Lesson Plan January 23, 2017

The Geography of Poverty



Objective: Use viewing skills and strategies to interpret visual media.

  1. View this photo and write down the answer to the following questions:

  1. What is your first impression?

  2. What are some things you noticed?

  3. What do you think is happening?


  1. Now, try and read the photograph slowly. Take at least a full minute. :

    1. Now what did you notice this time?

    2. When and where do you think this story takes place?

    3. What is the occasion?

    4. What do you notice about the people?

    5. What do you think the relationship between the people might be?

    6. What do you feel when you look at this photograph?

  2. What are some differences between the viewing of the photograph (first look) and the reading of the photograph (second look)?

  3. This photograph is of Americans and Mexicans playing volleyball over the border between America and Mexico.

    1. Having more context for the photograph, now what do you feel? Why?



Investigate the World: Investigate the world beyond your immediate environment


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.1: Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

SS.G.1.6-8.MdC: Use mapping and graphing to represent and analyze spatial patterns of different environmental and cultural characteristics.

Objective: Investigate your world through the exploration of poverty and the impact poverty has on people in different geographical regions. Reflect on and publish your learning, based on strong evidence, to diverse audiences using technology.

  1. With a partner, look through this group of images by photographer Matt Black.

    1. Take turns going through the images picture by picture, switching off each time with your partner. Partner A takes the first image, Partner B takes the second image, and so on until you go through all of the pictures. When it is your turn, read the photograph to share with your partner:

      1. What is the story in the photograph?

      2. Why do you think so?

      3. What does the photograph make you feel and why?

    2. Now your partner answers the same questions with the next image.

    3. Decide with your partner what you think the theme or main topic the photographer is sharing. Explain your thinking.

    4. Discuss as a class.

  2. Individually, scroll through photographer Matt Black's Instagram feed:

    1. Click on photographs that interest you, then read the captions and comments for those photographs.

    2. Share with a partner new information about poverty that you have learned.

  3. MSNBC Video Poverty: America's Crippling problem

    1. Before watching the video:

      1. Draw a picture on paper or Google Draw, of what poverty means to you. Then, create one class slideshow of images of poverty. View as a class and discuss.

      2. Guess:

        1. How many people you think are in living in poverty right now in the United States.

        2. How many children are living in poverty.

        3. What income per year determines living in poverty.

    2. Watch MSNBC Video Poverty: America's Crippling problem

    3. Answer (re-watch video if necessary):

      1. How many people are poor in this country today?

      2. How many children are poor in this country? Where do those kids live?

      3. What is photographer Matt Black's goal of his Geography of Poverty Project? How many cities will he visit? What is the general route he will take?

      4. How does the video define poverty?

      5. What does it mean when people are marginalized?

      6. What does it mean for people not to have a voice?

      7. Matt Black states, "To grow up poor is to grow up in a world that tells you that you don't matter." What do you think he means by this?

      8. What are misperceptions? Why do you think many Americans have misperceptions about the poor living in America?

      9. Pause the video at 3:31 and think about the statistics. What surprises you about those statistics and why?

      10. Think about the above statistics. What does 'poverty doesn't discriminate' mean?

      11. What are migrant workers?

      12. Why are people in poverty described as 'another America'?

      13. What do you believe causes an 'us and them' mentality?

      14. What are your reactions to what you have learned in this video? What do you feel about poverty in America?

      15. What are some words you would use to describe Matt Black and the Geography of Poverty project?

  4. Read How One Photographer is Mapping America's Poverty by Matt Black and Olivier Laurent.

    1. After reading, look carefully at the photographs and read the captions.

    2. In your notes, describe which photo most strikes you (or makes you feel the most emotions) and why you think you connect with the photo.

    3. In your notes, summarize the the Geography of Poverty project.

  5. Visit the Geography of Poverty interactive website.

    1. Read until you get to the interactive map. Add any new ideas and information to your notes.

    2. In pairs, follow Matt's journey by clicking on the orange dots and discussing the photos and captions you see along the way.

    3. Continue reading until you reach the poverty profile and national poverty chart.

      1. What do you think is the percentage of people living in poverty in your county?

      2. Enter your county into the search field. Were you close? What do you think about that number?

      3. Click around on the chart to learn new information.

      4. Add new learning from both graphics to your notes.

    4. Read the rest of the introduction, adding new information to your notes.

  6. The Geography of Poverty interactive website is divided into four geographic regions: southwest, south, northeast, and northwest.

    1. Define region in your notes.

    2. Choose a region listed above to investigate.

    3. Search to answer the following questions in your notes:

      1. What are the physical features of the region? (click on infographic near the bottom of the website)

      2. What are the economic features of the region?

      3. What are the cultural features of the region?

      4. What are other interesting facts you discovered?

    4. Read and slowly explore the images and infographics on the Geography of Poverty interactive website under the region tab you selected.

      1. Add 5-10 important pieces of information from the article and why each is important.

      2. Research any questions that came up during your reading. Add to your notes.

    5. Read the Pulitzer Center Article that corresponds to the region you selected. Add new information, along with any questions you have, to your notes.

      1. Southwest: Dark Valley: Life in the Shadows

      2. South: Cancer Alley: Big Industry, Big Problems

      3. Northeast: The Rust Belt: Once Mighty Cities in Decline

      4. Northwest: No Man's Land: The Last Tribes of the Plains

Section 2: Recognize Perspectives: Recognize your own and others' perspectives.


SEL.2A.3a: Predict others' feelings and perspectives in a variety of situations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL6-8.1.C: Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.

Objective: Learn about empathy and its connection to people in poverty. Use empathy and inquiry to develop an understanding of different aspects of poverty.

  1. We have learned how to read photography and why that is important. We have also experienced how reading images can lead to specific emotions. Photography can be used to both capture emotions and to draw emotions out in people. One reason this is important is because all humans experience common emotions, and those emotions can connect us in meaningful ways.

    1. What kind of emotions do you think Matt Black is trying to draw out in viewers of his work?

    2. Why do you think does he wants people to feel those things?

    3. What do you think he wants people to do next?

    4. The reporter on the Geography of Poverty project and the author of many of the articles you red is Trymaine Lee. Do you think Trymaine Lee's goals are the same as Matt Black's? What makes you think so?

  2. Watch the video Empathy Can Change the World by a group of 8th grade students from Kalispell Middle School. Then, discuss with a partner:

    1. What is empathy?

    2. Why is it important?

    3. What is the message the students want you to know?

    4. Did you connect with the message? Why or why not?

    5. How does the concept of empathy connect with Matt Black and Trymaine Lee's Geography of Poverty project? Discuss this as a class.

  3. Use what you have learned about empathy to imagine putting yourself in the shoes of someone your age living in poverty. Consider these two quotes then free write for 5 minutes on what these quotes mean to you and what you imagine:

    1.  From a Ted Talk given by Gregory Boyle in 2012: "How do we stand and imagine a circle of compassion and then imagine nobody standing outside that circle? What we hope to do is inch our way out to the margins, so we can stand with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless, so that we can stand with those whose dignity has been denied, with those whose burdens are more than they can bear. Occasionally, you get fortunate and blessed enough to get to stand with the easily despised and the readily left out...with the disposable, so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away."

  4. Let's look at poverty from a couple of different perspectives. Choose one of the following articles to read:

    1. Educating Girls is the Key to Ending Poverty by Joe McCarthy

    2. Black Poverty Differs from White Poverty by Emily Badger

    3. In America, Only the Rich Can Afford to Write About Poverty by Barbara Ehrenreich

    4. Born into Poverty: Rural Hispanic Children Face Huge Obstacles by Teresa Wiltz

    5. Internet Access Still Limited for Low-Income, Uneducated Americans by Lorenzo Ligato

      1. Read the article and take notes.

      2. Discuss what it would be like to be the in the position of the subject of the article. Really put yourself in the shoes of the subject as much as you can.

      3. Generate questions that a reporter might ask the subject of the article.

Section 3:

Take action: Translate your ideas into appropriate actions to improve conditions.

Communicate ideas: Communicate your ideas effectively with diverse audiences.   


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6-8.1 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Objective: Use knowledge of visual literacy and poverty, as well as empathy, and communication skills to take action and/or create a product to make a difference in the lives of others.

One of the many reasons empathy is important is it can inspire and motivate us to take action to create positive change in the world and for each other. Use everything you learned about poverty and empathy to take action by choosing one of the following options:

  1. Create your own action:

    1. Brainstorm a list of ideas of how to help people in poverty.

    2. Come up with an action plan to implement your ideas.

    3. Implement the plan.

  2. Star Thrower:

    1. Read the Star Thrower.

    2. Write and design your own version of the Star Thrower to convince others to be more empathetic or to help people in poverty in some way.

    3. Share your work with someone outside of your classroom who you think will be motivated to make a difference in the lives of others.

    4. Share your work on Twitter or other social media, with your teacher's approval, using #poverty.

  3. Underwear and Socks for the Homeless:

    1. Read: "Socks and underwear are two of the least donated, yet most needed items," said Diane McWithey, executive director of Share. It's difficult for the homeless to stay warm and dry during winter months. Common infections such as athlete's foot thrive when damp socks are worn for days or weeks at a time; frostbite is common, too."So often we see street homeless asking for spare change or food, but we feel this is a much more productive way to raise awareness, help address their needs and, hopefully, move them into shelter," said Katherine Garrett, director of Share House and Share Outreach.

    2. Come of with a plan to collect socks and underwear to donate to a homeless shelter in your area. See if the collection and donation can become an annual event when the weather turns cold.

  4. Create a Video on Empathy and Poverty:

    1. Recall the video you viewed by the 8th grade students at Kalispell Middle School.

    2. Use that video as a model to write your own video script sharing a message. about empathy and poverty.

    3. Create the video.

    4. Share the video, with your teacher's approval, on social media. On Twitter, use the #poverty and #geographyofpoverty hashtags.

  5. Don't give the homeless money, give them your heart

    1. Read this article from the National Coalition for the Homeless

    2. Let the article inspire you to create a poem, letter, or other art to share with people in homeless shelters.

    3. Send your work, through your teacher, to local organizations.

    4. Create a time to share your learning, stories, and friendship with people in these organizations once a month. Share your very best work, in other words, put your heart into it.    

  6. Watch You Are Beautiful: The Little Sticker That Started a Worldwide Phenomenon

    1. Watch the video.

    2. Read more information about the project on this website.

    3. Order stickers, with your teacher's approval, to put in helpful places, such as strategically around your community or mail to homeless shelters or other organizations that support people in poverty.

    4. Alternatively, design your own message and stickers and complete step C.

Section 4: For further learning, check out We Can End Poverty on Twitter.

Official twitter account of the United Nations on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We are the first generation that can end poverty. Get involved!


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