Chicago Defender News Literacy Curriculum Lesson 4 - Trayvon Martin

CNL News Lesson

Lesson Outline

Written by:

Myiti Sengstacke, African American Studies Instructor
City Colleges of Chicago, Kennedy-King College

Michelle R. Yisrael, Reading, English & Literature
City Colleges of Chicago, Kennedy-King College


To investigate how intense social media coverage of the case created intense racial debates.

Essential Question:  

How did social media create intense racial debates in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case?  


Students will be able to…

  • Investigate and deconstruct news to understand the differences truth and provisional truth.
  • Compare and contrast news stories for truth and provisional truth.
  • Think critically about news justice, fairness, verification, “Stand Your Ground” laws, gun control, and the safety of urban youth.
  • construct a list of the facts of the event based on the texts and their knowledge
  • list questions that the event raises regarding urban youth, gun control, and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

News Literacy terms to be incorporated:

  • Truth
  • Provisional Truth
  • Conflicting truths
  • Verification
  • Irony
  • Fairness
  • Justice
  • Stand your ground
  • Civil disobedience

Introducing the Lesson:

Seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was shot to death in Florida, on February 26, 2012 while on his way from the neighborhood store by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman.  The case, especially after George Zimmerman was acquitted, stirred up high and deep emotional debates about both self-defense laws and racial profiling.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the "Stand Your Ground" law? How does it affect urban youth?
  2. How does the “Stand Your Ground” law compare and contrast to justice, fairness, and verification?
  3. Why do critics believe that the "Stand Your Ground" law can increase gun violence?
  4. What rights do citizens have to defend themselves?  When is it necessary?  
  5. What are the current gun laws?  What lead to their development?  Do they need to be changed?  Why?  How can the be changed?
  6. What is civil disobedience?  When is it necessary?  
  7. Do urban youth need to be protected in their own neighborhoods?  From whom?  How can they be protected?  What can parents do?  What can community organizations do?  What can police do?  What are city official’s  responsibility?  

Historical Link & Whole Group Discussion:  

Videos to link the lesson:


Write an Essay: Choose one topic and for your essay.  

  1. Do you think that giving individuals the right to defend themselves with potentially lethal violence makes us more or less safe?
  2. Why have stricter gun control measures generally failed to become laws even after high-profile shootings?
  3. How has civil disobedience shaped America?

Peer Review & Collaboration:

Students will select groups of 3-5 students who chose the same essay topic,  to read and discuss the essay.  

Oral presentation:

Create a PowerPoint or Prezi Presentation about your topic and present your small group collaborative discussion to the whole group.