Google should balance the demands of consumers while still preserving personal privacy?

13. Artists Learn Business to Keep Their Dreams Afloat | Video Blog



“Gone are the days when performing arts students could graduate, sign with an agent and expect the gigs to just roll in. Instead, the best young performing artists in the world are now expected to create their own jobs and carve out their own careers.”

If you have any students planning on careers in the arts, this video blog is a must-see. With a tough economy and even tougher competition, many arts students are gaining skills in business to turn their talent into profit.

14. MLB Suspends Players in Largest Single-Day Doping Bust | Video Blog



Major League Baseball’s decision to punish one of its highest paid players with one of its harshest-ever suspensions is meant to send a message to others using performance-enhancing drugs. Use this story in the classroom to start a discussion on the effects of doping on professional sports.

15. Constitutional Amendments and Gay Marriage | Lesson Plan



Another hot story from the summer was the Supreme Court’s decisions on the Defense of Marriage act and California’s Prop 8 that paved the way for gay married couples to receive equal treatment under the law. Through this lesson, the student will come to understand the legal battle over legalizing gay marriage and process of amending the U.S. Constitution.

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