Students take part in a series of activities to develop an understanding of how individuals throughout the world have worked to achieve equal rights for themselves and others. Students are introduced to the topic of human rights by creating a timeline that depicts the history of human rights in a specific area relevant to students. Following this, groups of three to six students select a specific topic related to human rights around the world to investigate further. Within the group, each person researches a person who has been active in human rights and takes on that person's role during a simulated international conference on human rights. The final project is the production of a newsletter focusing on human rights in a specific country. At the end of the unit, students take a written exam that requires them to synthesize the information from the conference and the newsletters.
At a Glance
- Grade Level: 9-12
- Subjects: United States History, Government, Contemporary World Issues
- Topics: Human Rights, Civil Rights, Universal Suffrage
- Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Investigation, Synthesis, Evaluation
- Key Learnings: Historical Analysis, Political Responsibility
- Time Needed: 13 class periods over 5 weeks
Things You Need
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Common Core Alignment
This unit is aligned to Common Core State Standards for Social Studies.
- Literacy in History/Social Studies RH.9-10, RH.11-12
- Essential Question
Whose responsibility is it to create the conditions that promote equal rights for all?
- Unit Questions
Why does the definition of human rights vary among different cultures and countries?
What are ways in which individuals influence public policy on human rights issues?
- Content Questions
What issues have historically been significant in the human rights movement, in your country and around the globe?
What significant events have occurred in struggles for equality, in your country and around the world?
Who are some people who have participated in human rights movements, and what were their contributions?
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the Equality: Are Some More Equal Than Others? Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.
Days 1-3: Human Rights Timeline
Show the introductory multimedia presentation and conduct a short discussion on what students know about human rights in their country and around the world as well as the Unit Question, Why does the definition of human rights vary among different cultures and countries?
Choose a human rights topic that is relevant to your students to examine as an introduction to the topic (such as civil rights, religious freedom, rights of children, and so forth).
Present video and/or Web materials related to human rights topic selected (such as the PBS video on women's rights, Not for Ourselves Alone).
Using the timeline resources handout, select a resource related to the area of human rights you have chosen for your class to investigate, and divide the timeline into sections. Assign one section to each group of three to six students. Distribute the human rights timeline assignment sheet and the timeline rubric to all students. Discuss guidelines for the activity and answer any questions. Direct each group to use the Web site timeline on the topic you chose for the class to create, and identify information to be investigated further. The timeline should be completed by the end of the second day. Show the women's rights timeline as an example of how one section of a timeline would look. (This activity is intended to be exploratory and may not need to be evaluated, although a rubric is provided.) After students complete their sections of the timeline, ask them to create questions as described on the timeline assignment sheet.
Collect questions written by the groups about their timelines at the end of the second day and shuffle them into sets to be answered by groups on Day 3.
Give students time to look over all the timelines, and then give each group a set of five questions to answer on chart paper. A spokesperson for the group should share the group's responses with the class.
After the group presentations, conduct a whole-class discussion on the following questions:
- What motivated the people who played a role in the struggle for rights on the topic they investigated?
- How is this struggle relevant, here and today?
- Who is responsible for ensuring that all people have equal rights?
- In what ways can individuals influence public policy on human rights issues?
Days 4-8: International Conference
Distribute the international conference assignment sheet, and assign the International Conference presentations in which groups of students select an area of human rights (such as children's rights, political imprisonment, employment, or violence against women) and investigate the issue around the globe. Ask students to examine the timelines and look at some of the recommended Web sites to choose a topic to investigate. Give students three to four days to work on their presentations, monitoring their progress using the international conference job aid and conference presentation rubric.
Ask students to take notes during the presentations, especially as they relate them to the Essential Question, Whose responsibility is it to create the conditions that promote equal rights for all? Students will be able to use these notes in the final written exam.
Days 9-12: Publication
Assign a newsletter in which groups of students select one country, investigate several historical or current human rights issues, and write articles about the issues. Monitor progress using the newsletter job aid and newsletter rubric. See the example on women's rights in India.
Give students a copy of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights*. In a class discussion, have students come up with the 10 most important rights listed in the document. The rights should not be listed in any kind of order.
Using the Visual Ranking Tool, place students in groups and ask them to rank the rights from different perspectives and then compare their rankings using the following questions:
- How would they as a group rank the rights?
- How do they think one of the countries researched by the class would rank them?
- How might different groups struggling to achieve equality rank them?
After the ranking activity, ask students to discuss the following questions in small or large groups:
- What rights might have been more important in the past than now?
- What rights might have been less important in the past than now?
- What new rights might surface in the future?
- What can or should ordinary people do to help others achieve equality in human rights?
Be sure to review comments written by the students while using the tool in order to assess understanding and higher-order thinking.
Distribute the final exam assignment sheet the day before the exam and encourage students to collect any information they think they can use to bring with them.
On the final day of the unit, ask students to write a unit essay exam in response to the following prompt:
- What conditions create equal rights for all citizens, and who is responsible for creating those conditions?
Ask students to use specific information from their own research, the International Conference presentations, and the newsletters to support their conclusions. Students can use the final exam rubric to guide their work.
- Basic word processing and research skills
- Use of publishing, spreadsheet, and multimedia presentation software
- Group the class into small, heterogeneous groups to provide support for all students
- Provide choices that allow the student to participate equally in the project while using materials at their ability level that interest them
- Provide frequent checkpoints and job aids to help the student stay focused and on track
- Encourage the student to select more challenging texts to read, research topics in more depth, and apply higher-level thinking to the assigned tasks
English Language Learner
- Allow the student to conduct research in the student's native language, even to investigate the student's country of origin if desired
- Encourage the student to bring special knowledge of another culture into the classroom
- Form heterogeneous groups to allow the student to practice using English for a purpose in an informal environment
A teacher participating in the Intel® Teach Program developed this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.
Background: New Mexico, United States
High school students work in groups to build an understanding of the history of the struggle for human rights in the United States and around the world.