Lessons from Literature

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This innovative resource is helping teachers incorporate violence prevention lessons into existing curricula. Developed by Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE),Lessons from Literature is a free online resource that gives English teachers a framework to use the novels, poems, plays and stories they are already teaching to help their students build healthy, non-violent relationships.

Its web site – www.lessonsfromliterature.org – is the central hub of the program, where teachers can download a Classroom Manual and access other resources. The Lessons from Literature program includes:

  • Lesson plans aligned with National Standards for the English Language Arts that address themes of abuse, violence, inequality, family/interpersonal issues, and more;
  • A Lesson Template that serves as a guide for teachers to create or modify their own lessons;
  • Materials, including handouts and fact sheets on teen dating abuse, to prepare teachers and students to discuss abuse;
  • An online resource library of books, poems, songs, movies and more to help build creative and meaningful exercises into pre-existing lessons; and
  • Opportunities for teachers to share lesson plans, ideas, resources and experiences with each other and to identify professional development opportunities through this work.

“Teachers are powerful influencers, motivators and leaders,” said Futures Without Violence President Esta Soler. “Lessons from Literature is a groundbreaking tool that will make it easy for teachers to help students develop the skills to recognize and avoid dating violence so they can build healthy relationships. We are so proud to partner with the National Council of Teachers of English. Its reach will do so much to position educators to increase awareness about the damaging effects of physical, sexual and verbal abuse.”

Lessons from Literature is designed to easily integrate into a teacher’s existing curriculum. The new lessons empower teachers to encourage students to recognize abuse and its consequences and find alternatives to violence. Teachers in communities from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Bernardino, California are piloting lesson plans from the program this spring. The novels, Their Eyes Were Watching God and Lord of the Flies, are the first two lessons available.

“Teachers are in a prime position to motivate their students to think critically about social issues, and inspire youth to think and act differently about relationships that go beyond friendship,” said NCTE Executive Director Kent Williamson. “Lessons from Literature gives teachers resources they can use to help students strengthen their academic skills while at the same time learning to recognize abusive situations and choose alternatives to violence.”

One in three teens reports knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped or physically hurt by a partner. Teens and young women are especially vulnerable to violence. Females ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, and people age 18 and 19 experience the highest rates of stalking.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA), Partnership for 21st Century Skills and a Curriculum Council of teachers helped develop Lessons from Literature. The Curriculum Council includes six high school English Teachers selected through a national search with more than 500 applicants. The six teachers from public schools across the country are masters in their field and dedicated to helping their students build healthy, non-violent relationships. The Curriculum Council has advised in the creation of every component ofLessons from Literature, including writing lesson plans and recommending strategies to engage teens and other educators.

More than 15 million children in the United States live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year. ASCA Assistant Director Jill Cook said, “Every day millions of lives are affected by violence in the home and the community. By engaging teens and helping them think critically about abuse, respect and relationships, we have the opportunity to interrupt the cycle of interpersonal violence that affects so many young people and puts them at risk for further violence later in life.”

“If teachers can shape the way young people think and act today, the social norms that currently perpetuate violence will change tomorrow,” Soler added.

Visit www.lessonsfromliterature.org for more information and to view the materials.