Around the picture 1
Show the class this picture http://goo.gl/PUQsz4 and ask students to write down and discuss their ideas around the picture. This is a wall in Gaza, with a painting, a graffito by the British street artist Banksy. The boy climbing is part of the graffito. Why is he climbing? What is written on the wall? What is meant by the ‘conflict between the powerful’ and the powerless’? What does ‘wash our hands’ mean? What else do you see on the wall, on the ground? Is there anything written in another language? The picture can be projected again after watching the link and at the end of the class, and students can add more ideas.
Problems in everyday life
Sarah says she “scared” all the time. What are you scared of in your daily life? Do you often have problems, no electricity for many hours? Do you like to travel, go to some place far from home? Where have you been? How would your life be if you couldn’t travel, if you couldn’t leave your city, surrounded by a fence with soldiers? What do you think?
Dreams for the future
Sarah is 11 years old and she has a dream about her future. What dreams do you have about your future – what do you want to be?
Gaza under siege
Ask students what they know from the media, the Internet about a place called Gaza. Where it is it? In July and August 2014, there was a 50-day war there, and more than 500 children were killed. What do learners in the class know about that bloodshed? Did they see anything on the TV News?
Around the picture 2
Show the class this picture from Gaza last summer, near where Sarah lives. Ask students to discuss their ideas around the picture. What has happened?
Play the whole video. Then play it again. This time, stop the clip at 0:17 when Sarah says “we’re scared”. Ask learners: what are these children scared of? Start the video again. At 0:22 Sarah says: “we, the children of Gaza, are deeply scarred”. What does she mean? What is a scar? ‘
Start the video again: at 0:38 Sarah says: “For example when it’s dark and I want to drink some water, even with a torch I’m frightened.” “Torch” is a common British word, but North Americans use another: “flashlight”. Do your pupils know what “torch” means in American English? Ask them to find out. Sarah, speaking in Arabic, uses another more formal word for “scared” here – what is it in English? Start the clip again: at 0:58 she says that her aunts are “afraid they’d get stuck here, unable to go back to their families”. Stop the clip: ask the students what “get stuck” can mean? Have they ever “got stuck” somewhere, and why? Why could her aunts “get stuck” in Gaza? Another synonym for “scared” is used here: what is it?
Start the clip again: at 1:28 Sarah says she’s afraid UNRWA will close their schools. Stop the clip and ask students: what is the UN? RWA stands for Relief Welfare Agency. UNRWA runs many schools in Gaza, because Gaza in always in crisis and has little money for education, and a great many young children and teenagers. What language is Sarah speaking? What do students know about this language and where it is spoken? Is it important in any religion?
Break up the class into groups of four and ask them to decide (two minutes to confer) what are Sarah’s three biggest problems. Then ask the groups to report to the class.
In a class discussion, ask students some of the following questions:
- Why did Sarah become depressed growing up?
- She says she “wakes up and goes to sleep under the sound of drones”. What are drones? Have you ever seen one on TV? Why are there drones overhead in Sarah’s everyday life?
- What does Sarah say about the borders?
- Why is she worried about her school?
On August 24th, 2015, all UNRWA schools in Gaza were under a teachers’ strike. Students can read this article describing why the teachers went on strike: http://goo.gl/1FmctU and progress toward a solution: http://goo.gl/PiO7YX . Have your students ever experienced a strike by their teachers? Have you as a teacher ever been on strike, or discussed a strike action with colleagues?
She says she wants to “realise her dream” – what is that dream? See also writing assignment suggestion 3. below.
In a group discussion, ask students to think about what they would do if they lived with some of Sarah’s everyday problems?
Does Sarah ever mention who or what is causing these problems for her and her family? Play the video again and ask students to note if Sarah ever mentions, even in a single word, who is the ‘oppressor’.
Writing assignment (homework)
1. Ask students to write a short poem, pretending they are Sarah. The poem can be about Sarah’s fears, her dreams, anything the students want to write. This is a kind of ‘interior monologuing’, trying to imagine something inside the mind of another. On promoting social imagination through interior monologues, see http://goo.gl/aUC2H7
2. Ask students to write a letter to a pen pal Susan (or some other name) who lives in the United States (or some other country, even the students’ own). Sarah can tell Susan something about her life, and explain why she can’t visit Susan, and why Susan can’t visit her. Or she can talk about other things she doesn’t mention in the video. Students can use their imagination. This too is a genre of ‘interior monologuing’.
3. Show students again the Banksy graffito (http://goo.gl/PUQsz4 ). If intermediate-level learners or above, ask them to write their ideas about what is written on this wall in Gaza. In their own experience, do they ever feel powerless? At school? At home? Do they have a friend or relative who feels they are poor, with no privileges, that the System is against them? Ask students: are there people in their city who feel that way, and why, as part of their essay? This can also be a discussion topic in class as well. The Banksy images are from a series he painted secretly one night in 2014, you can see them all here: http://www.streetartnews.net/2015/02/banksy-unveils-new-series-of-pieces-in.html
4. Ask students to visit the site Palestine REMIX http://goo.gl/rQJwVj and browse there, finding something that interests them, such as a video. They should then write a brief piece about what they found and why it interested them, what they learned.
5. Along similar lines, useful browsing can center on the Jadaliyya site, Palestine Media Roundup, a regular feature, here a sample for one week in September 2015: http://goo.gl/4v1D41. Also useful is the Palestine Education Project (https://goo.gl/VahGct). PEP states: “We believe that understanding common struggles against racism, militarism and displacement, and exploring how struggles are connected, can be a powerful means of challenging the systems of oppression that adversely affect all of us.” Again, students can write a brief piece about what they found and why it interested them, what they learned.
6. Intermediate-level students and above can visit the feature titled “Gaza: A life under Occupation”, from which Sarah’s brief video is taken: http://goo.gl/nSkKVt . There are other videos there on the history of Gaza and how it became what it is. Students can browse, find something of interest, and write about what they found and what they learned about the history of the conflict.
Alternatively, they can watch “Israel and Palestine: An animated introduction” (http://goo.gl/bslXKv), and write about some of the main points that they have learned there. This is a good animated introduction to the broader context of the creation of Israel, from the organization Jewish Voice for Peace (http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/ ).
7. As a personal writing assignment, ask students to think about what they would do if they lived with some of Sarah’s everyday problems, like constant outage of electricity, or dangerous drones overhead, or the inability to travel, or the danger of a new war from the air? How would they feel? They could use a form of ‘interior monologuing’ and write a poem or letter as if they were Sarah, talking about her feelings and fears (see http://goo.gl/aUC2H7 ), assuming her ‘role’ in everyday life and its pressures. Regarding drones and their increasing use, even by the police in the U.S., students can browse the site www.knowdrones.com and write a bit about what they find.
8. A Palestinian journalist recently remarked: ”The real victims of the war are the survivors.” Sarah is one of them. Ask intermediate students to read this brief article on Gaza one year later: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/08/later-still-crisis What are the main points in the article, written by an American professor of Global Cultural Studies at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Robert Ross.
In Sept. 2015, Egypt began flooding Gaza’s tunnels south of Rafah, to the horror of Rafah’s harried residents, Marga Ortigas interviews 73-year-old Mansura Abu Sha’ar about the nightmares she is facing, watch the video with Marga’s article (http://goo.gl/hmZk4n). Several students could prepare a list of questions about what Mansura feels. If she were their grandmother, how would they feel?
9. Of special interest is the poetry of Hossam Al-Madhoun, founder of Gaza’s Theater for Everybody (http://goo.gl/VYhSP7) and active in drama therapy programs for traumatized children and youth. His poems are excellent material for developing into focused teaching units, and can be the focus of a student essay or group discussion.
Teachers can read the article “Gaza in the Critical EFL Classroom: Opening Eyes, Hearts and Minds,” GISIG Newsletter, summer 2015, pp. 25-32, and then prepare another lesson on Gaza based on materials suggested in the article. The references to the article are available open-access on the GISIG website: http://gisig.iatefl.org/newsletter-highlights/gaza-in-the-critical-efl-classroom-opening-eyes-hearts-and-minds This article can also be used in teacher in-service training looking at Global Issues within what we can call a ‘critical CLIL’ oriented to a ‘pedagogy of social empathy.’
Bill Templer is a Chicago-born educator with research interests in English as a lingua franca, critical pedagogy, socialist/Marxist transformative policy for education, and Extensive Reading methodologies. He has taught in the U.S., Ireland, Germany, Israel/Palestine, Austria, Bulgaria, Iran, Nepal, Thailand, Laos and Malaysia.