AP Literature MISO (Media, Interview, Survey, Observation) Venture
The Danger of a Single Story
by Bill Y. and Matthew G.
People often have misconceptions about Africa. Sometimes people refer to Africa as a country (rather than a continent), and sometimes dialogue focusses only on problems like poverty and war (an incomplete picture of a diverse, complex and multi-layered collection of nations).
After doing some research in AP Lit connected to our analysis of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, we wanted to try and respond to this issue, starting by challenging eighth-graders’ perceptions of Africa.
We asked the eighth grade teachers if we could lead a mini-lesson with the whole eighth grade class, and they agreed. So, early one morning in late November, the students and teachers gathered in one classroom and we had the opportunity to engage in a learning experience together.
To begin, we asked the students to write down four facts or statements about Africa, based on what they already knew. One responded with “there is a high level of poverty and child labor”. This was exactly the type of viewpoint we were hoping to challenge.
We showed students an animated film we had prepared and then asked them to discuss what they had learned. To cement some of this learning, and to make the lesson fun, we also created a Kahoot competition and the students really enjoyed this game. Looking at responses to some questions in the Kahoot, 100% of students knew the number of countries and languages in Africa, and 91% were able to recall the national language of Nigeria.
In an interview with Suhaas M., an eighth grade student, we asked what he learned in our lesson, and he responded by saying that he now understood that poverty levels throughout the continent vary on a country-by-country basis.
We encourage you to watch this TED talk given by Nigerian Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to learn more about why it is dangerous to generalize Africa, or any people group or culture.
Matthew and Bill are senior students taking AP Literature & Composition at Concordia International School Shanghai.