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Lesson Plans
Struggling to Survive: Life in Sarajevo
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to the teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a Microsoft Word document with all of the Web sites as hyperlinks for students to access the sites. Make sure that your computer has the necessary media players to PLAY the video clips, which include Real Video and QuickTime.
CUE the Signal to Noise: Life With Television tape to when you see the woman in pink with the ax by the tree, and you hear the man saying "In your final times, any viewer..."

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1:

Because the focus of the lesson is on war, ask your students to brainstorm and come up with any words they can think of related to war. These words could be names and events from specific wars, descriptive words about feelings related to wars, etc. Write all of the words on the chalkboard. Be sure to record all words, even if they may appear to be incorrect. (You may get students saying things like Afghanistan, World War II, scary, death, Vietnam War, bombs, destruction, etc.)

Once all of the students' suggestions have been recorded, discuss the different ideas that were offered. What are some of the wars that are referred to? What do they know about them? What are some of the feelings that war and conflict cause people to experience? Once you have talked about the words on the board, try and engage the students in a deeper conversation. Does anyone have any personal connections with war? Do you have a family member that fought in a war? Do you know anyone who died in a war? How did these events affect the lives of the people involved in the war, as well as their family and friends?

Step 2:

Once you have them thinking about the topic of war, tell the students that you are going to focus on a specific conflict. This conflict is the one that occurred in Bosnia Herzogovina. Have your students log onto Web site Cool Planet: Bosnia. ( Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to go through the Web site and record 2 facts about the country from each of the sections (geography and environment, history, people and society, and factfile). After all of the students have read the pages and recorded their facts, check for comprehension by asking them to share with the class some of the things that they learned. What does Bosnia seem like? What words would they use to describe the country? What are some of the things that have happened recently in the county?

Learning Activities

Step 1:

Explain to your students that you are going to examine a piece of video, and that you are going to look at it three times.
Insert Signal to Noise: Life With Television into your VCR. The first clip will be viewed without the picture, only with the sound. Be sure that the television is set up so that you can remove the picture from view, or simply cover the screen so that the students cannot see the picture.

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen to the segment you are PLAYing, and to write down what they think is occurring based on what they hear. START the tape when you see the woman in pink with the ax by the tree, and you hear the man saying "In your final times, any viewer..." PLAY the tape until you hear the man say, "One of the things that bothers me..." and the woman in pink has sawed down the tree and it is falling to the ground. PAUSE the tape.

Ask the students to share their perspectives on what occurred in that segment. Because the people are speaking Serbo-Croat, they will not be able to understand the exact words, but they can begin to create a situation base on the tone of the conversation. How many people were involved in the discussion? What do they think the discussion was about? Where do they think this discussion was taking place? What is the tone of the conversation?

After you have discussed the segment using only the sound, turn on the picture on the television or remove the covering from the screen. The very bottom of the screen should still be covered, so that the students cannot see the subtitles in this viewing. REWIND the tape until you see the woman in pink with the ax by the tree, and you hear the man saying, "In your final times, any viewer..." Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to view the segment with picture and record what they think is happening between the people. PLAY the tape until you hear the man say, "One of the things that bothers me..." and the woman in pink has sawed down the tree and it is falling to the ground. PAUSE the tape.

After viewing the segment with the picture, how does that change their interpretation of the situation? What is happening? How many people are involved in the discussion? Where are the people? What is the climate and environment like? What does their clothing look like? What time of year is it? Why are the people arguing? It may be necessary to REWIND the tape and view that segment with them a second time, depending on how much they were able to observe the first time around.

After you have discussed the segment with the picture, uncover the bottom of the television so that the students will be able to see the subtitles. REWIND the tape until you see the woman in pink with the ax by the tree, and you hear the man saying, "In your final times, any viewer..." Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to view the segment, paying special attention to the subtitles, and record any additional information that the subtitles adds to understanding the situation in the tape. PLAY the tape until you hear the man say, "One of the things that bothers me..." and the woman in pink has sawed down the tree and it is falling to the ground. STOP the tape.

Now that they have viewed the entire segment with the sound, picture, and subtitles, what is occurring in that segment? Who are the people in the tape? Why is the tree so important? What does it symbolize? Explain to the students that this video is from a series called "Sarajevo Stories," and this particular piece is from February 2, 1994. Based on what they learned in the introductory activities, what was occurring in Sarajevo at this time? After viewing the tape, how did that conflict affect the lives of these residents of Sarajevo?

Step 2:

Have students log on to the CNN Interactive Web site at, with the news footage of the 1994 Sarajevo Marketplace Massacre. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by instructing them to view the two newsreels and write down four sentences describing what is occurring in the clip and how the people are reacting to what has happened.

After they have viewed the two news segments, ask your students to share their observations of what occurred. Who are the people in the footage? What happened to them? Where are they? What do they think was happening there before the mortar fire? What is happening in the aftermath? What are the reactions of the people in the clips?

Step 3:

In these various video clips and Web sites, the students observed many different people reacting to an extraordinary situation in their lives. These war times of heightened emotion are often settings for plays and movies, such as The Killing Fields. Explain to your students that you are going to have them explore people, their actions, and their thoughts. Direct students to, based on what they saw in the video and on the Web site, create a character that could live in Sarajevo at that time – they can choose to create a background for someone that they saw in the video or on the Web sites, or they can make up their own person. Using the Character Sheet, have them create a background and a history for this character. The only set portion of their character is that the person is living in Sarajevo in 1994, during the same time period that the video clip took place..

Step 4:

Once they have created this history and each has an idea of who their character is, explain to them that you will be engaging in some role-playing activities. Set the scene for the role-play by describing to the students a park in Sarajevo. All of the characters are in this park, for one reason or another, and they are going about their business. Sometimes they will interact with other people in the park, and other times they will be alone. Also explain that there will be times when you will ask them to freeze, and you will highlight a specific grouping of characters; the other students should watch as these highlighted groups carry out their role-play. Have the students begin the role-play, and watch for interactions between students that are particularly thought provoking to be highlighted for the group. Let the role-play go on for ten to fifteen minutes, allowing all of the students the time to explore and understand as many characters in the group as is possible.

Step 5:

After the students have become comfortable with the role-play and have a sense of most of the characters in the room, you will enter the role-play in the role of a local shopkeeper. You have just witnessed a bombing in the town square while there were many shoppers and business people out, and the destruction is very extensive. You ran to the park to share the news with the people there so that those who may have injured or dead family members can go and find them. Give the characters about 30 seconds to react to your news, and then freeze the role-play. Explain to your students that you are stopping the role-play, and that you are going to discuss the news that they received. What are some of their responses to this news? How are they feeling? What are they thinking? Are they scared? Worried? Angry? Are they concerned about the safety of their loved ones? Do they fear more bombings?

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 6:

Instruct the students to find a place to sit, and ask them to write a short monologue from the point of view from their character. They should reflect on their feeling and thoughts about the life their character leads, the situation in their country, and the news about the marketplace bombing. After the students have completed their monologues, ask for a few volunteers to read their monologues to the class. What are some of the different points of view regarding life in Sarajevo? How do the characters and their thoughts differ? How are they similar? How did different characters respond to the marketplace news? What are some of the concerns of the different people?

After you have heard some of the monologues, ask your students if they know of any other conflicts where people are fighting and dying based on religious or moral beliefs? What do you know about these conflicts? Have you ever had any moments in your life when you got serious news that left you feeling scared, uncertain, angry? Do you have any experience with war or violence in your own life? How has that experience affected you? Is there a way to prevent these kinds of conflicts? Will it ever be possible to stop wars from happening in the world?

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Unfortunately, there are many examples of injustices in the world that are committed against people based on their religion, ethics, gender, race, or sexual orientation. Have students research current examples of this in the world. Instruct your students to create displays about each of the different conflicts they find, and compare the causes for these aggressions. What can be done to put an end to these conflicts? What can they do to help these people?

Just as war affects the people in a country, it also has a great impact on the economy of the country. Explore the effect that war has had on the economies of different countries. Some effects are negative, as illustrated by Germany after World War I, and some effects are positive, such as the revival of the American economy after the United States entered World War II. Have your students examine the economic effect that various wars have had on the countries involved in those conflicts. Is war a profitable business?

The video in used in this lesson was a portion of a French news report from Sarajevo. This station reported the events in Sarajevo in a very different way from how we are typically given information about war. The way in which a story is reported can change your view of what is happening. Have your students do a comparative study of the way different news stations and newspapers cover the same story. They could compare and contrast NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, PBS, the New York Times, USA Today, as well as any local papers and broadcasts in your area. Does each station and paper report the story in the same way, or is their coverage different? What are some of the similarities and differences? Are they all objective, or do they favor one side or the other?

When wars occur in a country, some people choose to deal with the hardship by starting a new life by immigrating to another country. Compare the different waves of immigration to the United States with the wars occurring in the world at the time. Is there a connection? Did the government pass any legislation to regulate such immigration? Where did these immigrants settle? Did the families of any of the students in the class come to the United States to escape war? Why did they make this decision?

Wartime is a popular setting for some many highly regarded pieces of literature, such as All's Quiet on the Western Front, The Diary of Anne Frank, and The Red Badge of Courage. Have your students break up into book groups and have each group read a different novel that is set during a time of war. Have each group compare and contrast the different conflicts and characters, and the ways the characters deal with their situations. Why do similarities and differences exist? What is universal about the effect of war?

Community Connections
  • There are many organizations around the world that try to aid people that are victims of war, such as The American Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. Have your students research what each of these organizations and find out how they can get involved to help people around the world.

  • As an extension of the Media Arts activity, have your students contact their local news stations and papers with their findings. Visit a television station or newspaper, or ask someone to come and guest speak in your class, to learn more about the intricacies of news reporting.

  • As an extension of the Social Studies activity, contact local organizations that aid political refugees. What kind of work do they do? What assistance does someone need to adjust to life in a new country, especially after they have been through a war in their own? What can you do to help people in your area?