“I raise my voice. . . so that those without a voice can be heard”-Using the Voices of Malala and Other Young Social Leaders to Infuse Literacy, Life Lessons and Leadership-Grades 5-12

As teachers and citizens of a global world, we want to teach not only multiple rigorous academic skills, but also on all levels impart life lessons and nurture student civic passions and leadership capacities. But how is it possible to combine rigorous mandated literacy learning with learning to lead and to live life?

A child can lead other students to both these objectives.  Particularly if that child is a girl named Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani Nobel Prize winning young woman who continues after taking 3 bullets to the head , to crusade for children’s right to education.  By using the printed words and chromebook accessed digital free sources documenting Malala’s physical and literary presence, students can engage with her text message.  Extensive chromebook situtated analysis, discussion, visualization and conversations with peers and adults about her global rights theme will inspire and prepare students to articulate and to work for their own “voice” global initiatives as citizens and as leaders.

The study of Malala Yousafzai, the youngNobel Peace Prize winner (who was shot in the head on a Pakistan school bus for advocating for girls to be educated) offers a readily accessible and visually recognizable teen leader.  As a consequence of extensive digital and network broadcast coverage plus her Nobel Peace Prize win as a seventeen year old, she is actually recognized by a majority of students, although many are uncertain of her actual work.

The Malala Unit uses Yousafzai’s book as a core text in addition to the available online footage of her speeches and awards.  First. as digital researchers, students view the videos and then focus as readers, writers and thinkers on a selection of Malala’s quotes.  They collaborate with peers to write their own news articles by taking a position on the issues presented in the interviews. They can share these in the Chromebook community or as the desires with external invited peers, schools and adults. Finally they create a poster which can be saved and curated by the teacher in photos.   They give an oral presentation about Malala’s social justice movement which can be recorded for later listening and if desired to also be used for students to enhance their public speaking skills.  Due to use of chromebooks, research has a speaker and visual representation component.  Students with strengths in either of those talent domains can have a an opportunity to tap their strengths in research which is not normally as aspect of doing written printed or word doc submitted research papers.

The researcher students  have to explain or retell Malala’s short quotes (www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/7064545.Malala_Yousafzai).  Some of the key vocabulary for the unit included: social justice, extremists, universal rights, advocacy, terrorists, and crusade.

Suggested Digital Class Research

Teachers can use chromebook class community curated  online American broadcast and print media sources to trigger students’ prior knowledge and to situate  response in visual and emotional terms.  Sadly many students have had experiences of personal violence close up.  In addition when the NY Times video (http://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/1000000001835296/class-dismissed.html  showed the Taliban beheading publically persons who violated their orders  (teachers might preview it and not show the actual beheading), some students from that region and others in the world have seen such violence .  They verified its authenticity.     Many of the students in  my multiethnic and large numbers of ESL learner classes watched the CNN Interview and Footage after Malala’s shooting intently.    (http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/21/full-interview-malala-yousafzai/)

The important element here is to make the research emotionally owned and culturally resonant for students so that for American natives they can begin to empathize with international peers and for ESL students they can bring to bear their own or families’ experiences in other countries.  To make this research “real” emotionally for students, teachers can infuse current events content with their own autobiographies.

Some of  the key Malala quotes selected by the team of teachers for their  powerful


“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”

“I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.”

“I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death.  This is your second life.  Don’t be afraid—if you are afraid, you can’t move forward.”


Steps for using Malala’s quotes:

  • After being discussed with the students the quotes are printed on the large chart paper.
  • Students were then divided into groups of no more than 4 per group and were asked to focus as a team on the quotes.   They can also input comments or record comments on their chromebook team folders for this project.  The recording of their commentsfor some enhances their ability to truly lend their insights not worrying about whether what they are inputting is grammatically or syntactically correct.
  • Student teams spent 5 minutes at each poster chart, talking about the quote and creating an artistic or written reaction to it.
  • Individuals in other teams wrote or drew their graphic responses to the quotes.  Next, team teachers did a “gallery walk” which served as an Expo of learning.

The students were asked in writing to respond in writing as part of their Chromebook project folders to selected prompts:


Writing Prompts:


1.      Do you, based on your life experience agree or disagree with Malala that one voice rose to protest and use of writing or communication can change the world?   Malala is saying that she believes young persons can be involved in making social justice happen.   Do you agree with her or not?  Explain why or why not?  There is no single correct answer to this question.  In addition to using writing to voice your position, you can also create a graphic illustration or poster to express whether you agree or disagree with her.

2.      Malala paid a price for her belief in social justice and use of her voice, pen books to fight for others. Malala was shot in the head.  She took a bullet for her beliefs in Social Justice.  While Malala had been threatened and did not believe that as a girl she would be shot, she resolved after coming through the shooting alive and competent, that she would continue to be physically and vocally visible as a fighter for social justice. In light of what she has already suffered while she is still a teenager (even in 2017 Malala is just 19), should Malala continue to make potentially dangerous appearances or should she return to private life and studies?   Again there is no correct answer but use at least two to three details to support your argument.  You may also make a graphic art display.  If you like you can pose this question to your family members and do a presentation based on their life experience and perspectives.


The students had a few days to work on their arguments for Malala’s positions to which there are really no clear cut correct answers.  The students produce writings and art that expressed their diverse views on this issue.   Their ideas and art could be privately commented upon by the teacher and//or commented and reacted to by peers within the group if the teacher so desired.

  1. Peer Teaching

The students can share their responses and the digital resources with a peer or younger peer class. Using their ready to share Chromebook audio, picture, video and writing files made their peer teaching that much easier as using Chromebooks makes adult teaching that much easier.

  1. Print News or school news  network broadcast

The news interview Malala question could be:  Would you be a single voice for social justice as Malala is, even if you had been shot in the head?  Have student reporters distribute this question to a sampling of students at their school, adults and neighborhood community members.  Afterwards the original students who had done the research need a chance to reflect on the reactions of their peers and the adult reaction.

  1. Expo

Students can create poster boards of visuals, reports, and responses to Malala which can be shared during a poster board.  Chromebooks- perhaps three or four can be available for visitors to with student onsite guides view the project work and comment upon it. Expositions can be scheduled on a parent day or at a community center.  Students can also gather local and national news events and speculate on how Malala would react to it (shootings at schools, unfunded special needs programs, violence in communities with children as victims).  They can also start following and reacting to her blog.

Gay notes that the goal of culturally responsive education is to “connect in-school learning to out of school living (2010, p.4).” Malala is not the only teen leader whose words and deeds can be used to make literacy learning, learning for life and leadership.  Other teens whose words and deeds can be used to ready students for making crucial life, citizenship and leadership decisions include: Anne Frank, Zlata Filopvic, and Ishmael Beah.  Each of these demonstrate that literacy learning and leadership for life do not start with adulthood, but begin with writing, crusading, and documenting as adolescents.  Their words matter and make literacy for life and leadership authentic matters for teens.


Beah, Ishmael. (2008). A Long Way Gone. -Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Sarah Crichton Books.

Filopovic, Zlata and Melanie Challenger. (2008). Stolen Voices:  Young People’s War Diaries from World War 1 to Iraq. New York: Penguin Books.

Filopovic, Zlata. (2006).  Zlata’s Diary-A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo.  New York: Penguin Books.

Frank, Anne. (1995). The Diary of a Young Girl. New York Doubleday.

Gay, G. (2010).  Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research and practice (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.

Malala Yousafzai Blog (2015). The Malala Yousefzai Blog and Story. Retrieved from


Malala Yousafzai Quotes (2015). Retrieved from:


Villegas, A.M., and Lucas, T. (2002, Jan. /Feb.). Preparing culturally responsive teachers: Rethinking the Curriculum. Journal of Teacher Education, 53 (1), 20-32.

Yousafzai, M. (2012). Portrait of the Girl Blogger. Retrieved from


Yousafzai, Malala and Christina Lamb. (2013). I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for

Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. New York:  Little, Brown and Company.



Brown-Jeffy S. & Cooper, J. F. (2011, winter). Toward a conceptual framework of culturally relevant pedagogy: An overview of the conceptual and theoretical literature. Teacher Education Quarterly, 65-84.

Richards, H.V., Brown, A &Forde, T. B. (2006). Addressing diversity in schools: Culturally responsive pedagogy. Buffalo State College/NCCREST.

Villegas, A.M. (2007). Dispositions in teacher education:  A look at social justice.  Journal of Teacher Education, 58(5), 370-380.

Dr. Rose Reissman,

Academic and Grant Funding Director for Sector 5

About Sector 5,

Sector 5, Inc. (OTCQB: SFIV), is a Proud American Corporation, that sells, manufactures and develops new innovative consumer electronics under Sector 5 and other brands. The Company markets its partnership with Google approved Chromebooks to educational organizations, other B2B and B2C sales channels, with retail sales on Amazon. It is in development of several new products to serve the educational, business and retail markets. Follow the company on http://www.twitter.com/sectorfiveinc and http://www.facebook.com/sect5 and find further information at http://www.sector-five.com. For Sector 5’s Forward Looking Statements, click here.


CONTACT: contact@sector-five.com

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