“A must-have for helping students understand the lived experiences of others.”
— WILL BLAIR, M.Ed student, University of Oklahoma
Do you need an interactive, student-centered project that will encourage social justice activism, group collaboration, and online research and writing? Go beyond just reading dusty tomes written by dead people and regurgitating boring details. Delve into highly-engaging spoken-word poetry, music videos, TED Talks, an essay written by a 17-year-old Oklahoma author — and follow them up with highly engaging student discussions. This unit contains everything you need to guide students through reading and viewing modern literature covering social justice topics, responding to daily essential questions, planning and writing a culminating essay, video, presentation, or children's book that encourages students to tell their stories and take a stand for others.
This complete project unit includes everything you need to guide students through three weeks of research and preparing a final product. Students may choose from writing an essay, recording a video, designing a presentation or writing a children's book. The unit includes class discussion questions for the following print and non-print texts:
“The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Link to video)
“If You Think Racism Doesn't Exist” by Oklahoma author Jordan Womack (Full PDF text included)
“Cuz He's Black” by Javon Johnson (Link to video)
“Where is the love?” (2003) by The Black Eyed Peas (Link to video)
“Where is the love?” (2016) by The Black Eyed Peas (Link to video)
“To My White Friends Who See Tragedy in the Black Community and Say Nothing, Make it Personal” by Kiara Imani Williams (Link to text)
“I’m NOT Black, You’re NOT White” by Prince EA (Link to video)
Daily Presentations: A complete set of slides for each day, including a writing prompt, think/pair/share activity, discussion questions, reading and writing activities, and closing reflective prompts.
Teacher's Guide: The next three weeks have already been planned for you, complete with a daily chart showing exactly what you'll do and which standards it's aligned to. Just print out the page and hand it to your principal, or keep it on your desk for easy reference. Includes daily task list, daily writing prompt for bellwork, discussion topics, activity notes for each day, and reflective writing or discussion prompts for closure.
Common Core State Standards Alignment: This unit has been aligned day-by-day to the CCSS.
Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts Alignment: This unit has been aligned day-by-day to the OAS-ELA
BONUS! Recommended Online Resources: You'll receive a list of nonfiction articles, and a relevant graphic, video and poem. Students can refer to each of these resources in the culminating projects.
Self/Peer Revision and Editing Checklists: Get your English loving students on board with peer reviewing! These easy-to-fill-out forms encourage constructive criticism.
Revision Rubrics: Judge the early drafts of an essay or project based on the ideas, organization, and voice. Don't let your students think they can't tell a story just because they struggle with spelling. Show students what you're looking for in their final projects so they can meet and exceed your expectations!
Editing Rubrics: Once students have told their stories, help them clean up the grammar, usage, and mechanics with the editing rubric. Be sure to give students multiple opportunities to complete their best work.
Final Project Grading Rubric: You've already done the hard part. Students use the rubric as a checklist to make sure they have all the pieces of their project, staple it together, and turn it in. You simply grade them on the hard work they've already done.
NEW! Ongoing Social Justice Email Updates: We'll send emails with links to articles, essays, and other media updating you on social justice issues that you can share with your students. The emails will also include essential questions that you can use to spark a class discussion, incorporate into a writing project, or use to inspire a service learning project.
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I would be happy for you to share my positive experiences with the Social Justice Unit during our online learning practices due to COVID-19.
In response to what materials really resonated with my students, there were so many options that helped my students forget about being sheltered in place and instead
reminded them of the larger issues that they will have to recognize and offer solutions as part of our society. Some of the things that my 7th and 8th grade students (as part of
our Montessori practice, we have blended age groups) specifically responded to was the Javon Johnson video “Cuz He's Black.” Their perspectives varied as people who
had seen or been exposed to similar situations, to students who'd read books that connected to the concept of racism, as well as the students who made political
connections. I was surprised at their maturity in making connections and how they felt regarding our government leadership using racial/sexual slurs and getting away with it.
The students also related to the essay by Jordan Womack, “If you think racism doesn’t exist.” I think they were shocked by the reality of Jordan’s experiences as well as the
experiences of some of their classmates. My students responded with such compassion and a sense of duty to ensure that discrimination due to any factor needed to be
stopped. Most of my feedback to them reminded them that they were our agents of change and that they truly are our future.
Last, but not least, the videos by Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the Love?” seemed to make them think about our society at the present time, as well as its past and the future.
I can’t say enough about how this unit brought us all together at a time when we were far apart physically. I am definitely planning on using this unit again next year.
Thank you so much for providing these materials. They are relevant today and also timeless. They provoked deeper thought from my students as well as myself. There are
truly no words that can fully express the benefits my students experienced.
September 27: I teach young men who are incarcerated. They are middle and high school students and aren't typically good students or careful writers. We started the unit two weeks ago, and we've had some amazing conversations. The boys are sharing personal stories and being much more mindful about how they interact with each other. The writing is a bit of a struggle for them but they are doing it and enjoying the opportunity to share their thoughts. A national organization that works with students and teachers in alternative settings are sponsoring a song writing contest next month dealing with social justice as the topic of the songs. It couldn't have come at a better time. My students are combining lessons from that program and the writings and discussions from the social justice project to really get an in-depth look at the issues. Thanks so much for what you do.
Update February 24: We are currently reading a book called Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes. My reluctant writers are writing poetry every day and still including topics we discussed months ago during our Social Justice unit in their writing. I couldn't be happier with the unit or with the chance to share our story.
I was only able to do the first week because of the time constraints in my alternative school; however, the students enjoyed that first week. Their favorite part seemed to be Jordan's blog–I heard them talking to each other about it.
Would you like to try one lesson from the Social Justice Writing Project first?
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