Analyzing Malala Yousafzai’s Speech to the United Nations

The stage is set. Now it’s time to meet Malala Yousafzai. My students were already somewhat familiar with her, because her book graces my whiteboard marker holder. However, they really didn’t know her full story—except for the students who were curious enough to read the book. And since her speech to the United Nations mentions how the Taliban attempted to murder her and that she’s passionate about education, I thought it would only make sense to introduce the students to her through short video clips.

I found a good one published by The New York Times titled “The Malala Yousafzai Story: The Pakistani Girl Shot in Taliban Attack”. It introduces the viewer to Malala’s family and their experience with living in a community in Pakistan that was transformed by the Taliban. It is less than 20 minutes long. Then I supplemented it with a video, only about 5 minutes, titled “Malala Yousafzai, 16, and Her Miraculous Story of Surviving Being Shot by the Taliban”.

Malala had a dream to become a doctor. She attended the school her father owned. Even after the Taliban forbid families from sending their girls to school, Malala and others risked their lives to get an education anyway. One day she was riding the bus with her classmates. At a checkpoint, the shooter opened the bus door and asked for Malala. After she identified herself, the shots fired. She was shot right through the side of her forehead.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A writing class is more than just about reading a text and writing about it. Writing, if you really think about it, is “thinking on paper”. What this means is that in order for students to write something, they have to have something to think about. If we want our students to be writers who compose thoughtfully written and well supported compositions, then we must first let them learn/read about whatever it is we want them to think about and then think out loud. Moreover, studies have shown that many students have difficulty writing or reading because they have insufficient background knowledge. Although I do agree that the act of writing itself helps one to become a better writer, it also helps when students have been given opportunities to learn about something, connect it to what they already know, think about it from multiple perspectives, and then write about it in a focused, organized, and thoughtful manner. These traits of good writing also have to be directly taught through modeling and direct instruction.