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June 9th, 2008
Gang Violence from L.A. to El Salvador

Lesson Methodology (Suggested Time Schedule)

(Day 1)

In introducing the lesson, the teacher may wish to discuss with the class the impact letters frequently play in interpreting historic and sociological events. For example, the teacher may wish to share the “Sullivan Ballou” letter to his wife made famous in the PBS “Civil War” series. If the teacher has access to the Civil War film or soundtrack they may wish to play the letter excerpt to the class. A transcript of the letter can also be found at (Another good example of letters written, this time to children, are the compiled letters that Theodore Roosevelt wrote to his children over a 20-year period. Those letters can be found at

Tell the class that they will be role-playing various figures in the film, “18 with a Bullet”. Explain to the students that letters frequently give important or everyday events a more powerful interpretation, and that should be their goal. The teacher may wish to share the letter component list (see above) with the students, either by discussing it verbally, writing it on the chalkboard or overhead projector, or by printing copies to distribute to the class.

Next, brainstorm with the students, asking them to share images and thoughts about gangs, why youths would join a gang, and what the impact of gangs are on society. Write these on the chalkboard or overhead as students say them. Ask the class to discuss whether these images and ideas seem legitimate or are they possibly stereotypes from what students see on television and movies, or in popular music.

If time permits, the teacher may wish to share the list of characters from the film that will be used in writing letters prior to allowing students to watch the film, and assign characters to students so they will know who they’ll be researching in the film. The teacher may also allow students to select the role they would like to research. Instruct students that they should follow the film and take notes not only about their specific character, but look for details, specifics, and information that will help make their letters more effective and believable.

Finally, have students view “18 with a Bullet”. Since the film takes approximately 55 minutes to complete, it can either be split into viewing over two days, or viewing can be scheduled on Day 2 should the teacher wish to have the class view the video without interruption.

While the teacher may have students use the film to research characters through any means, they may also wish to use a structured worksheet to guide students in finding pertinent information, such as a KWL chart. A Web site that helps teachers create their own charts can be found at . Should the teacher wish to look at other types of organizers, those can be found at

(Day 2-3)

Complete viewing of “18 with a Bullet”, or if the teacher elected to postpone viewing to Day 2, allow students time to view the film. If necessary, the teacher may wish to have the class view the entire film or segments in order to gain more information and insight into the characters and events in the film.

After viewing the film, have students continue their research by using the Web resources.

(Day 4)

After the students have completely researched their character, they should write their letters, using criteria established from the lesson or the teacher’s preference. Letters should be written using proper grammar and spelling, and should be an accurate and reasonable interpretation of gang life or in dealing with gang issue, as described by the teacher on Day 1 of the lesson.

Cross-Curricular Activities:

Computer/Multimedia: Using presentation software, such as Power Point, ask students to use the Web resources as well as the “18 with a Bullet” film to create multimedia presentations about gang members or the history of the development of the gangs “18” and “MS-13”.

Speech/Rhetoric: Using the film and Web resources, ask students to debate pro and con on this topic. RESOLVED: In order to assist El Salvador’s economic and social rebuilding, the United States Government should not deport Salvadoran gang members living in the US for illegal activities, but should imprison and rehabilitate those gang members in this country.

History/Social Studies: Have students compare/contrast development of the gangs “18” and “MS-13” with other gangs in US History. Students can write reports about the evolution of gangs in the US compared to those in other countries in the world. As an alternative, students can compare/contrast gang development in Central America with gang development in other parts of the world.

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