Students trace the history of Iran from its early dynasties to the present and explore Iran’s cultural history, its efforts to establish a representative democracy, and the role the great powers played in shaping events in Iran.
In this lesson, students will:
- Explore their perceptions of women in Iran.
- Gather information from videos about women living in Iran.
- Practice note-taking skills.
- Consider the possible effects of perceptions on international relations.
This graphic organizer will help students record information from the opening class activity and from the videos.
Follow-up questions for the videos, organized by category (Politics, Education, etc.).
NOTE: This lesson is part of the curriculum unit The Iranian Revolution from our World History Series, which provides a more comprehensive overview of the history of Iran and Iranians’ quest to end repressive rule and bring justice and opportunity to their country.
In the Classroom
1. The Wall
Begin the class by writing the words “Women in Iran” in the center of a whiteboard or on a large piece of paper. Give students 5-10 minutes to approach the board and write whatever comes to mind, including statements, words, and questions. Instruct the class to do the exercise in silence. Encourage students to add to each other’s postings as well as write their own independent postings.
Note: You may find that many of your students focus primarily on the topics of veiling and religion. This could generate a very narrow discussion from students. You may wish to prompt students, before they begin the activity, to consider a wide range of topics as they relate to women in Iran, such as education, politics, employment, etc.
Distribute “Envisioning Iran.” Direct students to record their personal perceptions in the left column of the organizer. Students may find it difficult to fill out all of the categories. Prompt students by asking them to think about how aspects of life for women in Iran might compare to life in their own country. Ask students to consider what sources shaped their opinions and perspectives on Iranian women. Have they heard about these issues on the news? Radio? In newspapers? Movies? Direct students’ attention to specific comments on The Wall. What topics were addressed? Where did there seem to be disagreement? Where did there seem to be agreement? What questions were raised?
2. Exploring Videos
Assign each student a topic (politics, education, employment, legal rights, or veiling). Distribute “Iran Today” to students accordingly, as there are specific handouts for each topic. Direct students to fill in all of the boxes in “Envisioning Iran,” but listen closely for information on their assigned category. This will enable them to complete “Iran Today” and discuss their category in a small group setting.
These videos provide an introductory foundation for exploring women’s lives in Iran. These select videos should give students enough background information to fill out “Iran Today” and answer and discuss questions. Alternatively, if you have multiple computers in your classroom, students can watch videos in small groups. Group students according to their topic so that they may explore additional related videos.
- What role do women play in Iranian government and society? [Narges Bajoghli]
- How has the role of women in Iran shifted after the Iranian Revolution? [Narges Bajoghli]
- Do women and men have the same opportunities in Iran? [Shahla Haeri]
- What role do women play in politics in Iran? [Shahla Haeri]
- How did the lives of women change after the revolution? [Farzaneh Milani]
- Why do women in Iran wear the hijab or chador? [Shahla Haeri]
- What are common misconceptions of Muslim women? [Shahla Haeri]
3. Follow-up Questions and Small Group “Jigsaw” Discussion
Once students have finished watching the videos, tell them to answer the questions on “Iran Today.” Instruct students to use “Envisioning Iran” to help recall information from the videos. Afterwards, assemble small discussion groups with one student from each category. Students will share and discuss their responses to the videos with one another. Tell students to add to “Envisioning Iran” any new information they learn from their group members. Give students the following questions to guide their discussion:
- What was the most surprising piece of information that you learned?
- Compare the content of the left side of “Envisioning Iran” to the right side. How has your understanding changed since watching the videos?
4. Class Discussion
When groups are finished, call on students to report on their discussions. What information was most surprising? How did students’ ideas change by watching the videos? How did they stay the same? Below are some questions you may wish to use for class discussion:
- Is veiling exclusively a religious issue in Iran or does it have any political and social significance as well?
- What do you know about the historical relationship between Iran and the United States? What were key episodes in that history? How might history affect the United States’ view of Iranian society?
- Tell students that policymakers may similarly be swayed by their personal perceptions of other societies. How might this affect relations among countries? Why is this significant?
- How do women’s issues in Iran relate to women’s issues in your country or community? Are there any shared struggles or similar triumphs? Alternatively, students may compare what they have recently learned about women in Iran to women’s issues in other countries or regions of the world that they have studied.
5. Concluding Video
As your class discussion draws to a close, ask students to consider the flip side of their perceptions of Iran. Watch the following video with Professor Narges Bajoghli.
Inform students that Iranian sentiment toward the United States is complex and varied. Ask students to respond to the video. Are students surprised by the content of the video? What else have they read or heard about Iranian attitudes toward people in the United States? How does the video change their understanding of the relationship between the United States and Iran?