The Freedom Writers Diary

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Freedom Writers: Express Yourself Discussion Guide

A facilitator’s discussion guide for youth leaders, educators and families to accompany the book and movie, Freedom Writers Ages 13 – 18 Freedom Writers © 2006 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved

Freedom Writers: Express Yourself

Dear Group Facilitator: Set in Los Angeles during the years following the 1992 Rodney King riots, Freedom Writers tells the true story of a young English teacher and her influence in the classroom. Erin Gruwell begins the school year as an English teacher for the “at-risk” freshmen students at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. She soon realizes that her diverse group of students is embroiled in the racial gang war culture of the time. Without the positive support of family members or teachers, these students have no expectations of academic success. Each day is a struggle to survive on the streets. In a daring move that counters her superiors at Wilson High, Ms. Gruwell sacrifices her own time and money to inspire and educate her struggling students. Using books such as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo, Gruwell leads her class in a life-changing journey against intolerance. As the students read these books, they begin to recognize parallels in their own lives and record personal accounts of their experiences and emotions in diaries. Calling themselves the “Freedom Writers,” the students gain national recognition for their efforts and begin to make positive changes in their own lives. Freedom Writers, in both book and movie form, touches on powerful themes such as self-reflection, tolerance, facing adversity, striving for success and trust. This discussion guide, Freedom Writers: Express Yourself, is structured for use after viewing the movie and/or reading the book. It offers discussion topics for youth ages 13 - 18. It is provided by the National Collaboration for Youth, an organization which provides a unified voice for its coalition of more than 50 national, nonprofit, youth development organizations. The 30-year-old organization concentrates on improving the conditions of youth in the United States and enabling youth to realize their full capabilities. As a result, youth empowerment and development play a central role in the discussion guide for Freedom Writers.

Freedom Writers: Express Yourself

• Youth will engage in thought-provoking group discussions that allow them to think and learn about tolerance, respect and trust, overcoming adversity, family relationships, anti-violence and anti-gangs, steps to finding success and the inequalities that exist in education. • Youth will be able to make comparisons between the Freedom Writers book and movie • Youth will have the opportunity to extend their learning through interactive activities that address the discussion themes • Youth will design and implement a related service project • Youth will use provided tools to advocate for their schools

Steps for Youth to Take with the Freedom Writers: Express Yourself Program Step 1) SEE THE FILM AND READ THE BOOK THE MOVIE: Freedom Writers, a Paramount Pictures and MTV Movies film, opens in theaters on January 5, 2007. Youth may also see the movie when it becomes available on DVD. THE BOOK: The Freedom Writers Diary by The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell is widely available in libraries and book stores. It contains real journal entries from Ms. Gruwell’s students as they advance through high school. Step 2) PARTICIPATE Take part in powerful discussions that address themes such as: • Tolerance • Trust • Family relationships • Anti-violence • Striving for success Step 3) TAKE THE LEAD TO HELP OTHERS Using the example of Erin Gruwell’s determination to make positive changes in her classroom, young people are urged to learn to take on responsibility by designing and conducting a service project. Youth are also encouraged to advocate...
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