Flow and Police Brutality

Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson by police while unarmed; it resulted in riots and more. Creating a sense of connection to the world is one way to inspire flow in our lessons.

This 25 minute lesson directly addresses police brutality and creating a sense of connection with students through flow. The material is difficult and may require trigger warnings for sensitive students.
(Estimated Running Time: 21-28 Minutes)


Teachers will be able to define flow.
Teachers will be able to rewrite in their own words the three recommended features of implementing flow.
Teachers will be able to reorganize elements of the lesson to create a sense of flow.


Required materials are normal text, recommended but not required materials are italicized

Essential Question(s):

How can we organize lessons to increase engagement and provide a sense of self-worth?

  • By letting lessons build to a crescendo of success, students will feel more accomplished.
  • A lesson that creates a sense of flow is more fulfilling.
  • Learning, like work, is more successful when it’s fulfilling.

Inquiry Exercise:

(1-3 Minutes)
Show a picture of Michael Brown. Who is this? Hopefully students will be able to identify him, but if not, mention of his name will undoubtedly lead to conversation. Why is he important? What issues does conversation about him raise? How does seeing this picture make you feel?

Introduction to New Material:

(2 Minutes)
This week, we’ll be discussing “Flow.” Flow is defined as experiencing something so intensely that nothing else matters. Wilhelm and Smith say there are three things we can do as teachers to encourage and foster flow, making our lessons more effective.

First, they suggest that we structure instruction to directly and explicitly address questions of genuine importance. Second, we need to expand notions of text and curriculum, and what counts as meaningful reading and learning. Third, we need to expand notions of competence, especially student competence, and find more ways to highlight, celebrate, name and extend it.

Tonight, I am going to walk you through a series of alternate texts that I feel can connect and expand a unit on police brutality. Afterward, we’re going to select from these materials certain ones that you feel could create a sense of flow and identify how each will help foster that sense of flow.

Guided Practice:

(10-12 Minutes)
I will place on the table six physical materials: the picture of Michael Brown, Batman Issue #44 (September 9, 2015) which deals with police brutality and gentrification, a print out of the lyrics for Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” and a print out of three different Police Brutality infographics, one highlighting police opinion and on focusing on racial discrimination. I will also open my laptop and present them with seven interactivities: “Justice Renegade” video that explores what a video game version of police brutality might look like, the Wikipedia page for the Shooting of Michael Brown, the New York Times Q&A What Happened in Ferguson, the Huffington Post’s Police Brutality page cataloguing recent news about the topic, the Youtube video for Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” the body cam footage of the shooting of Sam DuBose, and an opportunity to play the small game “Police Brutality,” in which players attempt to intervene against police brutality. After walking them through each of the materials briefly, we’ll have a discussion about what they feel would work best to use to create a sense of flow.

In front of you are a collection of media about police brutality. Additionally, the web browser on my laptop, I have six tabs open to relevant items and an additional program open that can be used. As we look at each one, I want you to point out if it’s genuinely relevant, whether you think it’s a more traditional resource or if it expands beyond traditional texts, and whether you think it would be an effective tool and exploring it will make us feel competent as experts in our field.

As we look at them, we’ll briefly discuss each one in the manner stated above.

  • Where do you think the best part to start is? Why did I start with the photo of Michael Brown?
  • How do you make sure that elements of a difficult topic have trigger warnings addressing student need?
  • How do you know if something is relevant and flows well?
  • Which of these tools provide enough information to show expertise? Which need help from other sources?

Individual Practice:

(3-5 Minutes)
Now, I have each of these things listed on small slips of paper and there is a glue stick in front of you. Select from the slips which items you would use in a lesson or unit on Police Brutality and glue them onto our worksheet (see below) in the order you’d present them. Next to each one, write a sentence or two saying why you placed it there and whether it introduces, expands, or creates a sense of competence. If you think of something from your own experience you’d like to include, write it in.

Before you get too far, here’s a print out of an article from Ijeoma Oluo about actions you can take about Police Brutality. Pay attention to the bold headers, though you can read more if you like. Think about how the pieces you select and glue could lead to one or more of these activities as a final class project. Also consider what novel or work a unit like this might be centered around and when in the unit you might want to introduce it so that it’s part of the flow.


(5 Minutes)
Creating Flow is about engaging in something important and relevant, expanding beyond traditional texts, and creating a sense of competency. While this is by no means an all-encompassing lesson, it provide a wide variety of elements, many of which can be found easily online, that can engage the students in a broad and relevant conversation.