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Home / Lesson Plans / He Named Me Malala – Curriculum Guide

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He Named Me Malala - Curriculum Guide

About this Package

The Film — He Named Me Malala

When 11-year-old blogger Malala Yousafzai began detailing her experiences in the Swat Valley of Pakistan for the BBC, she had no idea what momentous changes were coming in her life. Her father, Ziauddin, a school founder and dedicated teacher, was outspoken in his belief that girls, including his beloved daughter, had a right to an education. As they continued to speak out against restrictions imposed by extremists, Ziauddin received constant death threats, so many that he began to sleep in different places. But it was Malala who was almost killed, shot in the head by a gunman on her way home from school. Her survival and recovery have been little short of miraculous.

Instead of being cowed by this horrific attack, Malala began to use the international attention she attracted to advocate for the cause of girls' education worldwide. Through her speeches, her autobiography I Am Malala, the work of her fund, and her travels to places where girls' education is in crisis, she has continued to focus on the effort to give all girls safe schools, qualified teachers, and the materials they need to learn.

The film He Named Me Malala both celebrates her dedication to this cause and gives the viewer insight into her motivation. It begins with an animated portrayal of the teenage folk hero for whom Malala was named, Malalai of Maiwand, whose fearlessness and love of country turned the tide of battle for Afghan fighters. From those opening scenes, live action and animation tell the story of Malala's life before and after the attack. We see her at various times of her life: severely wounded in the hospital, teasing her brothers in her new home in England, giving a speech to the United Nations, teaching a class in Kenya, and more. Her efforts are ongoing and they are realized through her organization, the Malala Fund, which “empowers girls through quality secondary education to achieve their potential and inspire positive change in their communities.”

More about the Malala Fund can be found at www.malala.org

The Curriculum Guide — Available for Free

He Named Me Malala is an excellent film to share with classes in English language arts, world history, and other social studies classes. Lessons included in this guide are meant to be used both before and after showing the film, to give students context, to interpret the film, and to examine the issues that Malala Yousafzai cares so passionately about. (Please note that all lessons have been planned to align with Common Core standards.) Most of the heroes in your students' world probably come from the entertainment and sports worlds; here is an opportunity for them to learn about a hero of a different kind, a teenager who fought at the risk of her own life for the right to an education.

As you plan your unit, be sure to emphasize that this is not only a film or subject for girls. Research shows that girls are far more likely to sympathize with a male protagonist (think Harry Potter!) than boys are with a female protagonist. It is important to help the boys in your class, some of whom may also be struggling to continue their education, to understand that fostering girls' education and protecting girls from violence should be, for many reasons, a primary male concern as well. Please note that handouts for each lesson are available as interactive PDFs on our website, so that if you prefer, students can answer questions interactively on their tablets or computers.

The learning goals inherent in this curriculum guide go beyond merely understanding the documentary film and even beyond learning about the extraordinary life and goals of Malala Yousafzai. This guide can be a tool for learning about everyone's right to a quality education and about developing a dedication to ensuring human rights around the globe.

Lesson 1 This lesson provides an introduction to Pakistan, a country rarely studied in U.S. classrooms and thus probably unfamiliar to your students. The lesson explores the recent history of this large country of more than 199 million people in order to set the stage for the film.

Lessons 2, 3, and 4 examine various stages of Malala's life: the formative years and particularly the father who shaped Malala's love for education and provided a role model for speaking out in its defense; the reasons she was attacked by extremists; and her move to the international stage, where she balances her own education with her outreach efforts to help girls everywhere to stay in school.

Lesson 5 and 6

These lessons call for research online and presentation of research. Lesson 5 is concerned mainly with girls' education and would be appropriate for younger or less mature students. Lesson 6 deals with broader (and grimmer) issues of violence against women and would be the appropriate lesson to use with older and more mature students.

Lesson 7 is an English lesson that would be appropriate for a writing class, particularly Advanced Placement English language and composition, and a speech class. It analyzes the rhetorical techniques of Malala's remarkable speech on the occasion of accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lessons 8 and 9 use the film as a springboard for an examination of larger international issues. The first is an examination of the positions of the United Nations on the rights of women and children. The second explores the connections among education (or lack of education), health, and economic development in poorer countries.

Finally, Lesson 10, a lesson in visual literacy, explores the issue of bias in documentary filmmaking and viewing and looks at some of the filmmaker's techniques.

The DVD can be rented or purchased on Amazon.com or on Itunes.

Lesson Plans

  • Powerpoint Introduction to Teaching the He Named Me Malala curriculum.
  • Lesson 1: Introducing Pakistan
    (Social Studies, Geography, World History)
  • Lesson 2: The Story of Malala: Growing Up
    (English Language Arts, Social Studies)
  • Lesson 3: The Story of Malala: The Attack by the Taliban
    (English Language Arts, Social Studies)
  • Lesson 4: The Story of Malala: A New Life of Global Advocacy
    (English Language Arts, Social Studies)
  • Lesson 5: Working for Change
    (Social Studies/Community Service)
  • Lesson 6: Global Violence Against Women and Girls
    (Social Studies/Sociology)
  • Lesson 7: ‘Let this end with us’: Malala's Nobel Peace Prize Address
    (English Language Arts, Social Studies, Speech/Communication)

  • Lesson 8: The United Nations and the Rights of Women and Children
    (Social Studies)
  • Lesson 9: Women's Education, Health, and Economic Development
    (Social Studies/Health/Economics)
  • Lesson 10: Telling a Story Through Film
    (Film Literacy)
  • Interactive Handouts for all Lesson Plans

Click here to view a one hour webinar on "Teaching with Malala" conducted by Facing History and Ourselves.

Click here to read our "Global Connections Newsletter" (1) for He Named Me Malala"

Click here to read our "Global Connections Newsletter" (2) for He Named Me Malala

Click here to read our "Global Connections Newsletter" (discussion-worthy quotes) for He Named Me Malala

Authors: Jack Burton, Ryan Cunningham, Marybeth Duckett Ireland, Anne Engles Kathryn Fitzgerald, Mary Anne Kovacs, Marty Kushner, Eileen Mattingly, Matt McCormick


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