Stage 1: Initial Reactions
In the first of three stages, you want students to react as if they were coming across Clip 1 on YouTube or via a social media post. No context. No one there to provide discussion prompts or guidance. Jump right in by saying simply that you have a video clip from a documentary about a sports champion that you want to share.
Play Clip 1. After the clip, invite students to share reactions. If they need a prompt, ask them to imagine that they've come across this on YouTube. Would they give it a thumbs up or thumbs down? Would they leave a comment (and if so, what would it say)?
After a short discussion, let students know that this is the first step in an exercise they'll be doing on "metacognition," i.e., being aware of how we learn and how we come to know what we know, and think what we think. Distribute the Reflection handout–just one copy for now for each student. Ask them to complete it and hang onto it. They'll need it later in the lesson. As homework, assign students to view Clip 2. They should be ready to discuss it in their next class (like a flipped classroom activity).
OPTIONAL: Before assigning the homework, replay Clip 1 and ask students to identify the techniques the filmmaker used.
Stage 2: Developing Questions
In the second of three stages, invite students to share their reactions to Clip 2. After a brief discussion, pose this question: If the Taliban didn't exist, would Maria Toorpakai still face challenges in her quest to be an international champion that a male athlete would not likely face?
Rather than asking students to offer their opinions, ask: What questions would you need to get answers to, in order to answer this question?
Either as a full class or in small groups, generate a list of questions. Help students link their questions to the information they are seeking, and tweak wording as needed. Also, if needed, guide formulation of questions with prompts asking students to consider what they would need to know about:
- The Taliban
- The physical demands of elite level athletic competition
- Beliefs about or social construction of "proper" gender roles
- The effects of poverty
Once a substantive list of questions has been generated, distribute another copy of the Reflection handout to each student and again ask students to complete it and hang onto it. As time allows, invite students to share any changes they've noticed in their responses. What do they think accounts for the changes?
Stage 3: Research
Invite students to consider how often they react to things, including social media posts, without really stopping to ask themselves whether they have adequate information. Have they asked good questions before responding? We don't want to mute our emotional reactions, but when we express an opinion, why might we want it to be informed by more than emotion?
Note that the more information we have, the better informed our opinions are. Assure students that this is not about convincing anyone to change their opinion. Most often, when students are asked to analyze media, what they are being asked to do is to criticize the content of the media and show why it is problematic. But a media-literate person questions all media–including things with which they agree. The War to Be Her offers a rare opportunity to examine deeply a piece with which most of us will actually agree and still be able to go from a mostly emotional response to a well-informed, well-reasoned response.
As the final task that gets us from purely emotional reaction to well-informed response, assign students to write brief research reports that add relevant information to their knowledge base.
You can set up the parameters of the assignment: length, citation requirements, submission form and due date. The topic is also somewhat flexible. You could give all students the same topic: The history of Title IX and its influence on girls'/women's participation in sports.
Or, you could offer some choice of topics:
- History of girls' athletics in your school (recommended only for schools founded prior to the 1970s);
- History of girls'/women's participation in sports in a particular country; or
- History of girls'/women's participation in a single sport.
On the day the research reports are due, invite students to share some of the things they learned and to discuss how additional information influenced the way they think about the question.
Distribute the third copy of the Reflection handout and give students a minute to fill it out. Have them compare the third version to the two versions they completed previously. They can discuss any changes they notice and/or reflect on the changes in a short free write.