Lesson Plan

Upstanders, Not Bystanders

An interactive conversation on what it means to cross the line from "bystander" to "upstander"
Gail D.
Technology Integration Specialist
EGUSD Technology Services
Elk Grove, CA
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*Note: Although our focus is on grades 6-8, this lesson can easily be adapted to all grade levels, as it deals with an issue faced by all ages, across generations,geographic regions, and economic boundaries. 

Students will be able to:

  • define what it means to be an upstander
  • explain the role of the bystander - in events both from the past and present
  • grasp the importance of citing evidence
  • create and post a multi-media upstander nomination via VoiceThread
  • demonstrate respect for intellectual property and online privacy
English Language Arts
Social Studies
Grades 6 - 9
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Activity: Exploring

Start by sharing/projecting the following quote:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Mead

Question: Margaret Mead’s famous quote suggests the power of group action. What about one person? Is it possible for a single person to change the world? How about a child?

Show  YouTube video The Power of One.

2 Direct Instruction

Google Drive
Free, Paid

Allow students time to reflect on the samples shared in the Power of One video. Ask them to think of a person not shown in the video who at some point in his/life had the courage to cross the line from bystander to upstander. Students can pull from biographies/autobiographies, historical events, current events, or personal observations.

Show The Price of Silence video. Ask how this video is similar and/or different from the Power of One. Ask students to clarify and document their thinking via a Venn Diagram. I recommend using the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) Read, Write, Think web-based Venn Diagram creator or the mobile app version to capture and clarify their thinking. Note: The Read, Write, Think apps have not yet been reviewed by the Graphite community.

Provide students with link to a Google Form, such as this sample Upstanders Nomination  form, which you may copy and edit (shareable form) - and ask them to name their upstander and justify their nomination of this person by sharing a story or by citing evidence of this person’s actions. Display spreadsheet with results.

Invite students to revisit your form and nominate people from their own lives who have crossed the line from bystander to upstander.

3 Guided Instruction

Voki Classroom
Free to Try, Paid

Lead students on a tour of the Upstanders, not Bystanders VoiceThread, sharing samples from all four screens (opening, elementary, middle, and high school).

Share the Upstanders, Not Bystanders rubric/scoring guide. Note: The scoring guide was created with iRubric, which has not yet been reviewed by the Graphite community.

Ask students to pair up and select three comments they have scored with 15/20 possible points or above. Have students note which comments are about historical / global figures vs personal / local connections.

Writing component
Using the Upstanders Nomination form, create - with student input - a 20/20 possible points nomination.

Audio component
VoiceThread is set up for audio via device microphones, webcams, and phones. If students are using a Pro Account of VoiceThread, they can also pre-record their comments as MP3 files, using an app such as Audacity, and then upload their recording to VoiceThread.

Digital Citizenship component
For elementary and middle school students, demonstrate how to create an avatar, using apps such as Voki  or Build Yourself Wild (Note: Build Yourself Wild has not yet been reviewed by the Graphite community). For high school students, talk about options for creating a positive digital footprint, starting with their online images/avatars/photos.

4 Independent Practice


Students decide who they will add to the Upstanders, not Bystanders collection. They can select a new upstander OR add an additional justification to someone already named as an upstander.

Once they have drafted their upstander piece, they can team up to practice expressive reading of their piece and then move on to practice recording their VoiceThread comment. Note: If you do not have a computer with a built-in or external microphone, students can also use cell phones to call in their recordings. Text is also an option. For privacy reasons, webcams should be used only with high school students.

Students age 13 and above can create their own VoiceThread accounts. Students under the age of 13 should use teacher or parent created accounts.   

5 Wrap Up - Badging

Free, Paid

Badging - How can students earn them?

The Digital ID Project provides students with a global micophone for stepping up and speaking out on four areas of digital citizenship: cyberbullying, digital footprint, intellectual property, and online privacy.  Through the Digital ID Project’s Badges Request Form, teachers can reward students for speaking up on the importance and impact of upstanders by nominating them for a Stepping Up badge. Note: The Digital ID website has not yet been reviewed by the Graphite community.