"Keep Coming": How to Strengthen Resiliency

From Women and Girls Lead, Vol. 3: Women, Girls, & the Criminal Justice System collection, lesson plan 2 of 7

Time: (60-90 minutes + assignment)

Essential Question: How resilient am I?

Film modules and activities adapted from the films Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story and Girls on the Wall.

Purpose of the Lesson: Confronting factors that can lead to contact with the criminal justice system is daunting but all of us have personal strengths and characteristics of resiliency to confront risk. Research shows that most people are able to overcome the odds as they move into adulthood by drawing on resilient qualities. This lesson explores those qualities, allowing students to consider their strengths, evaluate their level of resiliency, and find ways to continue to build themselves up.

Objectives * Explore the meaning of resiliency and express that meaning in written and visual forms * Consider personal strengths and compare them to the qualities of resiliency that can be used to overcome risk for incarceration and other negative outcomes * Provide examples of resiliency from participants in the film modules * Assess personal resiliency using notes and knowledge gained from lesson activities * Create positive messages that support personal goals and motivation

Skills: Analytical writing and viewing; note taking; interpreting information and drawing conclusions; critical thinking; identifying relationships and patterns; classifying and defining problems; synthesizing information


Note: All Teacher and Student Handouts can be downloaded by clicking on “Download materials” button at the left of this page

Small Group Vocabulary: Tell students that they will be working in this lesson on ways to counteract the kinds of risk factors they examined in lesson 1. Tell them that they will be looking at the concept of resiliency and how it can protect people against various risk factors. Provide students with the following definition of resiliency:

“an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”

In small groups, have students come up with their own definition of resiliency that they think their peers would relate to. On a piece of presentation paper, groups should write their definition, give several examples of what it looks like, and add one visual image or symbol to support their definition. Have each group present their work. Use students' work to create a whole-class working definition of resiliency and post it in the classroom to reference throughout the curriculum.

Reintroduce the films Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story and Girls on the Wall using the "About the Films" and "Filmmaker Statement" subsections included in the "Getting Started" section. Watch "Film Module 2: Seizing Their Stories." Have students divide their paper in half and take notes on examples of resiliency from Cyntoia and Rosa. Give them time after the module to add to their list. Note that the Rosa module is the same as the one from lesson 1. This will give students an opportunity to think about whether risk factors can also be strengths and whether adversity can bring out our best selves.

Discuss the film module and review student notes using these guiding questions:

  • What examples of resiliency did you see in the film module from Cyntoia? Rosa?
  • What did Cyntoia’s cutting her hair represent to her? Is this an example of resiliency?
  • Cyntoia talked about the role of “wanting to be accepted.” Do you think her ability to look back and understand her motivations increases her resiliency in the present?
  • Rosa has not shared her story of sexual abuse often. Do you think her participation in a documentary film helped her increase her resiliency? Could you imagine participating in a project like that?
  • Rosa says she hopes she doesn’t “do anything stupid” when she gets out. Does she seem resilient enough to stay out of trouble?

Small Group Activity: Assessing Your Resiliency: Use the statements below, which characterize resilient qualities, and post them on butcher paper around the room. Give students sticky notes and have them post their names next to statements that apply to them. Ask them to write down these statements so they end up with a list that reflects their resilient qualities. Lead a discussion based on the group’s observations of the placement of sticky notes using these guiding questions:

  • Which statement applied to most students? How do you think this statement is connected to resiliency? Why do you think it’s the most common one among students?
  • Choose one statement that you think is the most crucial to being resilient. Explain your reasoning.
  • Choose one statement that you think is difficult to achieve. Discuss solutions or strategies for achieving this resilient quality.
  • Imagine you are speaking to a friend that lacks many of these resilient qualities. What would you say to her? Where should she start to work on strengthening her resiliency?

Statements to Post
I am a good problem solver and I communicate well.
I am a social butterfly.
I bounce back easily from drama.
I feel like I belong in my community.
I feel supported by my family.
I have friends who support me with a positive attitude.
I have other caring and supportive adults in my life besides my parents.
My parents or guardians set fair rules and expectations for me.
I show up for school and I'm doing well in school.
I'm in activities that make me feel good about myself.
I am smart.
I get good grades.
I can talk to my parents or guardians about problems.
I find strength in my values and beliefs.
I avoid dangerous situations.
I spend a lot of time with my family.

Assignment: Visual Road Map of My Life: Students should create a visual road map of their lives which includes obstacles they have encountered and overcome, examples of achievements and milestones, and people who have played an important role along the way. Assign all students a positive end point connected with your group’s setting. For example, an end point might be “Participation in a Boys and Girls Club group.” This will emphasize that no matter what students have gone through, they are currently in a positive place.

Students can draw on the work they have done on their risk and resiliency factors for details to include. Pair students up and give them time to exchange road maps and compare and discuss them. Then, with student permission, post road maps around the room and conduct a gallery walk. Give students sticky notes so they can share positive feedback about each other's work as they conduct the walk.

Wrap up the lesson by having students share their observations about the road maps, using these guiding questions: * What stood out for you? What patterns or trends did you see? * How can you use past experiences to increase your resiliency? * How confident do you feel that you and your peers can overcome obstacles and challenges that you face now and expect to face in the future? * What qualities of resiliency would you like to work on or improve as you think about your goals and things you’d like to accomplish in the future? What are some ways you can do this?

  1. In small groups, have students create several realistic role-play scenarios that might lead a teen girl into trouble. Then role-play the scenario using one or more resiliency characteristics to resolve the conflict. Ask the audience to guess which characteristics of resiliency were used in the role-play.

  2. Listen to one of the stories in the series Against the Odds and have students take notes on the strategies people used to overcome obstacles. Students should write a short one-page response that includes the ways they might use some of these strategies in their own lives when confronted with adversity.

  3. Resiliency Slogans: Keep Coming: Resiliency requires an inner drive that for many people revolves around a core motivational message or slogan. Working in pairs or groups, students will create their own motivational slogan. Students should represent the slogan in a medium of their choice — a T-shirt, poster, podcast, video, public service announcement, and so on and present it to the class to be used as ongoing positive reinforcement throughout the curriculum. Another lens for the lesson is to give students the option to write a letter or digitally record a message of resiliency to a friend or peer going through the same struggles or to girls that may one day be in the same position.

    To prepare students for creating their slogan, listen to a short clip from the News and Notes radio story “Great Expectations: Rising Above Low Expectations.” In the clip, Judge Toler of Divorce Court discusses resiliency with someone who overcame adversity. It is a one-minute clip that starts at 4:29. The transcript follows if you are unable to present audio files in class:

    CHIDEYA: Yeah. Well, you know, Judge Toler, how... a lot of people who are in the sciences talk about resilience in this very specific way, having to do with the ability not just to overcome but to keep overcoming. What does resilience say to you about how people achieve including people like yourself who may get punched down and knocked down and knocked down but still stand up?

    Judge TOLER: My mother's favorite phrase is keep coming. My mother was a woman who knew how to grind things out. She didn't have extraordinary talent. She didn't have an extraordinary intellect, she says this so herself, so I'm not speaking ill of her. But she has the ability to keep coming. And she taught me that despite whatever fears I might have which was my great challenge, is that you get up the next day and you keep coming. And eventually, either opportunity will arise or you create one of your own, just sheer effort.

  • Film module:
    Seizing Their Stories

  • Film module:

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