Columbine Teacher's Guide

Overcoming Adversity

Activity: Small-Group Discussion


  1. Organize students into small groups, and read them the prompt below.
  2. Then give each group 3-5 of the questions, and have them discuss each question for five minutes.
  3. At the end of the discussion period (15-25 minutes), have them choose one of the questions that provoked the most fruitful discussion. As a team, spend five minutes summarizing what they learned.
  4. Have each group chose a spokesperson to make a two-minute presentation to the class on what they concluded.
  5. Use the remaining time for an open class discussion, responding to what they heard from the other groups.


"The survivors struggled with very different kinds of loss. Brian Rohrbough lost a son; Linda Sanders lost a husband; and Patrick Ireland was told he'd lost use of one leg, most of his speech and a good deal of his brain. They all lived through it, but in very different ways. Many survivors faced unimaginable horror: some responded heroically, others poorly. Discuss what you learned."


  1. Name five characters you feel acted heroically, or overcame a great obstacle. What did each person do that impressed you?

  2. What did you learn from each person?

  3. Which character did you admire most of all?

  4. What character in the book faced the greatest challenge? Who overcame the most?

  5. Did that person’s attitude impact their success? What was their mental response to what they faced?

  6. Were you surprised by what they achieved? How do you think their life might be now if they had approached their situation differently?

  7. If you faced a similar loss or injury, how would you respond? What that change based on what you read?

  8. Other than the killers, were there characters you think responded poorly to what they faced? Who? Why do you think that?

  9. What do you think those people should have done?

  10. For each person you had a negative reaction, find at least three things you did admire about their response.

  11. Who did you feel responded poorly at first, but then learned from their mistakes?

  12. Put yourself into the position of one person you did not admire. Why do you think they acted the way they did? Was it understandable, even if you don’t agree with it? Or was it just plain wrong?