Civil Disobedience
by Cindy L. Jonhson



Time: Three to four weeks
Grade: 11
Subjects: English and/or Social Studies 

Essential Understanding: Students will gain a modern day understanding of how Mahatma Gandhi used Civil Disobedience to oust the British Empire from India . Additionally, students will learn about how Martin Luther King, Jr. used Civil Disobedience in the United States to help Blacks win their civil rights. Next, students will read about one of the most famous female protagonists, Antigone, in Sophocles’ play Antigone. Finally, students will locate a modern day example of Civil Disobedience and complete a timed writing on their findings.

Overview: Students will begin our unit based on the play Antigone by learning about Civil Disobedience, first by learning about Gandhi’s act of civil disobedience in the film, A Force More Powerful, then followed by Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. Students will complete an array of questions from each.

Background Information for Teachers: Teachers should view a short clip on Gandhi and the Salt Marches and Prayer Meetings, the video, A Force More Powerful (available through the Center for South Asia ’s lending library. Please contact Rachel Weiss at This film could also be purchased by your school) , and the “Letter From Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Junior, and the play Antigone by Sophocles.

Handouts Included:

1. Birmingham Jail Letter
2. Birmingham Jail Questions
3. Antigone
4. Antigone Background Information
5. Antigone Study Guide
6. Antigone Study Guide Answers
7. Timed Writing Compare/Contrast Assignment

Content Standards:

A.12.3 Read and discuss literary and nonliterary texts in order to understand human experience.

B12.1 Create or produce writing to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

A.12.2 Read, interpret, and critically analyze literature.

Performance Standards:

A12. 2 Synthesize the play Antigone

A12.3 Gather information of modern day examples of Civil Disobedience.

B12.1 Compare and contrast Martin Luther King, Jr. to Mahatma Gandhi and Antigone. 

Assessment Activities: Students will complete a short answer quiz on the Salt March Toward Freedom, “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” and Antigone. In addition, students will write a timed writing that compares and contrasts the use of Civil Disobedience between Antigone, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Students may also complete a timed writing about how Civil Disobedience has been used recently.

Assessment Activities: Students will respond to a set of questions about A Force More Powerful, Birmingham Jail, and Antigone. Additionally, they will write a five-paragraph essay.

Instructional Activities:

  1. Ask students to define the word civil
  2. Ask students to define the word disobedience.
  3. Ask students to define the word civil disobedience.
  4. Ask students to read and respond this quote from Quotes of Gandhi:

Non-cooperation is directed not against men but against measures. It is not directed against the governors, but against the system they administer. The roots of non-cooperation lie not in hatred but in justice, if not in love (27).  

  1. Have students share responses.
  2. Have students brainstorm acts of Civil Disobedience.
  3. Discuss briefly India ’s history and British Rule
  4. Provide students will some background information on Gandhi and his movement within South Africa and India .
  5. Watch the short movie entitled, A Force More Powerful and the video clip on Gandhi: Salt Marches and Prayer Meetings. This video is available for checkout through The Center for South Asia ’s library. Please contact Rachel Weiss at The Salt March video clip is available through United Streaming only.
  6. Have students respond to a series of open-ended questions
  7. Next, have students read “Letter from Birmingham Jail.
  8. Have students respond to questions about Birmingham Jail.
  9. Have students create Venn Diagrams in which they compare and contrast the two.
  10. Introduce students to Antigone.
  11. Provide students with historical background and terminology.
  12. Prior to reading or watching each act, have students preview the questions in the study guide.
  13. Continue reading or watching the play. Continually look for similarities between the three.
  14. Upon completion of the play students will complete a reading comprehension test on Antigone. Additionally, students will be asked to complete a timed writing that compares and contrasts two of the three writings OR students can complete a timed writing that showcases a modern day example of Civil Disobedience.
  15. Compare/Contrast Essay Assignment and Rubric
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