Lesson Plan: Choices, Choices
Considering the Pros and Cons of Peer Pressure

Activities and Procedures

3. Class Project

Ask students to research the Five Pillars of Islamic faith as well as some of Islam’s cultural norms (e.g., no dating, no alcohol). Keeping these in mind, prompt students to write “Dear Abby” style letters about possible peer pressure dilemmas that young Muslim Americans might encounter. They might also wish to write from the point of view of one of the authors in This Is Where I Need To Be.

Put all of the letters into a hat and have each student pick one letter. Tell students that they will play the role of an advice columnist and will write a response to the letter they’ve chosen, offering counsel and tips on how to deal with the given situation in school or their community. They might also focus on how to turn a difficult situation into a positive one. Invite students to find examples of positive, hip, and cool role models to cite as proof that it is possible to follow one’s path of individuality.

Wrap up by having students reflect on how this activity allowed them to “walk in another’s shoes,” so to speak, or helped them come up with solutions to peer pressure that make sense in their own lives. You may also want to open up the discussion to the question of how their faith impacts their own choices.

4. Homework or Longer-term Assignments

  1. Have students read Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” and pick an oral history from This is Where I Need To Be. Ask students to write a journal entry from the perspective of the oral history’s author about a situation in his or her life where a lifestyle or decision went against the grain. What might this person have experienced? What gave him or her strength during this time? Was it worthwhile or not? Students may find it helpful to conduct some research to better understand the author’s particular situation.
  2. Ask students to write and perform a play on the theme of peer pressure where the main character struggles with a moral or ethical dilemma. They may choose to use one of the oral histories in This Is Where I Need To Be as inspiration for their play.
  3. Ask students to select and read a novel that explores themes of peer pressure and individuality. A good list of young adult novels is available at http://www.librarything.com/tag/peer+pressure. Then have students write book reviews and post the reviews in the school library or publish them on a blog.
  4. Invite students to write essays about a time in their lives when they took “the road less traveled.” Host a “memoir café” in your classroom where students share their essays.
  5. Have students write modern fables (modeled after Aesop) in which the main character learns a lesson about dealing with peer pressure. Compile and publish these in a class publication.

Related resources for this lesson plan.

Does My Head Look Big in This, by Randa Abdel-Fattah 
In this novel (Scholastic, 2008), 16-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab and must deal with peer pressure from strangers and her community.

I Believe In...Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Young People Speak About Their Faith, by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins
This collection (Cricket Books, 2004) features interviews with and profiles of 15- to 24-year-olds on the personal meaning of their faiths.

Five reasons to teach, This is Where I Need to Be.
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