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GRADES: 6-12

TABLE OF CONTENTS Instructor Resources A Letter to Educators Discussion Questions Interpretive Essay Prompts Standards About CFI

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Student Handouts About the Film Contextual Information Viewing Activities Extension Activity

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Dear Educators, Thank you for attending the California Film Institute’s DocLands screening of Let the Little Light Shine. Our DocLands Education screenings focus on increasingly relevant issues of global empathy and active citizenship, and we believe this film will be a powerful and engaging text to use in your classroom. We know that this year is likely one of the most challenging of your professional career, and we hope that this film and study guide can support the incredible work you’re already doing. These curricular materials are designed to get students to engage deeply with film by the common-core aligned skills of developing an evidence-based interpretation of a text. The discussion questions on the following page offer a variety of options for fostering small-group or whole-class dialogue. If your students are already familiar with a process of writing evidence-based interpretive essays, consider using one of the suggested essay prompts for a short writing piece. Additionally, individual handouts for before, during, and after viewing are provided as stand-alone activities to be used individually or in sequence. Thank you so much for your tireless work! Sincerely, The CFI Education Team

Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education



What are the central issues addressed in this documentary? What has changed between the start and the end?


What are some surprising facts you learned from this film? How do these facts shape your understanding of the central issue of the film?


Does this documentary feel objective and/or balanced in its presentation of the issues? Why or why not?


What did you see in this film that reminds you of other stories from your life or other stories you know?


Were there any perspectives relevant to the central issues of the documentary that were not included? How would those voices have changed the film?


Why were community members so attached to National Teachers Academy? Do people in your community feel the same way about your school? Why or why not?


The film implies that the closure of NTA is related to larger issues of gentrification in the South Loop. What is gentrification, and have you or anyone you know experienced the effects of gentrification in your own community?


How did the racial demographics of NTA and the changing demographics of the South Loop inform the debate about keeping the school open?


In what ways does this film debunk stereotypes or expose biases people have about specific groups? How did biases and stereotypes inform the debate around NTA’s closure?

10. In what ways might the ongoing production of this documentary have influenced community members or influenced the outcome of the debate?


Using your observations about NTA as evidence, present an argument for how students, teachers, and community members can all contribute to the creation of a supportive educational environment.


What is this film suggesting about how gentrification affects a community?

Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education


STANDARDS Common Core State Standards CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.3 Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text. Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards TTSJ.11. Students will recognize stereotypes and relate to people as individuals rather than representatives of groups. TTSJ.12. Students will recognize unfairness on the individual level (e.g., biased speech) and injustice at the institutional or systemic level (e.g., discrimination). TTSJ.13. Students will analyze the harmful impact of bias and injustice on the world, historically and today.

ABOUT CFI The nonprofit California Film Institute celebrates and promotes film as art and education through year-round programming at the independent Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, presentation of the acclaimed Mill Valley Film Festival and DocLands Documentary Film Festival, as well as cultivation of the next generation of filmmakers and audiences through CFI Education programs. Follow the California Film Institute on social media @cafilm @californiafilminstitute @cafilminstitute californiafilminstitute Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education



ABOUT THE FILM Let the Little Light Shine is about a high-performing, top-ranked African American elementary school, The National Teachers Academy (NTA), which is threatened to be closed and transformed into a high school favoring the needs of the community’s wealthier residents. Parents, students, and educators mobilize to fight for the elementary school’s survival. The story follows everyday parents-turned-organizers alongside NTA students and staff as they advocate to keep their elementary school, which is a safe haven for children and a community bedrock in Chicago’s fastest growing neighborhood: The South Loop. Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education



As a director, producer cinematographer and editor, Kevin Shaw has created Emmy award-winning content for national television networks. Shaw was a segment director and cinematographer on America to Me, and cinematographer on City So Real, from Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Steve James, where they both debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on Starz and Hulu respectively. Shaw’s debut documentary, The Street Stops Here, premiered on PBS and ESPN to rave reviews. He won an Edward R. Murrow Award for his short film about a quadriplegic trying to regain the ability to walk. Shaw is an alum of Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s Firelight Media Documentary Lab.

WHAT IS GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM? The film you are about to watch follows a community’s response to the potential closure of a beloved public school. The community’s actions are an example of grassroots activism, which refers to collective action organized at the community level to address a political or social issue. Unlike organizations and movements that are initiated and controlled by a leader or board, grassroots movements are driven by the people at the ground level. Grassroots movements often build strength for their position through direct actions. Direct action refers to a variety of political tactics and methods used to raise awareness or force discussion on an issue. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., nonviolent direct action “seeks to dramatize the issue [so] that it can no longer be ignored.” Like voting, direct actions, which include protests and sit-ins, are an essential part of a democracy. Unlike voting, however, direct actions can happen at any time, and anybody in a society can initiate a direct action—not just those of voting age. Questions to Consider: 1.

What are some examples of grassroots activism and direct action that you have seen in your community?


Are there any issues that you feel strongly enough about that you would get involved via direct action?

Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education



PERSONAL REFLECTION FREEWRITE Directions: The film you are about to watch explores a school that risks being closed by the local school board. Consider your personal connection to this type of story in a short free-write entry reflecting on what would happen if your school were to close. Some points to consider: • How would you feel personally? • What is the next nearest school to yours that has the same grade levels? How would students get there? • How would students, families, teachers, and other school staff be affected? • How would the community beyond the school be affected? __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________ _____ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education



DIRECT ACTION NOTECATCHER Directions: Throughout the film, various people engage in specific direct actions to try and influence the future of National Teachers Academy. As you watch the film, take notes in this chart to track important actions and understand how the debate unfolds.

What was the action?

What did they do? Where did they do it?

Who initiated it?

How are they connected to NTA? Are they for or against NTA’s closure?

What was the outcome?

Did it lead to new policies or reactions from other community members?

Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education



RESPONSE QUESTIONS Directions: Respond to each question, referring to specific scenes, events, and dialogue from the film as evidence for your interpretation. 1. What made NTA seem unique or special as a school? In what ways does it remind you of your own school? In what ways is it different? ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ 2. Briefly summarize the main arguments for closing NTA and the main arguments for keeping the school open. Which argument was more compelling? Why? ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ 3. A variety of people took actions to either oppose or defend NTA’s closure, including students, school employees, parents, real estate agents, the school board, and even Chance the Rapper. Whose actions do you think had the biggest impact on the final outcome? Why do you think so? ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ 4. When director Kevin Shaw started to make this documentary, the outcome for NTA was uncertain. How do you think Shaw’s presence as a documentarian during the year might have affected the actions or opinions of people in the community? Could it have had an impact on the outcome? ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education



Directions: Respond to each prompt in complete sentences, citing specific scenes, events, and dialogue from the film as evidence for your response.



What connections do you draw between the film and your own life or other learning?

What ideas, positions, or assumptions do you want to challenge or debate in the film?



What key concepts or ideas do you think are important and worth holding on to from the film?

What changes in attitudes, thinking, or action are suggested by the film, either for you or others?

Adapted from Harvard Project Zero’s Think Routine Toolbox: http://www.pz.harvard.edu/resources/the-4-cs Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education



CONNECT WITH YOUR SCHOOL BOARD Community members who wanted to support NTA engaged in several direct actions that involved the school board. If you attend a public school, then the local school board likely makes many of the decisions that affect how your school is run. Though your school might be not be at risk of closure, if there are other issues of concern to you, then learning how to engage with your school board is one way for you and your peers to understand school governance and to voice your concerns to key decision-makers. Here are two ways to engage directly with your school board at the grassroots level.


Write a letter to your school board. School boards typically consist of multiple community members, and they don’t necessarily get to spend lots of time interacting with students. If you have a particular issue or need that you would like addressed, writing a letter to the school board is a way to let decision makers know about the issues important to you, the students. For example, you can explain the need for a particular program or service that is not addressed at your school.


Attend a school board meeting. These are open to the public and you should be able to find information on where and when they are held at your school district’s website or asking someone in your school office. Usually, school board meetings follow specific codes of conduct and have agendas that include discussion of issues, hearing from the public, and voting on new policies Write a short reflection on what was discussed and what you noticed about how decisions are made.

School board members’ emails and other contact information should be available on your school district’s website, or somebody in your school office can help you get that information.

Let the Little Light Shine Curriculum Guide | CFI Education


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