1. Before students enter the classroom, write the questions
of the day on the board: “Can a person who is poor
be a strong reader? Why or why not?” Allow the
students a few minutes to answer these questions in writing.
After everyone has had a chance to write a response,
begin a short discussion of these questions. Ask the
class to share some of their thoughts, and carefully
guide the discussion when sensitive issues arise. The
purpose of this starting activity is to get students
thinking about any preconceived ideas they may have about
what makes a successful reader.
2. Tell the class that they are going to read a selection
about a man who learned to read while in prison. Ask
the class what they might assume about a person who has
been in prison. For example, “Would you expect
this person to be a certain nationality? Would you expect
him to be a good citizen? Would you expect him to be
a good reader?” These questions will again get
students thinking about any biases they might have.
3. Once the class has finished reading “Coming
into Language” by Jimmy Santiago Baca, allow the
students to work with a partner and create a “before
and after” chart. The students may decide how to
orient the information, but explain to them that they
must somehow explain how Baca was before he learned to
read and write, and how his life changed after he acquired
these skills. If students finish early, you may decide
to briefly discuss the text.
1. To refresh the students’ minds about the previous
day’s reading write this question of the day on
the board: “How did reading empower Jimmy Santiago
Baca?” Give the class approximately 5 minutes to
respond to this prompt, and then ask a few students to
comment on what they have written. Ask the class what
it means to them to “empower” someone. Allow
a student to look up this word in the dictionary if they
wish. Students may also be asked to share the charts
they created the previous day, outlining how reading
empowered Mr. Baca.
2. Explain to the class that today they will be reading
a selection about a man that many of them will already
be familiar with. You may want to give a brief background
about Malcolm X and his contributions to society (see
website). Allow the students time to read part or all
of the selection “Learning to Read” by Malcolm
X. You may decide to put them into groups to discuss
the ways in which the author’s life was changed
once he began to read and write, or students may work
independently. Encourage the students to jot down notes
while they read about how Malcolm X is being changed
by his reading. If time allows, bring the class together
at the end of the period for discussion of the text after
they have finished. If necessary, the class may finish
the reading and their notes for homework, but this will
be in addition to their scheduled homework assignment.
3. Assign the reading “India’s Literacy Miracle” for
homework, to be discussed the following day. Ask students
to be thinking about the question: “How is India
changed after a literacy program is put in place?”
1. Before the students enter the classroom, prepare their
question of the day on the board, which reviews their
homework assignment: “What changes happened in
India after the introduction of a literacy program?” Encourage
them to be specific and to look back at the text to help
them write their answers. Give the class about 5-10 minutes
to write a thorough response. Afterwards, you may choose
to have students share their answers, or proceed directly
to a discussion format.
2. Students will discuss the article “India’s
Literacy Miracle” and the ways in which the people
of that culture were empowered by reading. This discussion
should take about 15-20 minutes. Allow the students to
guide the flow of discussion as much as possible, but
feel free to jump in with prompting questions, such as:
a) What do we know about India as a country? A culture?
b) What was India like before the literacy program
was introduced? How do we know this? What clues in
lead us to this conclusion?
c) Why does this article refer to India’s literacy
program as a “miracle”?
d) Why do you think the literacy rate for women
was even lower than that for men?
e) In what ways is literacy useful to the people
3. Have students divide into groups of 3-4 people.
Their job will now be to compare and contrast
the ways in which
reading empowered each of the individuals or
groups we have read about. Have them design
a poster which
what they have seen in the case of each selection
read. Students may decide how to arrange the
observations they have made Homework
Pose this final question to the class: “Do you
think the individuals and groups we have studied would
have been successful in life if they had not had the reading
and writing skills they possessed?” Allow for a short
whole class discussion, or you may wish to have the students
write a response to this question for homework.
See daily activities.
At the beginning of each period, student
responses to the questions of the day should
be carefully evaluated. The posters and
notes which they create can also be used
for assessment. Check to see that all students
are participating and engaging in the reading
and discussions. The goal is for the students
to discover how literacy empowers people,
and for them to come to the conclusion
that this empowerment is available to all
people, regardless of their ethnicity,
culture, or socioeconomic position. Hopefully
the students will also begin to desire
this empowerment for themselves.