Poverty in America (5-8)

Overview

This 3-tiered lesson might be an interesting and engaging introduction to any exploration of the human experience as related to inequality, power/powerlessness, and/or identity. While the reading focuses upon poverty, this lesson opens the door for discussion and exploration of the different experiences of individuals based on class, race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. It aims to encourage empathy and perspective in students. 

Grade Range: 5-8
Pinboard: The Impacts of Poverty
Theme(s):

  • Primary: Human Experience 
  • Other: Overcoming Obstacles; Power/Powerlessness

Curricular Connections

  • ELA
  • Social Studies
  • Sociology
  • Economics

Primary Common Core Connection

  • ELA Reading Informational Text Standards .1-.2, .7
  • ELA Writing Standard .2, .6, .9
  • Reading History Standards .1 and .2
  • Writing in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects Standard .6

Tags

Inequality, Poverty, Power, Media, Ethics, Civil Rights, Identity, Empathy 

Guiding Question

Do we have a responsibility to help those in need?

Goal and Rationale

Citizens must be critical consumers and producers of information. As students engage with the texts and media they are exposed to on a daily basis, they must think critically and detect not only the superficial information, but also implicit purpose and potential biases as well.

Throughout these lessons, students must not only present claims, but also offer clear and relevant supporting evidence in both written and spoken communication.

This lesson is presented in 3-tiers, however the teacher has the option of implementing any or all of the tiers that work best with his/her goals, students, available time, and class structure.

Materials Needed

Provided by NEWSELA:

External Resources:

  • Summer Hunger
  • PBS’s Poor Kids
  • The Plight of Homeless Youth

Lesson Elements

Tier I

  1. As students enter the classroom, the teacher poses the following question – Do we have a responsibility to help those in need? – Students take approximately 5 minutes to reflect upon this question. They might journal their responses, pair-share with another student to discuss their initial thinking, or chart responses as a class.
  2. Students then read Feeding children in the summer is costly for some families. Each student reads the article at his/her individual accessibility level and uses the Newsela annotation feature to make notes in the margin.
     Tip: Infuse targeted and probing questions for students directly into the document!  
  3. Following the reading, the teacher facilitates a class wide exploration of the infographic – Summer Hunger
    NOTE: This element of the lesson is a collaborative activity so that the infographic is accessible to all levels of readers within your classroom.
  4. The teacher then engages the students in a Socratic Seminar or similarly structured discussion, centering on the prompt below. The students discuss their responses, continually providing text-based and infographic-based evidence and justification for their claims. They build upon the ideas of others, question, and challenge thinking throughout the discussion.
    Whose responsibility is it to provide food assistance to families with children in the summer months?

Tier II

  1. Students read Sleeping under a roof, but homeless nonetheless. Each student reads the article at his/her individual accessibility level and uses the Newsela annotation feature to take notes in the margin. 
  2. Following this, the teacher shows students an excerpt from PBS’s Poor Kids. The teacher may wish to view and entire video and select an appropriate excerpt for his/her students, or may opt to show the video from 19:00-25:20.
  3. After the reading and viewing the video excerpt, the teacher questions students to consider the experiences of the families and children in the reading and the film. Students share their thinking through reflective journaling, a pair-share, or a brief class discussion.
    Who are these families? Who is responsible for assisting them? Do we have an obligation to help them? Why or why not? 
  4. The teacher then facilitates a class wide exploration of the basic infographic – The Plight of Homeless Youth
    NOTE: This element of the lesson is a collaborative activity so that the infographic is accessible to all levels of readers within your classroom.
  5. Either in small groups of 2-3 or individually, the students consider how homelessness might impact children and, ultimately, the future of our society. All conversations and explorations should be heavily grounded in the materials used throughout the lesson. Students chart their thinking on large paper and then engage in a classwide debrief, centering around the following questions:
    Do we have a responsibility to help those in need? Why or why not? 

Tier III

  1. As a final task, students create a 3-5 minute “Before It’s Too Late” presentation where they express concerns over homelessness and the impact it may have on society. The content must reflect information found in the readings and media used throughout the lesson. Students will also propose “what if” solutions to spark thinking in their audience. The presentations might be completed using a simple PowerPoint or Prezi. Students might also consider creating a video by using Animoto, iMovie, etc.
  2. Students should be given the opportunity to share their presentations/videos with classmates.

Resources

  • Frontline. "Poor Kids." PBS. PBS, 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Aug. 2014. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poor-kids/>.
  • Murray, Patty. "Summer Hunger." Patty Murray, United States Senator. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2014. <http://www.murray.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/533f18b4-ebba-4851-85bc-fcb0590fa75b/stop-child-summer-hunger-act-infographic.pdf>.
  • Smart Horizons. "The Plight of Homeless Youth." The Plight of Homeless Youth. Smart Horizons, 12 Nov. 2011. Web. 12 Aug. 2014. <http://visual.ly/plight-homeless-youth>.
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