Oppression- Source of Power

By Rona Shaw on Jun 01, 2014

This lesson is part of a unit on Oppression; it examines sources of power.


  • Students determine who has power
  • Students determine where power comes from

The lesson will also help students experience annotating text material. 

This lesson is adapted from a submission by Emily Hyland, formerly of Urban Assembly School for Green Careers, NYC Board of Education



  1. Students stand in middle of room. AGREE is on one side; DISAGREE on the other
  2. Teacher reads a statement related to the concept of oppression, and students move to the side of the room that best represents their responses. Statements: I have complete control over my life; My family has power over me; Society is more powerful than my own free will; My skin color is more powerful than my actions; I can do anything I want in this world; I am a victim of the life I was born into; Humans are completely free; I have felt oppression in my life; I am oppressed right now; Oppression and power are like brother and sister; Groups have more power than individuals
  3. Teacher records numbers of students agreeing/disagreeing for each statement
  4. Students, now in their seats, develop working definitions of POWER, AGENCY, and OPPRESSION in notes
  5. Teacher distributes copies of Freedom, Revolt, Love and reads it aloud
  6. Students are given post-it notes and directed to annotate text, applying newly created definitions to the poems
  7. Students swap with peer and comment on peer annotations 
  8. Teacher works with whole class to annotate the text, emphasizing importance of annotation to familiarize the reader with the text's nuances


  • If student is not familiar with classroom layout, orient him/her to place in room where 'agree' group goes and where 'disagree' group goes
  • With student, develop strategy for annotation that is viable: inserting comments electronically; writing directly on poem, etc. Student must be aware that s/he will be swapping annotations with a peer

ELA Standards

  • 9-10.RL.1 - Key Ideas and Details - Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • 9-10.RL.3 - Key Ideas and Details - Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
  • 9-10.RL.10 - Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity - By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9–10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end o...
  • 9-10.W.1 - Text Types and Purposes - Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Other Foundational Skills:

  • experience annotating text material

Other Materials:

Availability of braille or large print copy of poem if student prefers hard-copy as opposed to electronic access