Standing for What You Believe

From Knocking collection, lesson plan 4 of 4

(90-120 minutes + assignments)

Grade Level: 9-12, College

Subject areas: Social Studies, Language Arts, Debate, Sociology, Ethics, Psychology, Religious Studies, Current Events

Purpose of the lesson: People often claim that they are “taking a stand” or arguing something “based on principle,” but how many people would actually stand for what they say they believe when faced with a life-or-death situation? This lesson examines how Jehovah’s Witnesses have stood for their beliefs historically and calls on students to examine their own belief systems and what they would be willing to endure to uphold their own ideas and principles.


Students will:

  • learn about the role of Jehovah’s Witnesses as civil rights activists
  • respond to a writing prompt using a short narrative
  • utilize critical reading and viewing skills
  • utilize interview skills to talk with someone outside of class about related topics
  • participate in class discussions and debates
  • conduct research and summarize findings to share with classmates in an oral presentation
  • create a piece of creative writing in response to the theme of the lesson
  • share their creative writing and provide oral feedback about it for classmates


Narrative writing, stating and supporting opinions in class discussion, critical reading and viewing, interviewing, research, summarizing information, creative writing.


  • Board/overhead
  • student and teacher handouts (provided with guide)
  • Film Modules 1 and 2
  • access to Internet and library resources

National teaching standards addressed:

Grades 9-12

National standards from the following organizations were used in developing this lesson plan. See recommended national standards in the Educator’s Guide for full descriptions of standards employed.

Curriculum Standards for English Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association

Curriculum Standards for the National Council for the Social Studies

Expectations of Excellence, National Council for the Social Studies

Curricula writer: Lisa Prososki

Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant who taught middle school and high school English, social studies, reading and technology courses for 12 years. Prososki has worked extensively with PBS, authoring and editing many lesson plans for various PBS programs and TeacherSource.

See Educator Guide for full listing of credits

  1. Direct students to pair up. Have students write a short answer to the prompt below, and give the pairs 3-4 minutes to share their responses with one another.

    • Describe a time when you’ve had to “take a stand” about something you believed in. Be sure to describe the outcome of your actions.
  2. Facilitate a short discussion about different ways people stand for their beliefs. Encourage students to provide historical examples along with sharing their personal experiences.

  3. Distribute the Student Handout D: Standing for What You Believe and review the directions. View Knocking Film Module 1 and Module 2 as a class. Provide students time between clips and at the end to complete the chart on the handout.

    NOTE: The Knocking film quotes are referenced in this step and could be distributed to students for use during discussion.

  4. Discuss the “Standing for What You Believe” handout. Focus on what students think they would have done in a similar situation. During the discussion, refer to the Knocking Study Guide pages 8-9, 30-31, and 34-35. Focus attention on the Nazi persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the documents they could sign to escape the concentration camps. Also consider individual Witnesses who took their cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to secure their rights, even though they personally faced difficulties. Additional information can also be found in the lecture series “Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Holocaust” and “Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Germany” available on the Knocking DVD.

  5. Ask students to discuss the “Standing for What You Believe” with a family member or friend as an out-of-class activity. Students should complete the area below the table by describing whom they talked with and how the individual reacted to the ideas related to standing for personal beliefs.

  6. When the out-of-class activity has been completed, facilitate a classroom discussion based on the feedback students received when exploring this subject with their friend/family member. This could be done as a large group or by having students share their experience in small groups or pairs.

  7. Direct students to use 20-30 minutes of class time to review newspapers, news magazines, Internet articles and other primary sources for examples of situations worldwide in which people are currently standing up for their beliefs. Students should select the story they find most moving and summarize it for their classmates, describing the facts surrounding the event, specific things people are doing to stand for their beliefs and the outcome of these activities. Students should work in small groups to share their articles. Each group should have a short discussion about whether or not they agree with the stance taken by the person/group featured in each article. They should also share what they believe they would do in a similar situation.

    NOTE: A list of reliable news sources is provided in the Teacher Handout A: Supplemental Materials for Activity Four References.

  8. As a final activity, have students complete a piece of creative writing (a poem, short story, play, song, etc.) that addresses a cause they feel they might stand up for or support or that addresses the theme of standing up for personal beliefs. Encourage students to make the project as personal as possible and truly explore their ability to face adversity because of their principles.

  9. Offer students the opportunity to share their creative writings in small groups when the assignment has been completed.

There is no extension activity with this lesson plan.

  • Film module:
    Knocking: Understanding the Religion and Politics of Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Film module:
    Knocking: Transfusion
Download lesson materials