Shining the Light – SCOPES-DF

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
Fab Tools
11-12.RI.7, 11-12.RI.10, 11-12.RI.1, 11-12.RI.3, 11-12.RI.4

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Kim Stanley
Kim Stanley
K-12 teacher


just mercy graphic
Bryan Stevenson & Just-Mercy, 2019.


Black Panther-inspired High School lesson plan using Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. This lesson was revisited due to the release of the film starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. 


These lessons are designed for 90 minute blocks – 3 week Unit.



*Option for advanced grade could include coding an Arduino so lampshade will spin.  This would require more time to be added to lesson.

*Tennessee State ELA Standards addressed are located on each rubric.



Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Scribe, 2015.

Scheld, Melissanne. “Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson – Teacher’s Guide.”, Sept. 2014,

What You'll Need

Class set of Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson

Vinyl Cutter

Laser Cutter

The Instructions


Give students the essential question for this Unit: If given the power and resources, what would YOU do to improve/correct an area of the Justice system? In order for each student to be able to answer this question, I would have each student first “shine the light” on themselves….

Questions for students to ponder/answer:

What struggle/struggles have they endured? What is their story?

Then “shine the light” on their background

What is their culture? History? Struggles? What is a symbol of power or empowerment in their culture(s)?

And finally, “shine the light” on a national issue surrounding the justice system

What are the glaring issues of our system? Death Penalty? Mandatory Sentences? Race?

Students will “tell” their story using a lampshade – divide into 3 parts and design their shade with the answers of the 3 parts mentioned above…they can use symbols, words, images, etc.

Students will use the laser cutter and cut their shade – putting it on a lamp will let their story “shine”…

For a grade of Advanced, students will program an Arduino to make the shade spin – telling their story.

Lessons 1-6

Each class will have time for discussion regarding the novel, brainstorming and planning of Lampshade, and time to work on Essay.

CLASS ONE: Introduce the novel Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Give background on the author. Have students research incarceration rates in the US – give them cities to research and also their own city to compare/contrast. Discuss and assign Ch. 1-3 of the novel.


CLASS TWO: Introduce Unit Project. “See me…See my culture…See the Change…” Talk about the movie Black Panther and one possible theme of the film. (Show clip from the movie if time allows) Discuss with students how they will be shining the light on themselves and an issue they want to see changed from their reading. Go over rubric for their shade and written essay explaining their project. (will attach)

Discuss Ch.1-3 – sample questions:

In your opinion, who is the most to blame for Walter’s conviction?

           How is To Kill A Mockingbird relevant to Just Mercy?

Does the State you live in have Stand Your Ground laws? Do the Research. Do you support them?

Assign Ch. 4-6


CLASS THREE: Have students begin to brainstorm struggles they have endured/research their background – Students can use Have them write questions their relatives may be able to answer.


Discuss: Based on what you know at this point in the novel, are you hopeful for Walter’s release? Why or why not? Use evidence from the novel to support your opinion.

From Chapter 6, in what ways did the judicial system fail to protect Charlie?

Assign Ch. 7-10


Introduce Laser Cutter/Vinyl Cutter – Collaborate with FabLab



Have students begin “prototyping” their shade. What is their story? What will they project with their shade to represent their story? Needs to be three parts – 1. Their Background/2. Their Struggles/3. What issue speaks to them the most needing change? Spend the majority of the class working on the project.


Exit Ticket – Brief assessment of Ch. 7-10 for reading/comprehension. Sample questions:

–      What were some of the discoveries made by Stevenson in regards to Walter’s case?

–      Summarize Antonio’s crime and punishment.

–      What is your impression of Mrs. Williams?

–      Who is Dorothea Dix and why is she important in Ch. 10?

Assign Chapters 11-14




Entire class time spent in FabLab – working on lampshades – have students give each other feedback using Critical Friends format – pair students up.


Lampshades are laser cut from heavy paper using the included template/file (PDF or SVG).


Students create 2D graphics or shapes that are “printed” on a vinyl cutter. Adhere cut shapes directly on the lampshades, or position them inside the shade where they can be revealed when the light is turned on.


Remind students to be sure and review rubric for their lampshade and essay which are due next class.




Lampshade and essay due. Sharing with peers and presenting work.


Self-assessment to be completed as an exit ticket.

Final Project

Showcase final student projects.

Here are some examples of finished lampshades:



Here is a more advanced lampshade that spins:



  • (11-12.RI.7): Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • (11-12.RI.10): By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  • (11-12.RI.1): Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • (11-12.RI.3): Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
  • (11-12.RI.4): Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

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  1. SCOPES-DF March 8, 2019
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