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  • Lesson plan
  • Grades 11-12,
  • Grades 9-10

What Do I Believe? Considering Controversial Issues Like the Death Penalty

Activities

The first section of the lesson is dedicated to establishing critical background information on the death penalty. Students will then listen to conversations between Lindy and her fellow jurors through film clips in order to develop their own POV essays.

Gaining Background Knowledge
To begin the lesson, students will gain fluency with the central aspects of the death penalty. Using the jigsaw format, divide students into five groups to research their individual content. Give them time in their expert groups to share learnings, then have them return to their jigsaw groups to share out what they individually learned.

Group 1: Terminology
In conversations students may hear the terms capital punishment and death penalty used interchangeably. To begin the lesson, have students research and discuss the definitions and come to a general understanding as a class of how to use each term accurately. See https://definitions.uslegal.com/c/capital-punishment/

Group 2: State By State
Have students review several visual resources on the use (or non-use) of the death penalty in different states and be prepared to summarize their conclusions based on analyzing the visual materials.

Group 3: Eighth Amendment
Have students review the history of the Eighth Amendment, paying particular attention to the clause on cruel and unusual punishments. Students may choose to research different views on cruel and unusual punishments as well.

Group 4: Current Statistics About the Death Penalty
Have students review information and current statistics on the death penalty. Example sources:

Group 5: Methods Used in the Death Penalty
Have students read the website from the National Conference of State Legislatures and scroll down and read through the methods of execution.

Introduce the Film and POV Exercise
Explain to students that they are going to watch a series of film clips of conversations between Lindy and fellow jury members who served on the jury in the 1994 capital murder resentencing trial of Bobby Wilcher. Instruct students to view and analyze the conversations in order to identify the point of view expressed by each jury member.

To keep track of the details in the interviews, students will create a table titled "POVs from Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2" and then use it to document the viewpoints, emotions and questions expressed in the interviews. The columns will have the following titles:

  • Name and/or Number of Juror or Family Member
  • POV For Death Penalty
  • POV Against Death Penalty
  • My Notes

View Film Clips
Before viewing Clip 1, remind students to take notes in the appropriate column on significant statements made by either Lindy or the other people featured.

Clip 1: "There Are No Answers" (3:16 min)
Featured: Lindy and Linda (juror number 13)
After watching the discussion of the first clip, share with students your notes on Lindy's POV and Linda's POV as a model. Invite students to add more reflections that they heard as a group in order to model how to analyze a clip for POV.

Clip 2: "It's Been So Long Ago" (4:00 min)
Featured: Lindy and Pete (juror number 10)
After viewing and after students have completed their tables for Clip 2, discuss whether students noticed differences between Lindy's conversation with Linda and her conversation with Pete? What did they observe?

Clip 3: "You Have to Live With It Every Day" (3:18 min)
Featured: Lindy, Allen (juror number 7) and Allen's wife
Repeat viewing and analysis process, making sure to add Allen's wife into their notes. Discuss with students whether they saw any differences in the conversation when a spouse was involved.

Clip 4: "Jury Foreman" (4:28 min)
Featured: Lindy, Kenneth (juror number one and foreman), Kenneth's wife and Kenneth's daughter
Repeat viewing analysis from Clip 3.

Clip 5: "Pebbles and Ripples" (1:57 min)
Featured: Lindy
After the final clip, invite students to look over their tables and gather their general observations about the interviews that Lindy conducted. Have students share in small groups, or as a large class, the POVs they heard from Lindy and from the other jury members. Was anything new or surprising? If they had the opportunity to sit down with Lindy, what would they want to ask her?

Homework and Assessment: Introduce students to the "This I Believe" website and guidelines. Discuss strategies to complete 500- to 600-word essays for homework. Each is to articulate their viewpoint on the death penalty.

Each essay must cite at least two sources that support the student's POV. One must be from an interview heard in Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2 and one must be from a credible primary source.

About the authors

Blueshift

Blueshift is a team of education specialists with background in environmental and social impact work. The team recognizes and builds on the power of documentary film in reaching broad audiences to spark energy for deep and lasting social change. The team works with filmmakers, photographers and writers to develop innovative educational strategies, experiences, tools and resources that bring stories off the screen and into viewers' lives.