Guided Reading: Malala Yousafzai’s Speech at the UN Youth Assembly

I have taken an extract from Malala Yousafzai’s speech, at the UN Youth Assembly, to create several lessons aimed at mid-high Level 5 readers in Year 6 with an attempt to move them towards ‘Greater Depth’. 

This is lesson one and focuses on: AF5 – Pupils will work towards clear explanations regarding particular uses of words and phrases.

I begin by providing pupils with the extract from Malala’s speech at the UN Youth Assembly. See below:
Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing. Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of Human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.
So here I stand… one girl among many.
I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys.
I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.
Those who have fought for their rights:
Their right to live in peace.
Their right to be treated with dignity.
Their right to equality of opportunity.
Their right to be educated.
Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.

Initially I ask them to read through independently, then ask for any thoughts or comments –
What is this text type an example of? Can you support your answer with evidence from the text…

Who said this and what are the key messages coming through from the text?

In order to allow children to fully understand the speech and its purpose I will provide them with newspaper clippings/headlines etc.

At this point I ask the pupils, using a highlighter, to identify where Malala makes a direct link between herself and the listener and the rhetoric used to engage the reader. In essence the pupils should quickly link the repeated use of ‘every’ , ‘hundreds of…’ and ‘thousands of…’

We then discuss as a group as to how these techniques connect the listener (reader) to the speech and the power this provides Malala with – at this point you could draw comparisons to Obama’s inauguration speech – I will be saving this for an follow-up, independent lesson.
1. In this extract, how does Malala’s use of language ensure she connects directly with the reader?
• Use of every… hundreds of… thousands of…
• Reference to the line: I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys.
• The repeated use of pronouns ‘their’ at the start of the short sentences.
• Using the phrase: ‘Dear Friends’
I model an answer for the pupils suggest the four areas they should focus on – although this is clearly guiding them, the purpose here is to teach them how to scan and use the text to support their answer. This is not assessment!

After collecting answers from the group, we then proceed to highlight where these examples have been used and discuss the frequency of them.

We then move onto further analysis of a particular sentence. I like to use: I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.

This is where the group get the opportunity to ‘explode’ a sentence. At this point we look at each and every word in greater detail. For example: Look at ‘I’ and discuss the impact on the reader (this is first person and so based on a personal experience making the rest of the phrase more powerful; heartfelt and honest; opening herself up to the reader/audience)
Look at ‘raise up’ and discuss impact (putting herself on a pedestal; accountable…)

I then leave the group to continue with the rest of the sentence and ask them to make notes on A3 paper. At this point I simple observe and may make initial assessments against the following criteria:
He/she provides some detailed explanation, with appropriate terminology, of how language is used.
He/she draws together his/her comments on how the writers’ language choices contribute to the overall effect on the reader.

At this point, I like to show the group a clip of the section they have just analysed:

As a follow-up activity, I ask the pupils to create ‘Word Faces’. Using a drawn outline of Malala the pupils select specific coloured pencils to write the key phrases from the speech as discussed in the session.

Before I meet with the group again I provide them with an extract from Barack Obama’s inauguration speech and ask them to answer a similar question to the Q1. How does Barack Obama connect with the audience? Which techniques can you identify? You must support your answers with evidence from the text. 

I am not suggesting this is perfect (far from it), but the pupils I have used it with in the past are quickly engaged by the real-life nature of the speech and often research Malala further, which is no bad thing.


One thought on “Guided Reading: Malala Yousafzai’s Speech at the UN Youth Assembly

  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber and commented:
    I’d thoroughly recommend Mark Forsyth’s ‘The Elements of Eloquence’ – a lovely book about ancient & wonderful rhetorical figured like: anaphora, anadiplosis, congeries, isocolon and so on. Plus it will help them improve how they construct sentences when using these figures.


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