I Am Malala Empowering Middle School Students to Explore Courage and Activism Through Project-Based Lessons
By Laura Jaeger
“Let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution."
—Malala Yousafzai, United Nations address, July 12, 2013
Stand with Malala for Girls' Education Worldwide
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

In this unit, middle school students will explore the importance of educating girls and examine the barriers that keep girls out of school—all the while learning to become advocates for education.
The unit uses the story of gender rights activist Malala Yousafzai. On October 9, 2012, Malala was riding the school bus home when Taliban militiamen shot her. Malala was already a well-known advocate for girls' education in Pakistan, which has one of the world's lowest rates of school enrollment for girls. Malala survived the cold-blooded attack and has continued to advocate heroically for her fellow countrywomen and girls around the world.
Videos and Other Teacher Resources
To Be Incorporated in Unit
As an introduction, preview the Girl Rising trailer (2.5 minutes), The Simple Case For Investing in Girls (3 minutes) or Malala's speech on July 12, 2013, at the United Nations (18 minutes). You can find the written text for Malala's speech here.
The PowerPoint presentation and accompanying worksheet introduce students to facts about Malala Yousafzai, the situation in Pakistan and the promotion of girls' education worldwide. The PowerPoint concludes by linking to Malala's speech at the United Nations.

This short CNN video news report (3 minutes) introduces an animated cartoon super-hero who fights for girls' education; the entire animated cartoon (Episode 1, 22 minutes, with English subtitles) can be found here.
The world reacted with shock upon hearing the news of 300 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria by terrorists seeking to punish them for daring to strive for an education. Malala speaks (2 minutes) about the tragedy that has befallen her "Nigerian sisters." Listen to the story (2 minutes) of one of the girls who managed to escape the terrorists. Watch Michelle Obama's address to the nation (5 minutes) in support of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls and their determination to receive an education; and in that same video, hear the First Lady's praise for Malala's leadership in the cause for worldwide girls' education.
By reading I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition) written by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick out loud during class time, students will explore how they can impact the world in positive ways. Various activities, including writing prompts, reader response and discussions throughout this unit will help students explore the importance of educating girls and examine the barriers that keep girls out of school—all the while learning to become advocates for education. This unit allows opportunity to lead students to take action through a global perspective.
Encourage critical thinking skills of students to use what they have learned to make a difference. Suggestions for student involvement include joining an online petition already signed by 4 million people worldwide, like or follow the Malala Fund on Facebook to post messages or videos of support, or organizing a topical film festival in your school that may include a screening of Girl Rising and other videos.
Students should also be encouraged to develop their own ideas for taking action. At home, students can play UNESCO's Mind the Gap game, where they will learn about education globally and in the United States.
Comprehension and Collaboration:
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
Follow rules for collegial discussions, set specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.
Review the key ideas expressed and demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing.
Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
Materials or Resources Needed
I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition)
by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick.
  • Entire class needs a copy of the book
  • Computer with internet access
  • Overhead projection capability
  • Journals
  • Pens/Paper
Overview of Activities and Procedures – Daily warm up activities will be introduced, prior to the teacher reading I Am Malala out loud to the students. Students should all have a copy of the book so they may follow along during reading. It is imperative that teachers ask questions during the reading to assess comprehension and develop critical thinking. Everyday the teacher should ask students to recap what is happening in the book, prior to reading. Activities can include learning more about Pakistan, small group activities to discuss and present topics of interest as well as reader response journal activities. The activities are to spark curiosity about the student’s interest with respect to learning more.

Sample Routine for Lesson Plan Format
Watch this ABC News video (3 minutes) to learn more about Malala and her incredible journey.
1. WARM UP -- Stand Up for Education (5 minutes)

Students will brainstorm about how they benefit from a high-quality education. Instruct students to stand up if they think all individuals should have access to a quality education (they should all stand). The boys will then sit down, and the girls will remain standing.
Now ask the girls to count off, 1, 2, 3. Ask only the number 1s to sit down and the number 2s and number 3s remain standing. Reveal that the girls who sat down represent the fact that only one-third of girls in Pakistan have access to primary school education. The two-thirds who remain standing represent those unable to attend school.
2. READING – Chapters 1-2 Take time to initiate questions to make sure students comprehend the reading.
3. ACTIVITY – Pakistan Fast Facts
Ask students what they know about Pakistan? Introduce map of Pakistan and discuss neighbors, population, and religion.
4. ACTIVITYhttp://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/peace-prize-winner-malala-thanks-dad-not-clipping-her-wings-n222746
5. Journal Writing – As Free as a Bird
The first chapter of the book is called As Free as a Bird. Write about a time when you felt “as free as a bird” or what you would do if you were “as free as a bird.” What does this mean to you? How does being “free as a bird” make you feel? Is being “as free as a bird” something you enjoy, appreciate or expect?
Day 2
1. WARM UP - Watch You Tube **http://www.girleffect.org/why-girls/ - &panel1-1**
Discuss why the video shows that having an education is important.
2. READING – Chapters 3-5 Take time to initiate questions to make sure students comprehend the reading.
3. ACTIVITY - Education in Pakistan
4. ACTIVITY – Journal Writing
At the end of Chapter 5, Malala explains how she “burst into tears” when she came in second. Her father explains, “It’s a good thing to come in second…because you learn that if you can win, you can lose. And you should learn to be a good loser, not just a good winner.” What does Malala’s father mean when describes a “good loser.” What is the difference between a good loser and a bad loser? Do you know any good losers? Do you know any bad losers? What traits do bad losers portray?
Day 3
1. WARM UP -
2. READING – Chapters 6-7 Take time to initiate questions to make sure students comprehend the reading.
3. ACTIVITY – Discuss Education in Pakistan
How does education in Pakistan differ from the United States?
4. ACTIVITY – Journal Writing
Malala has a passion for education. Do you have this passion? Why or why not? How can this passion be developed in others and ourselves? What are you passionate about?
This lesson will succeed with a variety of learning levels and styles. Students will listen to fluent reading. Books on tape maybe an option for students who miss class time. Additionally, shorter articles about Malala, easier books about Malala or the adult version maybe more appropriate to accommodate different reading levels. Since lessons will incorporate group discussion, participation and the Internet, accommodations maybe on an individual basis through choice. The final project is also based on choice so flexibility is provided with respects to special needs.
Watch aft.org for upcoming events relating to universal access to education, and keep informed at www.facebook.com/AFTunion and www.twitter.com/AFTunion.

Assessment will be taking place daily during instruction through questions and conversations. Additionally, through journal writing assessment of understanding can be made. Emphasize through journal writing that there is no right or wrong answer. Journal entries are to help students realize their own voice and begin to think critically about education and it’s importance in society.

Final Project Assessment
The final project encourages students to use their critical thinking skills and journal entries to create a final project of their choice at the end of the unit.

The final project demonstrates how Malala’s story inspires middle school students. Additionally the final project encourages students to use their own voice and to promote an action based on Malala’s story (use the extension links above as a reference). Examples of final projects include the following:
  • Write a letter to a friend introducing Malala. They should let their friend know about Malala’s book and explain what they learned from reading the book.
  • Writing of any format (news article, paper, poetry, memoir, etc.)
  • Power point presentation
  • Movie
  • Poster/Art project
  • Additional projects based on discussion/approval of teacher
Final assessment is based on students’ growth and critical thinking skills assessed throughout the unit.
Contact: laura.c.jaeger@wmich.edu