Monday 28 November 2011

Lesson Plan based on The Power of One


The Power of One is an intriguing story of a young English boy named Peekay and his passion for changing the world...

  • recognizing our power as individuals in creating positive social change.
  • understanding that racial injustice still exists.
  • describing South African Apartheid including information on its history, how it worked and how resistance from inside and outside of South Africa brought it to an end.
  • Carrying out actions outside the classroom to fight against discrimination with minorities and immigrants.

Aim of the activity:
  • This lesson will provide the learners with a global look at racial injustice, specifically as it relates to Apartheid in South Africa. 
  • Students will also reflect on contemporary forms of discrimination against minorities and immigrants.
  • They will also reflect on how an individual associated to other individuals can use their power to effect positive change in society.
  • The activities done should encourage students to take actions outside the classroom to act against discrimination.

Four one-hour periods.

­   Handout 1: Outline of Lecture Material "Apartheid"
Teacher notes on Apartheid
Whiteboard, projector, and/or Power point presentation with projection, etc.
­   The film: "The Power of One"
­   Handout 2: Reflective Essay "The Power of One"
"Power of One" essay assignment

Instructional Procedure(s):

1.      Lead-in. Anticipatory set:

To begin the lesson, ask the learners to share what they know about the concepts of 'social justice' and 'the common good'.

Following the discussion, place the definition of ''social justice' and 'the common good' on the display board for all to see.

Social Justice (n) Justice applied to the framework of social existence; consideration of the requirements of justice applied to the benefits and burdens of a common existence.

The Common Good (n) Involves individual citizens having the commitment and motivation to promote the welfare of the community --even if they must sacrifice their own time, personal preferences or money-- to work together with other members for the greater benefit of all.

Then, on a piece of paper have learners list the names of three individuals--one at the local level, one at the national level, and one at the international level --whose actions in some way helped to overcome social injustice toward individuals or groups and promote the common good. Have the learners share the names of these individuals and their reasons for their selecting them. Have the learners discuss and share why the phrase, "the power on one," might be appropriate in describing these individuals.


2.     Handout 1:

Teacher note:  This material can be presented most efficiently in a lecture fashion utilizing whiteboard and markers, and/or power point.

Lead the learners in a discussion of what they learned that was different from or added to what they had discovered in their own viewing (readings).

Racial Injustice and the Apartheid


I.  History:
  • The first European settlers come to the Cape of Good Hope around 1600.
  • 1652, Dutch, German and French come to Cape for religious and economic motives
  • Dutch Boers (farmers) begin to move north and live with native Africans and a new culture develops:  The Afrikaner or the white African tribe.  Their language was a mix of Dutch and various African languages. They were devoutly Christian and very racist. (They believed they were the chosen people in a hostile world.)
  • 1795 the British seize control of the Cape and surrounding area and more Boers are driven north.
  • Many Afrikaners died in battles with "natives" while adapting to harsh land and climate. 
  • Hatred of the British and Blacks deepened Afrikaner solidarity.
  • The Boer War 1899-1902:  British want gold and diamonds discovered on Afrikaner land.  A fierce war ensued with atrocities on both sides, Britain wins ultimate control and makes South Africa a commonwealth.
  • Independence was granted in 1910.  While the Afrikaners made up only 13% of population, they dominated the government.

II.  Apartheid
  • In 1948 the Afrikaner Nationalist Party gained control of the South African Parliament, and established the system known as apartheid.
  • Apartheid means "separateness" or "apartness" and included 317 laws which reserved civil rights for 5 million whites and denied them to 25 million blacks.
  • All citizens were classified by race
  • Marriage and sexual relations across color lines were made illegal
  • Separate residential areas; whites get all of the best, over 80% of the population was crowded into areas which covered less than 13% of the total land mass.
  • Economic development was outlawed in black "homelands." Jobs were made available only in white areas.
  • All non-whites must carry a passbook at all times
  • All public places were segregated
  • Black schools were intentionally underfunded.

III.  Resistance
  • Resistance began in the 1950's, the first outbreak of violence occurred in 1960 and was known as the Sharpville Massacre, 69 peopled were killed and 180 wounded by South African police.
  • Nelson Mandela rose to leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), but was arrested in 1964 and imprisoned for 26 years.
  • In the early 1970's Steven Biko founded the "Black Consciousness" movement patterned after the "Black Power" movement in the United States.  Biko was arrested, tortured, then killed while in police custody in 1977.
  • In 1976 thousands of students protested in a black township in Johannesburg, this became known as the Soweto Riot.  The government killed 600 students and arrested thousands.
  • In 1983 as protests continued the government declared a state of emergency and 30,000 more blacks were jailed.
  • International pressure began to mount.  South Africa was expelled from the UN in 1974.
  • They were banned from the Olympic Games in 1976, in 1986 the U.S. Congress banned new investment by U.S. companies.

IV.  Apartheid ends
  • F.W. deKlerk becomes Prime Minister in 1989 and bowing to international as will as internal pressure negotiations begin.
  • In 1990 Nelson Mandela is released from prison and the ANC works with the government to write a new constitution which would put an end to Apartheid.
  • In 1994 Mandela is elected as the first Black President of South Africa.

3.     The Film

Show the movie "The Power of One" (127 minutes) dividing the showing of the film into three equal segments of 45 minutes each. Time should be given at the end of each 45-minute segment for students to reflect on what happened in the segment they just viewed.

Between segments two and three have the learners take five minutes before showing the new segment to reflect on what has happened so far.

Teacher Note: This is the story of a young English boy in South Africa and his passion for changing the world.  Growing up he suffered from discrimination as the only English boy in an Afrikaans school.  Soon orphaned, he was placed in the care of a German national named Professor von Vollensteen, a friend of his grandfather.  The professor develops P.K.'s piano talent.  WWII begins and the Professor is placed in prison for failure to register with the English government as a foreigner.  P.K. makes frequent visits and meets Geel Piet, an inmate, who teaches him to box.  Geel Piet spreads the myth of the Rainmaker, the one who brings peace to all the tribes. P.K. is cast in the light of this myth.  After the war P.K. attends an English private school where he continues to box.  He meets a young girl and falls in love, her father is a leader of the Nationalist Party of South Africa (This party created the system of Apartheid) P.K. and the girl Maria fight to teach English to the natives, this is prohibited by the Nationalist Party government.  As their work progresses P.K.'s popularity grows via the myth of the Rainmaker.  Maria is killed and P.K. loses focus until he sees the success of his language school among the tribes.  He and a man named Guideon Duma continue the work in hope of building a better future for South Africa. 

Following the viewing of the final segment lead the learners in a group reflection of the concepts of social justice and the common good as discussed and defined in the anticipatory set.

Assign the reflective essay (minimum one and a half pages typed double spaced)

4.      Handout 2:

Racial Injustice, Apartheid and the Power of Individuals
"Power of One" Essay assignment

Opening Story Line:
"In the 1680's Dutch, French and Germans fled religious persecution in Europe and settled in Southern Africa.  They called themselves the Afrikaners -- White Africans. 
For the next 250 years the British Empire fought the Afrikaners for control of the land, the gold, and 20 million native Africans.
In 1948 a conservative Afrikaner government was voted into power.  A system of racial segregation and discrimination was installed as the law of the land.  The Afrikaners called this system apartheid.  Our story begins 18 years earlier, in 1930 on a small farm in South Africa."

Closing Story Line:
"In South Africa and around the world the struggle to gain human rights and equality for all people continues.  Changes can come from the power of many, but only when the many come together to form that which is invincible...the power of one."

Compose a reflection paper about the movie.  Be sure to include the following in your paper:
  • The myth of the Rainmaker
  • P.K.'s growth as a person
  • P.K's image as the Rainmaker
  • Your reaction to the film
  • The message of the film
  • Other events in the world or in your life where the "power of individuals" has been demonstrated.

5.     Follow-up discussion

Following the group sharing of their essays, lead the learners in a group reflection of the concepts of social justice and the common good as discussed and defined in the anticipatory set.

Reflect on their reaction to what they have read and discussed and to determine what contemporary events in the world or in their life today would point to discrimination and social injustice.

Discuss the theme of the movie:
              Can one person make a difference?

Reflect on how as an individual and as individuals associated they might act to impact this social injustice and promote the common good; to be a "power of one” but also the power of many ones.

6.     Taking action

Plan some first steps, actions to carry out, to fight contemporary forms of discrimination against minorities or immigrants.

                    Click here to see the Lesson


  1. Does the topic has to do with your professional status or maybe is it more about your hobbies and ways to spend your spare time?

  2. I am a teacher of English as a foreign language and any lesson plan has to do with my profession. As for the topics of the blog in general, they have nothing to do with a hobby or a pastime; hunger, unemployment, exploitation, fighting for justice... are a responsibility everybody should undertake.

  3. I loved this book when I read it, and I am preparing to read it to my "alternative ed" students over the course of the next weeks. Most of my students are on probation and have been court ordered to attend school, so they will benefit from many of the ideas and themes in The Power of One. Thank you for the great discussion questions!