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Lesson 13: US Social Problems

Lesson 13: US Social Problems

Students describe the 4 major races in the US, observe and interpret social problems from a film, and discuss median salary based on race, gender, and education.

Level:  Intermediate

Topic:  US social problems

Time:  90 minutes



  1. Describe the 4 major races in the US.
  2. Observe social problems such as racism, poverty, drug abuse, and crime in the US.
  3. Interpret observations from a film.
  4. Describe median salary based on race, gender, and education.


1, 4.  Students work in groups to discuss the Median salaries and report to the class what they found.

2, 3.  Collect Film Notes worksheet at the end of class.



  • DVD: Crash (2005)
  • Make one copy of Film Notes for each student.
  • Make one copy of Median salaries for each group.


Film Background (5 minutes)

Crash is a 2004 drama depicting social problems in the US. It is a popular movie that won many awards because of its realistic portrayal of drugs, crime, and racism in the US. There is substantial profanity and references to sex.


Population of the US by race:

  • White, non-Hispanic: 66%
  • White, Hispanic: 14%
  • Black: 12.4%
  • Asian: 4.4%



  • 57% are in prison because of drugs
  • 93% in prison are male



  • 11% use marijuana
  • 1/3 high school students use marijuana
  • ¼ of 18-25 year olds use marijuana
  • It is legal in 12 states starting with CA in 1996 for medicinal purposes.


Watch film (40 minutes)

  • Play from the skyline of Los Angeles until the scene with “You fix the lock.”  Can play the next scene with the Persian shopkeeper. Can fast forward until the man walks out of the insurance office.  Play the scene with the mother until the guy throws the milk in the garbage.
  • Give each student a Film Notes worksheet. 
  • Ask students to write down five social problems they observe on the left side of the worksheet.


Cultural Interpretation (25 minutes)

  • Ask students to think about what they saw in the film and write a detailed description of what they saw regarding the social problem on the right side of the worksheet.
  • Ask students to get into groups of 4 or 5 people and discuss their observations and interpretation.
  • Collect the Film Notes worksheets


Median Salaries (10 minutes)

  • Give each group a Median Salaries handout.
  • Ask students to look at the handout and discuss their findings in their groups.
  • Ask reporters to tell the class their group’s findings.
    • Poverty line: household income below $18,000 for a family of 4 (about 14% of population)


Q&A (10 minutes)

  • Ask the students to look at their homework questions and/or responses to ask additional questions about the unit.



  • Read units in book about US religion, education, sports, scenic spots, and literature to become familiar with the presentation topics. 
  • US Culture Presentations are next week.  

Printable Worksheets

Film Notes
Median Salaries

This Activity is also available here:

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