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This I Believe: The Bright Lights of Freedom


Tech Product/Equipment:
Computer and projector, Mobile devices for students, Speakers

Activity Description

This I Believe
Source: NPR's This I Believe (License: CC0/Public Domain)

If you listen to NPR radio, you may hear both famous and unknowns discussing their core values and beliefs on weekly broadcasts of the radio spot “This I Believe,” a take-off on Edward R. Murrow’s original 1950s radio show. The site is an archive of all the modern broadcasts accompanied by the original print essays and contains a searchable database of thousands of other essays on numerous topics ranging from patriotism, to family, to sports. Each short essay that has been broadcast on NPR has a “Listen” link to hear the authors read their essays, which provides a listening component for the ABE student. The audio can be the basis for exercises on note-taking, listening for main ideas, supporting details, and cloze (listening for missing words).


  1. Be sure you have all the necessary equipment.
  2. Preview site.
  3. Listen to/read essay on freedom (see Web Site Example above).
  4. Print assignment sheet (see example document above).


  1. Introduce the I Believe Series.
  2. Discuss 'personal values' as a class.
  3. Open the Example Document 1 (above). Go through the Conversation questions with your students.
  4. Read/listen to the Web Site Example URL (above), "The Bright Lights of Freedom."
  5. Go through the activities on the worksheet.
  6. Writing assignment. What do you value in the United States?

More Ways

For a one time donation, the site provides downloadable (.pdf) Educators’ Guides new window for use with Middle/High School and College students, both of which are applicable to and easily modified for use with adult literacy students or older adult programs. The guides’ curricula include discussion guides, pre-writing activities and prompts, and sample essays. The purpose of the guides is to assist instructors in planning lessons with the objective of students writing their own “This I Believe” essays. The curricula “help students understand the concept of belief, explore their own values, and craft them into a well-written essay.” Students can submit their essays to the site for online publication

Program Areas

  • ABE: Adult Basic Education
  • ESL: English as a Second Language
  • ASE: High School Diploma


  • Low
  • Intermediate
  • High
  • All Levels
  • Intermediate High
  • Advanced

Lesson Plan

Engagement Enhancement

Handout the document: Bright Lights.Review the handout for the following questions. In pairs, have students answer the 'Conversation questions" on the handout. Then have them share their partner's most interesting answers with the class.

  • Where are you from originally?
  • How long have you lived in the U.S.A.?  
  • Do you plan to live here permanently?  Why or why not?
  • What are some reasons people emigrate to live in other countries? 
  • What are some difficulties people face when they live in another country? 
  • What is culture shock?  
  • Have you experienced it before?  
  • What surprised or confused you when you first came to the United States?  Explain. 
  • What do you like about living in the U.S.?  
  • What do you dislike about living here or what do you miss most about living in your own country? 
Engagement Enhancement

Introduce the topic of exploring personal values related to freedom in the Untied States. Students turn to their partner and share a memorable experience when they felt a sense of freedom. Share those experiences with the class.

Engagement Enhancement

The political environment in the United States is filled with division and polarization. But many still find value in the freedoms they experience here. Today we will talk about freedoms.

Access the website The Bright Lights of Freedom  Have a volunteer read the biographical information paragraph on the handout. 

Read Part I: Listen for main Ideas. If possible listen to the essay. Students turn to their partner and answer part 1: Main Idea. Then share the answers with the class.

Engagement Enhancement

As partners, listen or read the essay again. Before beginning, read the questions on the handout under Part II: Listen for Details. Together, fill out the answers to the questions.

Engagement Enhancement

In preparation for Part III. Listen for Words. Student pairs  Listen/read a third time to the essay. Fill in the blanks

Engagement Enhancement

Part IV. Vocabulary. Put the five words on the board: contagious, trapped, hiked, coup d' etat, savored.

As pairs, have students answer the questions in Part IV. Vocabulary. Share responses as a class

Engagement Enhancement

Part V. Reflection and Discussion. As pairs, discuss answers to the questions in Part V. Write the answers together. Pairs join with another pair making four students. Trade answers and read each other's work. Students look for two things in this peer review. Are there places where you were confused by the answer, were there places when you wanted to know more. Give suggestions to each other. Return the writing to the original owners who read the peer responses and revise their writing to turn into the teacher.

Engagement Enhancement Extension

We have read  the essay, The Bright Lights of Freedom and reflected on our own ideas of the value freedom. With so many voices of division in our country today, what would you say to those voices?What can we do to make our voices, our values be heard?  



  • English Language Arts
    • English 1-4
    • Speech
  • Language Arts - Writing
    • Language Facility
    • Organization of Ideas
    • Writing Conventions
  • Reading
    • Critical Thinking/Decision Making
    • Vocabulary
  • Reasoning Through Language Arts
    • Essays


  • Reading
    • CCR Anchor 1 - Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
    • CCR Anchor 2 - Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
    • CCR Anchor 3 - Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
    • CCR Anchor 4 - Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • Writing
    • CCR Anchor 1 - Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
    • CCR Anchor 2 - Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
    • CCR Anchor 3 - Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
  • Speaking and Listening
    • CCR Anchor 1 - Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
    • CCR Anchor 2 - Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  • Language
    • CCR Anchor 1 - Demonstrate command of the conventions of English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • CCR Anchor 2 - Demonstrate command of the conventions of English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
    • CCR Anchor 3 - Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


reading, writing, critical thinking, freedom, I Believe, listen and read, main idea, pre-writing, prompt, publish, supporting details, text reader, thisibelieve, United States, values, values, word processing, writing on computer, writing process, audio assist, audio-assisted reading, autobiography, cloze activity

Creative Commons License

CC BY-ND:This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.


You may copy, download one copy on a single device, and print a limited amount of content for your personal, non-commercial use only, provided that (a) you include without modification all copyright and other proprietary notices contained in the content, (b) you do not modify the content, (c) you do not use the content in a manner that suggests NPR promotes or endorses your, or any third party's, causes, ideas, products, sites, applications, platforms or services, and (d) you do not use the content in any way that is unlawful or harmful. Subject to the conditions in the preceding sentence, you may use widgets and tools on the NPR Services that allow selected User Materials to appear on your personal, noncommercial blog, site, application, platform or service. You may use the content feeds, APIs, podcasts, media players, and other features of the NPR Services, and content accessed therefrom, only as expressly permitted in these Terms of Use, including the "Use of Content: Conditions and Acknowledgments".

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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.