Celebrate the Life of Nelson Mandela, Honor His Memory

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SWBAT develop an understanding of the events that shaped the life of Nelson Mandela and identify his continuing legacy.

Big Idea

The world mourns the passing of an important leader.


15 minutes

The previous evening the news of the passing of South Africa’s former leader, Nelson Mandela, was broadcast.  He fought long and endured much to bring equality to an oppressed people. His message was carried far beyond the borders of his country and influenced events around the world. 

Class starts with a discussion of what students already know about this important person and we create a list on the board. The students make comparisons between Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. in their fight for equality, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that they do not know many facts about his life or completely understand why someone from so far away is making the news in such a big way.

The Life of Nelson Mandela

30 minutes

The New York Times Learning Network website is a rich resource for materials and lessons related to news items of all types. On their site, I find a 12- minute video titled “The Life of Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013” found here. And an article titled “6 Q’s About the News: Farewell, Nelson Mandela” found here.

The article actually has fourteen questions, the last of which I note is perfect for a class discussion. In addition the pdf includes some higher-order thinking skills questions. Previewing the video, I notice that the interviews move along quickly and the responses to the questions can be easily missed. So I write the numbers 1-13 on notecards to be distributed to one to a student and also give each student a copy of the questions, which we number together. This way each student is responsible for listening for one question in particular but also jots down answers to the others either as they hear it or during the class discussion that follows the viewing. This strategy is easily adaptable to other topics and videos.

Wrap Up

15 minutes

Class ends with a discussion of the fourteenth question: “According to Bill Keller, for what will he be remembered most?” The students’ knowledge of the life of Nelson Mandela is now quite a bit more extensive then when class began and they readily identify aspects of Mandela's legacy, as seen here.

Thoughts on extending the lesson can be viewed here: