A lesson plan based on the article about fighting in the March-April 2004 issue of L.A. Youth.

By Libby Hartigan, Managing Editor

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language arts
Suggested time allowance: 45 min.-1 hr.

Overview of lesson plan: Students will discuss student violence, why it happens and what should be done about it.

Students will develop critical thinking skills while exploring non-violent options.

Resources and materials:
— pens, paper
— copies of L.A. Youth March-April 2004 issue (one per student)
— blackboard or whiteboard

Ever since the 1999 shootings by two students at Columbine High School, bullying and school fights have become a topic of national importance. More people have recognized how hurt and helpless many students feel when they are bullied.

Recently L.A. Youth got an e-mail from a frantic teenager who had been threatened by a classmate. He wanted to know how to handle it. The teen staff had many ideas:

“Run away, or you’ll get suspended.”
“Talk it out, fighting never solves anything.”
“Stand up and fight, then he’ll stop harassing you.”

Most of the youth, especially those in large public schools, felt that it would be a waste of time to ask for help from a teacher, counselor or parent. In gathering responses from students at Dominguez High, University High and Virgil Middle School, we found a range of student opinions. Some would fight, others would never use physical violence, and several had resolved conflicts by discussion and negotiation.

Reading. Have the students read the article and short statements on pages 10-12. Ask them to think about the way these students handled the problem of fighting.

Discussion. How do your students feel they would handle it if they were threatened? How have they handled such threats in the past?
Many great leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., committed themselves to non-violence. Dr. King wrote, “Only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead us toward a community where men can live together without fear.” Do your students feel that observation applies to their own lives? What alternatives to violence do they have, if any? Do your students feel that fighting is sometimes positive or unavoidable?

Examples of alternatives suggested by students at L.A. Youth:
–Walk away.
–Talk it out.
–Tell a teacher or counselor.
–Ignore the threats.

Writing. Ask the students to write a short essay about fighting. They can choose from several prompts:
–Describe what happened when I was threatened by someone.
–Do boys and girls handle threats differently? Why or why not?
–What is the best way for school officials to respond when there’s a fight?

At the teacher’s discretion, students can be allowed to finish the essay at home and bring it back the next day.

Extension activity:
Some students are confused that though they have been taught to avoid violence, the U.S. government uses violence to enforce its policies, as has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, to name a few. Do students see a relationship between their personal actions and U.S. public policy, or are these two separate matters? How would they resolve the apparent contradiction?