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April 2001 - Issue No. #42

Special Feature: Human Rights Squares:

A Classroom Activity

by Kip Cates

(a) Human Rights Squares - A Classroom Activity: Explanation (p.11)
(b) Human Rights Square: Activity chart (p.12)
(c) Human Rights Squares: Sample answers (p.13)
(d) Human Rights Squares: Pair Talking Questions (p.14)
(e) Human Rights Education Bibliography (p.14)
(f) UN Declaration of Human Rights - A simplified version (p.18)

HUMAN RIGHTS SQUARES: A Classroom Activity

A Human Rights Classroom Activity

For many people, the term "human rights" sounds gloomy and depressing (kurai in Japanese). To offset this, human rights educators have designed a number of classroom activities that engage students with human rights in positive ways through games which include student interests from the world of pop culture (eg movies and songs). Here, we present a revised version of one such activity "Human Rights Squares , adapted from Teaching Human Rights by David Shiman (reference page 14). Try this in your class and let us know how it goes!


  1. Put students in pairs or groups and pass out the Human Rights Squares chart (page 12). You may want to enlarge the chart to A4 or B4 size.
  2. Explain that the chart is made up of 20 squares. Each square describes one human rights topic. The student's job is to fill in at least one example for each square. To demonstrate, take Square #1, "A human right" , write "freedom of speech" (genron no jiyu in Japanese) on the board and explain that this is one example of a human right. Give students 10-15 minutes to fill in as many squares as possible.
  3. While students are working, draw the chart on the blackboard. When the time is up, stop and check their answers. Call on individual students and ask them to choose a square. Any square. Have them announce their square (e.g. #7 A movie about human rights ), give their example (eg Gandhi), then write this in the blackboard square. Make comments on student answers/mistakes, elicit other possible answers and discuss each square and its examples. Since the chart is bilingual, Japanese students will be able to understand each square's topic. As teacher, therefore, you can ignore the Japanese and run the whole class solely in English.
  4. As time allows, work with the grammar and/or topic related to each square. Square #3 A group which was persecuted in the past, for example, is perfect for digging into 20th century history while doing oral practice of the passive voice:

  5. - Who was persecuted? (eg) The Jews.
    - Who were they persecuted by? The Nazis.
    - When were they persecuted? During WWII.
    - Why were they persecuted? Because the Nazis blamed them for the problems of Germany.
  6. Once time gets short or students run out of answers, pass out the second handout (page 13) and have students read for information to fill in the remaining blanks on their charts. Alternatively, the teacher can read through all 20 squares with the class, explaining in detail the sample answers given on the handout.
  7. Finally, put students in pairs, pass out the final handout (page 14) and have them ask each other questions on the 20 human rights topics.


Write the name of...

1. A human right


3.A group which was persecuted in the past

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5. An organization which fights for human rights


7. A movie about human rights.


9. A country where people are denied rights because of their religion.


11. A people denied the right to establish their own homeland.


13. A country where the human rights situation has improved recently.


15. A country where the rights of difference groups are in conflict


17. A book that is about human rights.


19. A human right that all children should have.





There are 30 basic human rights. These include:

  • political rights (the right to vote, freedom of speech)
  • economic rights (the right to food and housing)
  • personal rights (the right to marry and divorce)


    Human rights are violated in all nations around the world.
    Every country has some human rights problems.
    But, many countries are working hard to protect human rights.


    Many different groups have been persecuted in the past:

  • Jewish people (the Jews) were persecuted by the Nazis
  • Christians were persecuted by the ancient Romans
  • the Burakumin were persecuted by people in Japan

    Many different groups want to deny rights to others:

  • the KKK wants to deny rights to blacks in the USA
  • Neo-Nazis want to deny rights to foreigners in Europe
  • right wing groups want to deny others' rights in Japan

    Many groups are working for human rights:

  • Amnesty International is a famous human rights group
  • the United Nations works to protect human rights
  • UNICEF works to protect the rights of children

    In many places, there is still discrimination based on race:

  • blacks face racism due to their skin color (eg the USA)
  • Asians face discrimination (eg Chinese in Indonesia)
  • foreigners are banned from sento public baths (Japan)

    There are many movies which deal with human rights:

  • Schindler's List is about Jewish human rights in WW II
  • Mississippi Burning is about civil rights in the USA
  • Dances With Wolves is about the rights of Indians

    According to Amnesty International, people are tortured
    in over 120 countries around the world today, including:

  • Iraq
  • Nigeria
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Turkey
  • Afghanistan

    Several countries have conflicts based on religion:

  • in N. Ireland, Catholics and Protestants are in conflict
  • in India, Hindus and Muslims fight because of religion
  • in Africa, Christians and Muslims are fighting in Sudan

    One example of a human rights problem in Japan is:

  • karoshi: The right to rest is a basic human right. But, every year, some people in Japan die from overwork because their companies won't let them take a break.

    Many different groups are struggling for a homeland:

  • the Palestinians want their own country: Palestine
  • the Kurds want to create their own Kurdish state
  • Tibetans want a free Tibet not controlled by China

    Some countries refuse their citizens the right to emigrate and don't allow them to travel abroad freely:

  • North Korea
  • Cuba
  • Myanmar/Burma

    The human rights situation has improved in places like:

  • the Philippines after the fall of Marcos in 1986
  • East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989
  • South Africa after the end of apartheid in 1990

    Many singers have sung songs about human rights:

  • Stevie Wonder (he wrote a song about apartheid)
  • Sting (he wrote a song about human rights in Chile)
  • John Lennon (he wrote the famous song Imagine)

    There are ethnic conflicts in many countries such as:

  • between French and English people in Canada
  • between Israelis and Arabs in the Middle East
  • between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda in Africa

    There are a number of rights often denied to women:

  • the right to equal pay for equal work
  • the right to job promotions based on ability
  • the right to control their own lives and bodies

    There are many books which deal with human rights:

  • The Diary of Anne Frank is about a Jewish girl
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin is about black slavery in the US
  • Hashi no Nai Kawa is about the rights of Burakumin

    Many people are famous for promoting human rights:

  • Martin Luther King worked for civil rights in the USA
  • Nelson Mandela worked for human rights in S. Africa
  • Aung San Suu Kyi works for human rights in Burma

    Some human rights that all children should have are:

  • the right to a name and a nationality
  • the right to special care and protection
  • the right to education and to go to school

    Different people care about different rights:

  • the right to privacy,
  • the right to a smoke-free environment,
  • freedom from sexual harassment or
  • the right to do what you like as long as you don't harm others.
  • What about you?


    1. How many basic human rights are there?
      What are 3 types of human rights?

    2. Where are human rights violated?

    3. Who were persecuted by _____ ?
      the Nazis /the Romans / the Japanese

    4. What do the ___ want to do?
      KKK / neo-Nazis /right wingers

    5. What does _____ do?
      the U.N. / Amnesty International / UNICEF

    6. Where are _____ discriminated against?
      blacks / Asians / foreigners

    7. What's the movie __________ about? Gandhi / Schindler's List / Dances with Wolves

    8. In how many countries are people tortured?

    9. What problem with religion is there in __? India / Africa / Northern Ireland

    10. Explain karoshi.
    1. What do the ________ want?
      Kurds / Palestinians / Tibetans

    2. What doesn't North Korea allow?

    3. When did the situation improve in ____?
      East Germany / South Africa / Indonesia

    4. What did ______ do?
      Sting / John Lennon / Stevie Wonder

    5. What conflict is there in _________?
      Rwanda / Canada / the Middle East

    6. Who are sometimes denied human rights such as equal pay for equal work?

    7. What is the book _______ about?
      Hashi no Nai Kawa / Uncle Tom's Cabin

    8. What did ____ do? Nelson Mandela / Aung San Suu Kyi / Martin Luther

    9. Who has a right to special care and protection?

    10. What rights are you concerned about?


    Human Rights Issues

    Amnesty International. (1991) The Amnesty International Handbook. Claremont, California: Hunter House.
    Amnesty International (World Organizations Series). (2001) London: Franklin Watts.
    Bronson, M. (1993) Organizations That Help the World: Amnesty International . NY: New Discovery Books.
    Humana, C. (1992) World Human Rights Guide. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    Lucas, E. (1997) Contemporary Human Rights Activists. New York: Facts on File.
    Peace Child International (1998) Stand Up for Your Rights. Chicago: World Book.
    Selby, D. (1987) Human Rights. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    Totten, S. & Kleg, M. (1989) Human Rights. Hillside, NJ, USA: Enslow Publishers.
    What Do We Mean By Human Rights? series. (5 titles) London: Franklin Watts.

    Human Rights Education

    Andreopoulos, G. (1997) Human Rights Education for the Twenty-First Century. USA: Univ. of Pennsylvania.
    Brown, M. (1996) Our World, Our Rights (Teaching Rights in Primary School). London: Amnesty International.
    Osler, A. & Starkey, H. (1996) Teacher Education and Human Rights. London: David Fulton.
    Oxfam (1998) Developing Rights: Teaching Rights & Responsibilities for Ages 11-14. Oxford: Oxfam.
    Pike, G. & Selby, D. (1988). Human Rights: An Activity File. Cheltenham, UK: Stanley Thornes.
    Reardon, B. (1995) Educating for Human Dignity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
    Shiman, D. (1999). Teaching Human Rights. Denver: Center for Teaching International Relations.

    Human Rights Videos
    (May no longer be available)

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - animated introduction to the declaration (20 mins. $25)
    You Could Be Arrested - introduction to Amnesty International for high school students (22 mins. $20)

    Human Rights Education Newsletters

    Human Rights Education - The Fourth R. Amnesty International USA (full contact address on page 23)
    Human Rights Education Newsletter York, England, UK. Fax: 0-1904-612512

    Human Rights Education in Language Teaching
    Hitchfield, P. (1994) Human Rights and Language Teaching. Global Issues Newsletter #17. Dec. 1994.
    Peterson, J. (1990) Human Rights Education and Action. TESOL Newsletter. Vol. XXIV No 6. Dec. 1990.
    Reveler, N & Nema, H. (1994) Freedom, Rights and Responsibilities. (EFL textbook). Tokyo: Kinseido.
    Rinvolucri, M. (1993) Teacher Role Play to Attack Prejudice. Modern English Teacher. Vol. 2 No. 4.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights


    A revised version in easier English

    1. Everyone is born free and should be treated the same way. We all have reason and conscience, and should treat one another in a spirit of friendship.

    2. Everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms in this declaration, regardless of their race, sex, language, religion, social group or country.

    3. Everyone has the right to life, to freedom and to live in safety.

    4. No one has the right to treat another person as a slave. Slavery is not allowed in any form.

    5. No one has the right to hurt or torture another person, or to treat or punish people in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.

    6. Everyone has the right to be treated equally by the law.

    7. The law is the same for everyone; it should be applied in the same way to all.

    8. Everyone has the right to ask for legal help when their human rights are not respected.

    9. No one has the right to put you or keep you in prison unjustly, or to unjustly expel you from your country.

    10. Everyone has the right to a fair and public trial by a free and independent court.

    11. Everyone should be considered innocent until proven guilty. If accused of a crime, you have a right to defend yourself. No one can condemn or punish you for something that you haven't done.

    12. Everyone has the right to be protected if someone tries to harm them or their reputation. No one can enter your house, open your letters, or bother you or your family without good reason.

    13. Everyone has a right to freedom of movement, to travel as they wish within their own country, and to leave their country and return if they want.

    14. Everyone has the right to ask for protection from another country if they are being persecuted or are in danger of persecution. You lose this right if you have committed a crime.

    15. Everyone has the right to a nationality and to belong to a country. No one has the right to take away your nationality or to prevent you from changing your nationality, if you wish.

    16. Everyone has the right to marry, to choose their partner freely and to have a family. Nobody can force a person to marry. Men and women have the same rights when they marry and divorce. The government has a duty to protect the family.

    17. Everyone has the right to own property and possessions, alone or with others. No one has the right to take these from you without good reason.

    18. Everyone has the right to freedom of religion and belief, to choose a religion freely, to change their religion, and to practise it alone or with others.

    1. Everyone has the right to think what they want (freedom of opinion) and say what they like (freedom of expression). Everyone should be able to search for, receive and share information and ideas freely.

    2. Everyone has the right to organize peaceful meetings or to take part in peaceful meetings. It is wrong to force someone to belong to a group.

    3. Everyone has the right to take part in their country's government, either directly or by freely choosing representatives. Each country should have regular elections with secret voting. Every citizen should have the right to vote. All votes should be equal. Everyone has an equal right to public services.

    4. Everyone has the right to social security, and to all opportunities (economic, social, cultural) offered by their government to promote human development.

    5. Everyone has the right to work, to choose their job freely, to good working conditions and to protection against unemployment. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work, and to join a trade union to defend their interests.

    6. Everyone has a right to rest and leisure, including a right to reasonable working hours and to regular holidays with pay.

    7. Everyone has the right to a basic standard of living, including food, clothing, housing, social services and medical care. You have a right to assistance and security if you are old, sick, disabled or unemployed, or if you can't earn a living for any reason. Mothers and children are entitled to special care. All children have the same rights, whether or not their parents are married.

    8. Everyone has the right to education and to go to school. All primary schools should be compulsory and free. Schools should build respect for human rights and freedom, and promote peace, international understanding, tolerance and friendship among the world's countries. Parents have the right to decide on their children's education.

    9. Everyone has the right to share in the social and cultural life of their community. The works of artists, writers and scientists should be protected, and they should be able to benefit from them.

    10. Everyone is entitled to a society and to a world where the rights and freedoms here are respected.

    11. Everyone has duties to their community. The law should guarantee human rights, respect for others, social welfare, public safety and morality.

    12. No one has the right to take away any of the rights or freedoms in this declaration.


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