Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lesson plan design

Life skills through Modern Times

CLASS   - Classes 9 –12 ( to modify according to age group)

PERIOD – Moral Science/ Value Education/ Life Skills/ Health Education/ EVS/ General Studies

DURATION - 45 mins


Many of us  may be subject teachers , but are often asked to take classes in Moral Science/ Value Education/ Life Skills/ Health Education/ EVS/ General Studies, and though we would like to,  may not know how to use cinema in these periods. This presentation is focused on meeting their needs.


Children should become aware of the control technology has over them, and the effects of this on their lifestyles.  Once they realize that the possibility of getting addicted is there, they will be alert and work hard to retain their humanity. They may also make different choices regarding their careers, after seeing how mechanization can bring monotony and boredom in their lives. If we have a lively discussion, they may even begin to ask questions about the system of which they are a part.

The film we screen may also open up their worlds and channelise their energy  and indicate paths in which they can travel, in future.


  • Synopsis of the film may be given as a handout.


·         Modern Times-beginning to 5.10 mins
I would begin the class by asking children what is the first thing they do when they wake up. In the past, I have got answers such as these- I go online, I check my smses, I switch my mobile on…….In case I don’t get these answers, I would simply tell them about these, and announce the name of the film I would be screening.
The 1st 5.14 mins of the film will be screened.
The following questions will be asked -
What was the opening shot ? (the clock, showing 6 am)
What was the next shot? (overhead shot of a flock of sheep jostling in their sheep pen, and rushing through a chute)
What was the shot after that? (a similar overhead shot of industrial workers pushing out of a subway station at rush hour on their way to work in a factory)
I will then ask them if there is any significance in the placement of the shots.

The symbolism is clear: People live under the tyranny of mechanically measured time--the dictatorship of the clock. "Time is money,” after all, and people are supposed to hurry. They strain to keep up with their schedules and deadlines, and with crowds of people on the move.

A  juxtaposition of shots of sheep being herded and of workers streaming out of a factory is like a metaphor. Workers pour out of a subway station and hurry toward factory gates—much like a herd. The point is driven home by a shot of running sheep. One of the sheep, however, is black: a first hint at the outsider role that the protagonist of the story is to play

I would then draw their attention to the office of the Electro Steel Corp., and ask them what the President was shown doing.

The President works on a boring puzzle, reads the comics in the newspaper, and is served pills by his secretary.

I would then point out that the modern workplace  is unhealthy for workers, and generally at odds with the natural constitution of human beings. The tyranny of the clock, the hurried pace of production, the monotony of mindless work--they all do lasting damage to the employees who are subjected to such regimented routines. Not surprisingly, the protagonist of “Modern Times” becomes a nervous wreck. But even the manager of the plant, is a victim: His regular consumption of pills suggests that not all is well at the top. In fact, why should he be bored, when he has PFM (power, money, fame)- something many young people aspire for? I would suggest that the entire entertainment industry is flourishing because of the monotony in our lives, and the stress arising from this. The last century focused on stress, and psychologists say that this century will be one of depression. Also, we have divided our lives into - work and holiday, work and play, weekday and weekend. This artificial separation can cause a break in the rhythm of our lives, and make it ugly.

I will ask them to describe how the protagonist is introduced.

The Tramp is a factory worker whose job it is to tighten bolts on an endless series of machine parts - he is a small cog in the factory that exploits its workers. The key to successful nut-tightening is to perform his movements and tasks with clock-like tempo and precision. From his work station on the assembly-line, he holds wrenches in both hands to tighten nuts on a long stream of steel plates carried on the conveyor belt production line. Above him in the hierarchy of jobs, the foreman urges him all the time to keep up with the belt, and bullies him. When he pauses and itches for a moment, makes a gesture, or brushes away a troublesome fly, he causes tremendous, disruptive chaos for fellow workers down the production line, and frantically rushes to catch up and restore order. The results of his innocent, personal behavior have much larger consequences. The men are annoyed; tensions build up along the line

During a short break, he cannot stop the jerky, rhythmic movements of his nut-tightening - the trauma of work has left him with a nervous tick. A "Big Brother" screen of his employer in the men's room reprimands him when he sneaks a cigarette: "Hey, quit stalling. Get back to work. Go on."

The manager, sitting at his desk, orders a speed-up; the workers  have to redouble their effort. They do not think, nor pace or control the motions of their bodies. They are extensions of machines; they are turned into robots. The factory strips them of their humanity.

I will ask them how they feel about surveillance cameras, in shopping malls, schools, colleges, inside classrooms.  Also, what kind of a relationship we can have when we know that the proprietor/owner/manager lacks trust ,and is constantly watching.

I would also ask them if they ever feel dehumanized, by their fixed routines, especially those who go for tuitions after school. Do they wish to resist? If so, how do they do this? Do they wish they had space for self expression? Why is facebook so popular among the young? Do they  plug into a gadget or have they  become plug ins of a gadget?
Do they feel they are becoming more mechanical or do they find freedom in communicating through text messaging, chatting in social networking sites, chatting online, etc? Do they feel that the world gives more importance to productivity and efficiency, and that a very big price is being paid in the process? Do they feel it’s inhuman to ask people to work on an assembly line production, and do they feel, they  too are treated like that in classroom?

Did they notice how the protagonist’s movements, walk, change as time passes? Could the Big Boss have been more human, more understanding, more sensitive? How? What are the qualities of a human being?
We could explain that  a never ceasing increase of productivity is a necessity in an economy that is based on cut-throat competition and the survival of the fittest. Capitalism will make its workers more like cogs in the giant production apparatus for it has to maximise profits.
In the interest of efficiency and productivity , increasingly, activities of human beings become either regimented or replaced by the actions of machines. Human beings are still necessary to keep the automated production process going, but their activities are more and more subordinated to the requirements and rhythms of automatons. Although workers are still busy and expending their energies, they become increasingly passive: they have no opportunity to take real initiatives. Their very activity is passive. Even their most personal undertakings, such as eating, become regulated, administered, and finally automated. Human spontaneity is incompatible with mass production and modern efficiency. That is why artisans would find more fulfillment in their work than a factory worker, for they have created a thing of beauty, participating fully in the process from start to finish.

We could draw the attention to the biggest challenge facing us, this century - how to retain our humanity. Compared to any other generation, we have the maximum amount of comfort, speed, efficiency, yet,  we are not the happiest generation.
Once we are aware, of our dependence on technology and addiction, we could find areas  where we can challenge its control, and create spaces to grow. We must move from information to knowledge and then, to wisdom.


Children may describe their physical media environment at home, like tv, phone, newspaper, radio, news paper, computer, CD, DVD. This will help them to be more aware of their environment. They could conduct a survey on the time used , for phone calls (landline, mobiles), computers (chat, games, social networking sites), television. Calculate no. of hours spent in a year on these gadgets, and if one lives till 70yrs, how many hours would that be. They could ask 5 teenage friends the same questions.The class can then be divided in groups of 5-6 children, and each group has the study of 25-30 teenagers, so some interesting conclusions can be drawn. (16hrs a week, from the age of 6 to 70 means 13248 hrs, and if we look at 16 hr of waking time per day, its 828 days, ie 2 years, 98 days of using them). 

Create a joke about addiction to gadgets.

Paint on the theme ‘ Dehumanization through machines’.

Make a bookmark on ‘ Art vs Machine’.

Design a book cover whose theme is ‘Art is the basis of education’.

Powerpoint presentation on any handicraft - kondapalli toys, bidri, patachitra, chamba rumal, dhokra, Worli art, etc.

Write a letter to your friend who is facing a dilemma. His parents want him to study law while he wants to learn kathak.

Using calligraphy, and adding  your designs/ motifs, write ’Let’s connect’

Write a mail to your friend about  what prevents you from being creative and what makes you creative.

Find out the characteristics of the right side and left side of the brain.

Visit a psychiatrist and  a yoga teacher and ask them the major causes of stress found amongst people, especially those with jobs that provides little scope for self expression.

Share an experience with your partner when you realised how dependent you are on gadgets, or when your television / computer / mobile had gone for repairs.

Debate or discuss –

  • Cell phones are a necessity and should be allowed in schools.
  • Social networking sites help in connecting, not in communicating.
  • Modern gadgets have made us lazy, dependent and unimaginative.
Lesson plan designed by Rupali sachdeb
Posted by Debasish Mandal

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