My Forbidden Face: Life Under the Taliban

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SWBAT read and understand and determine the author's purpose and tone in reading a first-hand account of life under the Taliban.

Big Idea

This is our first glimpse at dehumaniation in non-fiction. It's a powerful and controversial topic to examine.

What's Going on Here? Image elicitation.

10 minutes

Photo Elicitation.  The purpose of this graphic image of aggression under the Taliban rule (which appears as the lesson image) is to elicit student thinking.  It's a stark and terrible image that must be handled with a subtle approach, since it may be hard to realize that it's not an image from a movie that can be easily faked or photoshopped: these are real citizens treated inhumanely, with women being impacted most strongly under Taliban rule.

In this discussion, I am hoping that the students can draw on evidence from the image itself and from the research that some groups have been doing thus far (SL.9-10.1)


1.) What do you see here?  

2.) What emotions does this image elicit in you?

3.) What does the image suggest about the rule of the Taliban (1996-2001) in Afghanistan?  What do you think was worse, the Soviet invasion or the Taliban rule?  


My Forbidden Face: Reading a Memoir Excerpt

20 minutes

Why this text?

First-hand narratives of life under the Taliban are available through the Watson program at  These materials come in the form of a teacher's guide and student handbooks, one of which I selected for the students to read and to expand on their background knowledge that they have been gaining through their individual research projects.  These are copywritten materials that you will need to purchase, or get the original book.  

I think it's worth it, though, as the first-hand accounts of life under the Taliban are gripping and will allow students the practice of reading non-fiction that creatively gets to the heart of the issue, as memoir often does.  Also, as we are progressing in our PBL-style, inquiry research, I expect that the students will corroborate their reading of this text with their research in progress.

The piece I selected is called "My Forbidden Face," which is a book-length memoir of life under the Taliban.  I excerpted part of this text, and several versions are available online (study guide link). 

Reading in Pairs for Figurative Language and Author's Purpose

I opted to flex the students' ability to detect point of view and to read for language in the passage.  I selected the first standard because understanding an author’s point of view or purpose in a text is a central concern of both fiction and non-fiction interpretation (RI.9-10.6).  Further, I noted that the text itself has several strongly connotative words, so I added a treatment of the figurative language reading standard which asks students to focus on the cumulative impact of word choices on meaning and tone (RI.9-10.4).  

I asked the students to read the excerpt in pairs, but I purposefully indicated specific paragraphs for them to focus on the first standard and then one paragraph in specific for them to focus on the second standard, and then they were to respond to these study guide type questions:

1.) Who is the writer, and what does it seem is her relationship to the Taliban?

2.) How does life under the Taliban change for women, and what strongly connotative words does she use to describe these changes? 

3.) In what ways did the changes in laws enforced by the Taliban create a dehumanizing effect?  

Connotations of Words and Figurative Language--a yearlong project

What's striking about these questions is that they build so powerfully on our studies to date, as we have discussed both connotations of words and dehumanization in our previous unit on Fahrenheit 451, and now we turn to a real society that has gone wrong much like it did in the novel.  Now, though, the students have to hone the same reading skills in the context of reading a non-fiction memoir type piece (RI.9-10.4). 

Research Continues

10 minutes

The students have already selected two sources from the days of research previously (W.9-10.7), and now they are synthesizing that information into 3-4 slides that they can present to the class (W.9-10.8).  The presentations are set to go up tomorrow, so I will use a little class time to help students finalize their work on their 1:1 Chromebook laptops.  

The students have already invited their group mates to join the document that they are creating, and I have been invited to it as well (google docs: SHARE), so grading the work will not be a problem of access.  I expect that most groups are in a good spot with their research, just finishing their slides.