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First Ladies and Leading Ladies

written by: Noreen Gunnell • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 3/12/2014

A fun assignment asking students to match a First Lady to a movie character based on how they think she would define motherhood, or the many roles women fill. Lesson plan has each student get to know a First Lady of his or her choice.

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    There are many fun ways to tie holidays into a history lesson. After all, every holiday is rooted in some age-old tradition or belief. Mothers Day Mother’s day is no exception. The holiday has its origins in the ancient practice of goddess worship but over time, and from country to country, it has adapted and changed. For example, once a serious affirmation of peace in America, the holiday has become both a personalized and commercial celebration.

    But this lesson is not on the history of Mother’s Day. This First Ladies lesson plan has students research a current or former American First Lady. After getting to know her biography, students pick a movie from a given list that they believe would epitomize what motherhood was, or is, all about to her.

    This lesson format can also be used throughout the year, not just at Mother's Day. The films suggested below depict women with different personalities, at all stages of life, and facing various of challenges or decisions. For example, students could pick a movie they believe demonstrates the many roles women take on in life for Women's History Month (March).

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    Lesson Plan Title: Leading Ladies/First Ladies

    Lesson Focus: Students will independently research the life of a former or current American First Lady. They will use what they have learned and choose a movie they believe would exemplify motherhood to their First Lady.

    Grade Level: 9-12

    Prior Knowledge: none

    Time Needed: 1-3 Class Periods

    Materials:

    Kaboose provides a brief description of each movie and the type of Mom it depicts. The kids will probably not have seen every movie on this list so you might want to add and subtract films so that each student has seen at least a few of them. A few days before conducting the lesson have the students list movies they have enjoyed and whether a mother, motherhood, or a mother/child relationship is central to the story. Collect their lists and make your own for the assignment.

    Some other movies to consider:

    Juno: A funny and slightly irreverent story of a pregnant 16 year old who chooses to find adoptive parents for her baby. I like it because it has all sorts of women-a teenage mother-to-be, an absentee biological mother, a step-mother, and an adoptive mother-but I would only use this one in a junior or senior class.

    Safe Passage: An involved, somewhat protective mother of seven boys waits to hear the fate of one son following the bombing of his Marine barracks in the Sinai. The entire family is home to await the news and the relatinship she has with each son reveals not only who she is but how she is struggling with letting go and life choices now that her nest is emptying.

    Eve’s Bayou: This really has more to do with a father-daughter relationship but depicts many different types of mother figures and women. This film deals with adult themes so I would not use it with freshmen or sophomores.

    Hope Floats: A recently divorced woman returns home to her mother's house with her own daughter. Differences between generations are shown as well as the importance resolving old wounds.

    Please add movies you think would work in the comment section.

    Educational Standards Met:

    NCSS (National Council for the Social Studies) Thematic Standard: IV Individual Development and Identity.

    Lesson Plan Outline:

    I. Explain the project. Students are required to turn in a five-hundred word essay explaining their choice. They should be specific using details from the First Lady's life and their chosen movie. Students should support thir opinion with examples, quotes, and biographical detail.

    II. Allow students to work on their assignment for 1-2 class periods or as a research assignment.

    III. Have some make your own Mother’s Day Gift Ideas ready for students who finish early. Some of these crafts work well for interdisciplinary teaching, especially with Science or Art Lesson Plans.

    Extension: Movies in the Kaboom.com list range from serious (Step-Mom) to funny (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), sugary sweet (Please Don’t Eat the Daisies) and realistic (Erin Brockovich). Some of the movies are way before the students’ time (Mrs. Miniver) and some are recent (Whip It). As a fun side activity during these classes, have students cast secret ballots on which of the movies they would like to watch as a class. You can use your own list if you prefer. Of course, you'll have to set aside time to watch the winning movie!

References

  • Mother Day's Central. Mother's Day History. http://www.mothersdaycentral.com/about-mothersday/history/