This lesson adapts the story template for stories about Native American land ownership. Students consider stories on a significant land ownership change with different biases and compare their readings, focusing also on how hospitality might be embodied in the process of listening to another’s story. It is not intended that you repeat this lesson with all provided topics, but that you select the topic most fitting for your setting or adapt the template to a topic of your own.
- Students will examine biases in a pair of current events stories about land ownership and Native American rights.
- Students will be able to explain how the telling of news stories can humanize or dehumanize another person.
- Students will assess news stories and their own reading process in light of a focus on hospitality.
Before tackling this lesson, take a look at the story template lesson for an overview of the process and its goals. This lesson adapts that process for stories about land rights and Native American ownership of land, offering an alternative topic. This lesson will probably make most sense if you have done at least some prior work with students on hospitality as a lens for thinking about differences and interaction around them, for instance by completing at least the first lesson from the Hospitality module. Prior lessons on the image of God are also relevant. This lesson works to apply a hospitality lens rather than spending time explaining what such a lens would look like.
Before you teach the lesson, be sure to read the articles carefully and note any biases. Consider also whether your students have enough preparation to talk about bias, or whether you need to work on that concept before introducing this activity. It is worth noticing that in this pair of articles biases are evident not just in terms of differences on the issue at stake, but in terms of the underlying set of worldview assumptions that frame how an argument is constructed. One article focuses on a series of past financial transactions and tries to arrive at a conclusion based solely on who paid for what and when, positioning the goods at stake as possessions involved in simple economic exchanges. The other adopts a stance rooted in values connected with conservation of both wildlife and tradition and tries to arrive at a conclusion based on what will preserve those goods. These articles are therefore a good example of a disagreement that is not just a disagreement about the right next step or what the facts are, but a disagreement about what kind of conversation we should even be having. As you teach the lesson, focus on helping students to see this, and helping them to think about how a hospitable stance toward others might help us listen well to what they value (even if we end up disagreeing). Remind students at relevant junctures that the goal here is not to decide which article is right, but to think about how public discussions across fundamental differences could play out, and how we approach the stories of others. In this way we can connect previous lessons on hospitality and on the image of God with skills for interpreting news stories.
Preparing the Activities
For this lesson you will need:
- Access for students to the following pair of stories or similar sources:
- The provided presentation slides.
- The homework handout Reading Reflections
- The concept of bias plays a role in this lesson. Your students will only need a basic understanding of bias in order to participate. There will be opportunity to offer your students a definition of bias during the “Reflect” section, but you might also consider preparing your students before using this activity if this is not a topic that has been covered.
- This activity requires work in an even number of groups of 2 to 3 students—it will save instructional time if you prepare a suitable classroom layout before the beginning of class.
Teaching the Activities
Introduction (5 minutes)
At the beginning of the sequence, take a few minutes to activate prior knowledge about the topic(s) involved in the story that students will study. You could use a KWL chart (Know, Want-to-know, and Learned) as a graphic organizer (see this example for a model) or other graphic organizer.
Display the image on slide 1. Ask students to make predictions about what issues might come up in the story that they are about to review. Ask them to notice what the map tells them about possible points of conflict between different groups.
First phase: Read (15 minutes)
Divide the class into an even number of groups of 2 to 3 students and mentally assign half the groups as Group A and the other half as Group B. For example, divide a class of 24 students into 8 groups, four of them designated as Group A and four as Group B. Do not indicate yet to the students’ which groups are A or B. Bear in mind that the next step will involve combining groups—consider what layout will help this to happen with minimum disruption.
Access the following pair of articles:
Story A: (this article focuses on public investment in the disputed land and argues for continued public ownership) (small payment required)
Story B: (this article focuses on the conservation gains related to returning the disputed land to Native American ownership)
Give the Group As one story and Group Bs the other and have them do the following in their small groups (you can display the questions using the provided presentation slides.):
- Describe who the story is about (i.e. persons or groups involved). Summarize what the story is about in 3 to 4 sentences.
- Identify when the story took place. What other local, national, or world events were taking place at that time that may be relevant?
- Identify where the story is focused (i.e. neighborhood, city, state/province, country, etc.).
- Describe why the story is significant and important to know.
The goal of this stage is for students to familiarize themselves with the story and think their way into its implicit perspective.
Second phase: Combine (20 minutes)
Next, combine the groups so that each Group A combines with a Group B. There should be about 4-6 people in each group now with roughly half of the students from a Group A and half from a Group B. Do not announce yet that different types of groups are combining; wait for students to discover this.
In their new groups, have them debrief the following for about 5 minutes—this could be done orally or in the form of a written summary in response to the questions, which again are in the provided presentation slides:
- What did you gain from working with this story?
- What perspectives can you identify in the way the story was told? Which people’s perspectives were foregrounded or neglected or doubted?
- Did anyone within the group question the version of the story that was given, or did they accept its perspective? Why?
- Share a detail with a quotation from the story that you found particularly interesting or telling.
At the latest by the time they get to the last question, students should have realized that they did not have exactly the same version of the story. There is an opportunity now to reflect not only on the differences in the versions (bias) but also on the listening process.
Do a quick check-in with the students, explicitly telling them about the two versions of the story and briefly explaining why they were given different versions. Ask them to identify which version comes across as more negative toward Native American land rights and which one is more supportive. Ask them if they noticed any choices of wording that convey a political perspective (e.g., the first article talking about giving land away to a “sovereign nation,” perhaps implying that Native Americans are not part of the United States, or the second article focusing on “legacy” and “conservation” suggesting that something is being protected rather than given away). Draw students’ attention explicitly to the theme of hospitality: if we want to embody hospitality, how will we listen to the perspectives of others, even if we disagree with them? Does either of the articles model this?
It is important to make sure students know that the purpose here is not to pick sides or decide that one of the story versions is the true one, but to think about how stories get told differently and how our biases can affect how we listen to others.
Then have students continue their debrief with the following questions for another 15 minutes:
- What similarities/differences can you identify between the two versions of the story?
- Who were the storytellers?
- If you had to identify the protagonist of your story, who would it be? Is there an antagonist?
- What basic conflict did each story point out? (Person vs person, person vs nature, person vs society, rich vs poor, etc.)
- What solutions, if any, does your version of the story offer?
- How easy is it for you to integrate a conflicting account and let go of the one you had been building based on the initial reading?
- What had you become too attached to from your version of the story?
- What prior knowledge or beliefs factored into your understanding of the story you were given? Did it confirm or challenge any of your own biases?
The latter three questions can also be assigned as an individual reflection if time is an issue.
Third phase: Reflect (15 minutes)
The idea here is to establish consistency across the stories and help students reflect on the process they just went through. Appeal is made here to concepts of hospitality established in other lessons. You may wish to review them briefly to help students make the connection.
Ask the combined groups to return to both versions of the story and discuss the following questions (provided in the presentation slides.):
- Look closely at how the people implicated in the story (individuals or groups) were represented in each version. Which people or groups were made to seem most human? Which were made to seem most vulnerable? Which people did the story most help you connect with? How did it do this? How representative might these people be of a wider group?
- Should any of the ways in which people are talked about in the story be changed if we wanted to treat them with hospitality? (E.g., is anyone reduced to a stereotype or a statistic? Do the images present any group as threatening or heartless? Is anyone’s story told without their own voice being heard?) Are there any laws or policies in the story that seem to dehumanize some more than others?
- Think about the issue in the story through the lens of hospitality. Who in each version of the story seems to get to play the role of host (having ownership of the space to which others must adapt) and who seems to be in the role of guest (more vulnerable and needing welcome)? Does each version of the story itself show a willingness to listen and consider other viewpoints?
- Think about the way we just approached these stories in class. How might the way that we read and the questions we asked be related to being hospitable and learning to welcome others well? How is bias connected to hospitality? Did we listen well to other perspectives?
- Can you think of a time when you have promoted a perspective in a way that ignored others’ concerns? How does this relate to a Christian stance of hospitality towards others?
Debrief with the class in the last 5 minutes, asking them to share the main things they have learned.
Ask students to produce a reflection on the process of reading news in this format using the following prompts (provided as a PDF:
- What felt different or strange? Why?
- What realizations did you have?
- Did you learn something from another person in your group?
- What questions do you still have about this story?
- Could you retell this story more fairly now?
- How can the way you tell a story honor or dishonor another person?
- What does any of this have to do with being Christian?
Consider using a variety of media to help students express themselves—students could write a journal reflection or make a short video or interview one another in podcast format. You could process their ideas further in the next class through discussion in small groups or a Spiderweb discussion. Maintain student awareness that we should be practicing hospitality to one another in any discussion. We suggest a final silent, written reflection on what students have learned.
This lesson adapts the story template for stories on immigration. Students consider stories on immigration with different biases and compare their readings, focusing on a stance of hospitality.