Media Lesson Plan (through a Presentation Lesson Plan) Detecting Bias in The Birth of a Nation / Understanding “Popular” Culture in early 20th Century United States
Course Name: US History (10th grade) [Block scheduling]
Title of Lesson/Main Topic: Understanding early 20th century US Culture through Film
(In this lesson I am making use of film clips from The Birth of a Nation in order to teach my students about “popular” culture in the US in the early 20th century and so they can learn to detect bias in films.)
Maine Learning Results Standard A1: “Researching and Developing Positions on Current Social Studies Issues” part E for grades 9 through 12/diploma:
“Utilize media relevant to audience and purpose that extend and support oral, written, and visual communication.”
Content-wise, students will learn about popular culture in the US in the early part of the 20th century.
Students will be able to detect bias in the film The Birth of a Nation.
Students will develop deeper understandings of how bias can be promoted in media.
Selections from The Birth of a Nation film from the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=302YMeiDSrI
Question handout / end of class assessment
Homework assignment handout
Main Activity Description:
Phase 1: Gain attention and explain goals of the lesson.
Say: “Today we are going learn about popular culture in early 20th century in the United States. We will be looking at the film The Birth of a Nation which, despite its racially insensitive and historically inaccurate messages, was the highest grossing film in the US for over 20 years. By watching selected scenes from the film, we will attempt to discern the messages of the film and figure out how these messages related to popular opinions in the US at the time. Keep in mind that this film is extremely biased and offensive from our modern perspective.”
Phase 2: Present the advance organizer.
As a class, fill out a KWL chart on early 20th century popular culture in the US. I will not offer too many ideas, but will instead let the students guide the lesson at this point.
Upon reviewing the KWL chart, give the students a bit more background information on the film and again warn them that it is extremely racist.
Phase 3: Present new learning material.
Handout the question sheet to the students. Tell them to read through the questions, so they can be thinking about them while viewing the scenes. Make sure they wait until we are done viewing the film scenes before they actually start answering the questions.
Phase 4: Interact with students to check for understanding and strengthen conceptual frameworks.
Hand out and explain the homework assignment to the students (see below).
Tell the students to fill out the question sheet that I have given them. Make sure they know that I will be collecting the questions sheets and grading them.
After collecting the questions sheets, end class with a discussion between the students. Talk about the handout questions, students’ reactions to the film, or whatever subtopic the students want to focus on. Unless they get extremely off topic, I will let the students largely guide the direction of the subtopic(s) discussion.
(Just before class ends)
(Ask students if they need anything to be clarified concerning the day’s lesson or the homework.)
Assessment of Learning:
Grade the in-class writing assignment/question sheet (formative assessment).
Assign and then later grade homework (see below).
A short writing assignment in which students will answer the following questions: “Think about some popular films that have come out in the last few years. Can you detect racial, political, or socioeconomic bias in any of these films? If so, in what films and what type of bias can you detect? Are American films less or more biased today than they were 100 years ago? Why? Be sure to answer all parts of this assignment.”
Post-Lesson Reflections: (I normally fill this section out immediately after class, reflecting on how the lesson went and how it could be improved the next time I use it, should the lesson prove to be helpful):
Other thoughts / last minute lesson revisions (if necessary):
Class KWL Chart
Topic: Early 20th Century Popular Culture in the US
What We Know
What We Want to Know
What We Learned (to be completed during the next class)
Name: Date: Class:
The Birth of a Nation In-Class Viewing Questions:
The film inaccurately depicts common Southerners at the end of the American Civil War as being distraught due to the assassination of President Lincoln. Why would the film do this? What does this say about the popularity of Lincoln at the start of the early 20th century?
How were African-Americans generally depicted in The Birth of a Nation? How was the Ku Klux Klan generally depicted in this film? Why do you suppose this is?
There are a few African-Americans in this film, who are considered to be “good” from the perspective of the film’s writers and director. What defines a “good” African-American in this film? What is problematic about this from our modern 21st century perspective?
What other biases do you notice in the film? Are these biases representative of popular US culture in general in this time period? Do these biases only represent the ideas of the filmmakers? Explain your position.
Keep in mind that The Birth of a Nation was the highest grossing film in the United States for well over 20 years, despite its racist message. So, who exactly was the audience for this film?
Please write your final and honest thoughts on the film here. This is completely opinion-based and all responses are welcome.
Think about some popular films that have come out in the last few years. Can you detect racial, political, or socioeconomic bias in any of these films? If so, in what films and what type of bias can you detect? Are American films less or more biased today than they were 100 years ago? Why? Be sure to answer all parts of this assignment.