Full Circle: The High Price of Free Speech

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Standards for this Guide

Read Full Circle in the Magazine


Seventy-five percent of high school students say they take the First Amendment for granted or they do not think about it at all. Three out of four students also believe that flag burning is illegal and almost fifty percent believe that obscene online material is restricted by the government. This gulf between misconception and reality presents a valuable opportunity for educators to improve students’ working knowledge of their civil rights, a knowledge which forms the foundation of a politically engaged citizenry. One way to develop appreciation for overlooked freedom of expression is to confront its absence in other societies, along with the fatal consequences often faced by those who dare speak out against injustice. Putsata Reang examines contrasting rights and freedoms across cultures through her personal journey as a refugee and journalist and in the stories of Southeast Asian journalists featured in her essay “Full Circle.”

In these lessons, students will read and study the essay “Full Circle” and the short film “A Return Passage” and use them as entry points for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of civil rights, media and journalism, power, justice, and refugees.


Standards met through this curriculum

Learning Outcomes/Essential Questions

Students will:

  1. Use reading strategies to build vocabulary and enhance comprehension and critical thinking.

  2. Use textual evidence to analyze refugee experiences and freedom of expression.

  3. Explore issues of civil rights, media and journalism, power, justice, and refugees while demonstrating their ELA and history/social studies skills through reader response and/or discussion.


Essential Questions:

  1. Why is it important to share and understand the stories of refugees, and how might these stories shape the ways in which we all live and relate to one another?

  2. What is freedom of expression, and why is it important? How is this freedom upheld or denied around the world?

  3. What is the relationship between a limited freedom of expression and the perpetuation of injustice and human rights abuses?

  4. In what ways are journalists and average citizens responsible for exposing injustice, and what are the consequences of this exposure for individuals and societies?

  5. Why is it important to understand our individual rights and freedoms as American people? How do these rights compare to those of people in other countries? Do people who enjoy more rights and privileges have a responsibility to protect and/or defend the less privileged? Why or why not?

Depth of Knowledge (DOK)

Levels 1, 2, 3, 4

For more information on DOK, see DOK Slide Wheel


Computers/devices with which students may produce and publish their writing (optional)


Burma (Myanmar) facts and map

China facts and map

Vietnam facts and map

Philippines facts and map

Laos facts and map

Cambodia facts and map


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Reading Scoring Guides

ODE Informational Text Reading Scoring Guide (English)

ODE Informational Text Reading Scoring Guide (Spanish)

ODE Informational Text Reading Scoring Guide in Student Language (English)

ODE Informational Text Reading Scoring Guide in Student Language (Spanish)

Writing Scoring Guides

SBAC Explanatory Writing Scoring Guide

ODE Informative/Explanatory Writing Scoring Guide (English)

ODE Informative/Explanatory Writing Scoring Guide (Spanish)

ODE Writing Scoring Guide in Student Language (English)

ODE Writing Scoring Guide in Student Language (Spanish)

Social Science Scoring Guides

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide (English)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide (Spanish)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide (Russian)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide in Student Language (English)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide in Student Language (Spanish)

ODE Social Science Scoring Guide in Student Language (Russian)


  1. Review all resources and decide which components you will include and how many lessons to allot for this curriculum. (Note: Almost every component can be used as a stand-alone piece or combined with other components.)

  2. Read and take notes on the “Full Circle” essay.

  3. Review and prepare your chosen handouts.

  4. Plan any necessary pre-teaching of geography or facts related to Southeast Asia and/or the individual countries of Burma (Myanmar)*, Cambodia, China, Laos, Philippines, and Vietnam (see resources in Materials and Technology section). You may also choose to present to students some or all of the video clips in the Additional Resources section to introduce background information on key figures or events mentioned in the essay, such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the killing of journalists such as James Foley.

  5. Preview and prepare optional extensions.

*The names “Burma” and “Myanmar” are used interchangeably throughout the essay and accompanying materials. In 1989, the country’s name was changed to Myanmar by the then-ruling military junta, but many opposed to the junta continued to use the name Burma. Today, native speakers use both names (Myanmar is considered more formal). People of this country should be referred to as “Burmese,” never “Myanmarese” or “Myanmese.” See more details on the use of these terms here.

Reading Strategies

  1. Model and instruct students to use the AVID® Marking the Text strategy as they read the text.

    1. Before reading, number the paragraphs. (A paragraph begins at any break in the text, even if it is not indented.)

    2. While reading, circle key vocabulary, dates, names, places, events, and important numbers/statistics.

    3. After reading, go back and re-read sections, underlining strong images, descriptions, dialogue, and author’s claims.

  2. While reading, pause at various places and model the think-aloud strategy to demonstrate comprehension/summarization of the text.

  3. Model and employ the Learn-Read-Discuss strategy:

    1. Introduce major concepts of this curriculum using the “A Return Passage” warm-up and/or provided maps and video clips. Ask students to use the think-pair-share strategy to discuss and process the background information.

    2. Students read article (using teacher’s designated strategies).

    3. Students engage in individual reflection, then small- or large-group discussion, synthesizing information from the warm-up and article.

  4. TAG Option: You may choose to give advanced readers the SOAPS Text Analysis handout for tracking the author’s argument and purpose during their reading. Students’ observations using this strategy can be incorporated into later lesson steps, such as discussion and writing responses.

Instructional Plan


Tell students that you will be presenting some background information to help them better understand the essay they will read (Listen-Read-Discuss strategy).

Two maps of Southeast Asia have been provided. You may first ask students to fill in the blank map to assess their prior geographical knowledge, then use the labeled map to teach the correct location of each country. You may also want to present some basic facts about each country, using the information in the country links in the Materials and Technology section.

Distribute the “A Return Passage” warm-up handout and tell students they will view a short film describing the backgrounds of Putsata Reang, the author of the essay they will read, and her friend and collaborator, Kim Nguyen. Screen the film at least two times—once, so students can get a general impression, and again, so they can listen and watch more closely for information to include in their notes. Model shorthand techniques for effective note-taking. (Examples are demonstrated in the “A Return Passage” Answers document.)

Pause and give students time to completely fill in their warm-up handouts. You may choose to have them conduct a think-pair-share to review what they learned before moving on to further lesson steps.

Vocabulary (optional differentiation):

  1. Frontload vocabulary and concepts from the essay prior to reading. Provide definitions or ask students to look up and record definitions. As an alternative, delay adding definitions until after reading, and ask students to use context to determine preliminary definitions as they read.

  2. Ask students to identify and circle vocabulary words in the essay as they read.

  3. After reading, review and clarify vocabulary words and ask students to write down the sentence from the essay that uses each word.



Notes chart:

Present the notes chart handout and model how students should take notes as they read. After introducing the reading strategies you will use, read the essay with students or ask them to read silently. If reading aloud, pause to review, synthesize information, and model note-taking at various points during the reading process. After reading, give students time to review the text and add to their notes. Conduct an informal assessment of comprehension by reviewing students’ notes and responses in a think-pair-share or mini-discussion format.



Reader response:

Distribute the reader response handout and ask students to discuss or record their responses, using direct evidence from their notes charts and the essay. Model complete responses, using the sentence frames in the scaffolded version of the handout as necessary. Guide the process of re-reading relevant sections of the text to help students retrieve sufficient evidence.

After giving students time and assistance in developing their responses, conduct an informal assessment of comprehension by reviewing students’ notes and responses in a think-pair-share or mini-discussion format.

Spoken or written post-assessment:

Share with students whether you will use a spoken or written format for this assessment. Review the instructions on the discussion/writing assignment handout and give students time to review and prepare further notes on the essay and any additional texts you might assign or ask them to research. Guide students in using their notes chart/reader response handouts as a starting place for discussion and/or writing.

For a written response, share what scoring guide you will use and give students additional instructions on response length and format. Set up instructional time to include each step of the writing process, including publishing and sharing if you choose, and any additional scaffolds and writing strategies.

For discussion/Socratic Seminar, share the discussion rubric and give students additional instructions on discussion expectations and format. Set up instructional time to include discussion preparation, the discussion itself, and de-briefing after the discussion. You may want to have students turn in their notes for a writing portion of the overall discussion grade.


ELL and SPED Supports: Scaffolded assignment options, vocabulary, reading strategies

TAG Extensions: Leadership opportunities during discussion and/or Socratic Seminar, SOAPS Text Analysis handout to use during and after reading, additional resources/related reading, optional extensions

Assessment/Student Performance Tasks

  1. Warm-up notes and responses (Formative)

  2. Notes chart/reader response and discussion (Formative)

  3. Post-discussion and/or writing assessment (Can be used as formative or summative)

Additional Resources/Related Reading

Last Days in Vietnam: Refugees (Video clip from PBS’ American Experience)

Khmer Rouge Brief Background (Video clip from AFP news agency)

Shaimaa el-Sabbagh’s murder (BBC News video clip)

Charlie Hebdo attack timeline (Telegraph video clip)

Remembering Steven Sotloff (CNN video clip)

Who was journalist James Foley? (CNN video clip)

Should journalists have more protections? (Guardian video clip)

Optional Extensions

Making Peace with Chaos

A Return Passage

The Irawaddy (Burmese news outlet)

Internews (international nongovernmental media organization)

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)

Thai Netizen Network