kids get life

About the Film:

When Kids Get Life profiles the cases of five juveniles sentenced in Colorado to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The film explores whether juveniles should receive sentences that, in effect, end any possibility of life outside of prison.

The film makes the point that the United States is one of the only countries in the world that allows persons under 18 to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. According to Human Rights Watch, over 2,200 of the inmates in the United States who are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole received those sentences for crimes they committed when they were under 18 years old. By contrast, according to self-reporting numbers from the rest of the world, only 12 people serving the same sentence were sentenced as juveniles.

Watching the Film:

Teachers can either assign the film for viewing as homework or show the film in class, but teachers should be aware that scenes in the film might be disturbing to students. Suggested discussion questions are provided. The lessons and activities in this guide can be used in the classroom without having viewed the film.

A Note to Teachers:

The lesson itself is, potentially, emotionally charged since the film on which it is based presents students with disturbing events and photographs and with dilemmas that will undoubtedly evoke disagreement and discussion, even heated debate.

Grade levels 9-12.

For classes in social studies, civics and government, language arts, media studies, video production, current events, and history.

Discussion Questions:

This guide includes a list of pre-viewing and post-viewing questions for students to discuss.

Featured Lesson Plan:

"Understanding the Power of Media: Planning a Documentary Segment About Peter: A Juvenile Sentenced to Life Without Parole"

Lesson Objectives:
Students will:

Additional Lesson Ideas:

Exploring The Adolescent Brain
Students will

How Does YOUR State Treat Adolescent Offenders?
Students will research and report on how their states treat juveniles who commit or are accessories to crimes.

Additional Resources:

An annotated list of relevant Web sites.

Purchasing the Film:

When Kids Get Life can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers: http://teacher.shop.pbs.org/home/index.jsp. Also, teachers and students can watch the program streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/whenkidsgetlife/


This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Ellen Greenblatt of The Bay School, San Francisco. Advisors were Debra Plafker Gutt of Stuyvesant High School, New York, and Greg Timmons, curriculum writer and educational consultant.