Person of the Year: The Protester

December 19, 2011

Students nominate their own "person of the year"; read and discuss Time magazine's article naming "the protester"; and write new captions for photos of the protesters.


  • To help students understand why Time magazine chose The Protester as their 2011 Person of the Year
  • To help students understand how and why the worldwide protests took place during 2011, and their interconnectedness and distinctiveness
  • To help students understand the role of social media in the protests
  • To help students reflect on who "has done the most to influence the events of the year" 
  • To help students reflect on the meaning of democracy



Give students some background information about Time Magazine's Person of the Year. For instance:

  • Time magazine's "Person of the Year" features and profiles a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that "for better or for worse ...has done the most to influence the events of the year." 
  • Tradition of selecting a "Man of the Year" began in 1927, with Time editors contemplating newsworthy stories during what is usually a slow news week. 
  • In 1999, the title was changed to "Person of the Year."
  • Since then, individual people, classes of people, the computer, and Planet Earth have all been selected for the special year-end issue.
  • Since the list began, every serving President of the United States has been a Person of the Year at least once, with the exceptions of Calvin Coolidge, who was in office at time of the first issue.
  • Last year (2010), Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was named Person of the Year.
  • Some examples of groups/classes of people who have been named in past: Hungarian Freedom Fighter (1956), US Scientists (1960) American Women (1975) American Soldier (2003)

Full list here:

Ask students: If you were making the decision about Person of the Year, who would you nominate? Remind students of the criteria (the person who "has done the most to influence the events of the year for better or worse") and ask for nominations. Record on board or chart paper and save for later.


Time Person of the Year: The Protester

Tell students that in 2011, Time magazine has named "The Protester" the Person of the Year. Ask: What do you think that means? Who do you think the protesters are? What were they protesting and why? Why do you think The Protester was named Person of the Year?

Have students read the article "Time Person of the Year: The Protester.,28804,2101745_2102132,00.html

The article is long, so you may choose to have students read the entire article in class or for homework. Alternately, ask all students to read the first two pages of the article, then divide the rest of the article into sections, and have several small groups each read one section. Then have students return to the whole group. Have each small group present to the whole class (5 minutes each), sharing 3-5 interesting pieces of information they learned from reading their section.

Large Group Discussion

Ask the following questions in a group discussion about the reading:

  • What do the protesters around the world have in common? In what ways are they different and unique? What does their distinctiveness reveal about the particular economy, culture, or government of the country they come from?
  • How did the protests influence each other?
  • What role did social and other media (cameras, video, TV, cell phone) play in the protests?
  • Why do you think Time magazine named a group this year and not an individual?
  • What were the roles of individuals like Mohamed Bouzizi in Tunisia and Khaled Said in Egypt in these protests?
  • Ask students to share their thoughts and feelings about the following quotes:
    o "My son set himself on fire for dignity" - Mannoubia Bouazizi (Mohamed Bouzizi's son)
    o "Aftermaths are never as splendid as uprisings. Solidarity has a short half-life. Democracy is messy and hard, and votes may not go your way. Freedom doesn't appear all at once."
    o "They can laugh and call us microbloggers. They can call us the hamsters of the internet. Fine. I am an Internet hamster. But I know they are afraid of us."
  • What is democracy, in the eyes of the protesters? Do you think the idea of democracy differs among the protesters? How?
  • What is the relationship between protest and legislation? Can you give an example of that?



Captions: What are they thinking? 

Print out or show the photos from the article using the link below. The photographer, Yuri Kozyrev, traveled to seven countries covering protests and uprisings for Timemagazine, including Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Russia, Greece and Tunisia. These photographs go along with The Protester theme.

The photos already have captions. But ask students to create captions of their own for some of the 64 photographs. Each caption should answer the question: What is this person or people thinking, feeling, or saying? Ask students to work in pairs to come up with captions for 3-5 of the photos they select.



Go back to the list of nominees for Person of the Year students brainstormed at the beginning of the lesson. Add "The Protester." Repeat the name of each nominee and ask a student or two to give reasons for their nomination. Conduct a vote.


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