9-12 Humanities Curriculum: Storytelling and Social Justice
This ten-day curriculum will guide students through the process of understanding the relationship between storytelling and justice and culminate in a writing project that will empower students to tell their own stories.
Day One: How can engaging in civil discourse with evidence-based assertions help understand one another’s perspectives?
Students will define and consider the concept of civil discourse, articulate what it should look like in their classroom, and practice making evidence-based assertions by developing a line of reasoning.
Skills: Civil discourse/discussion and ARE method of sharing opinions and making an argument
Days Two & Three: Do we need to address injustices before we can have a just society?
Students explore a variety of resources and begin thinking critically about what happens when stories that have been untold are finally told and how knowing these stories contributes to or detracts from a just society.
Skills: Synthesis of concepts, critical thinking, opinion writing
Days Four & Five: What can we learn when we question what we think we know about our history and ourselves?
Students consider texts and that undermine the traditional historical narratives, and think critically about what they think they know.
Skills: Close reading, authorial intent, textual support
Days Six and Seven: What happens when we consider different perspectives?
Students will grapple with how a narrative changes when we consider other versions of the story.
Skills: Reading and writing: Point of view and perspective
Day Eight: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see:" How does sharing a common story help us understand one another?
Students will read excerpts of literary works, write the story of their own name, and share with one another.
Skills: Narrative writing
Days Nine and Ten: How does storytelling shape community?
Students will examine the reasons that storytelling is important and consider who tells the stories of our society and community, as well as the relationship between storytelling and power.
Skills: Narrative writing, synthesis
K-12 Writing Curriculum
Use this process to help students work their way through writing their own narratives to tell their stories.
Prompt: What story about you really should be told?
Methods for Gathering Ideas and Brainstorming
Timeline: Ask students to write their timeline for their lives on a blank piece of paper. What were the biggest, most important moments? If students are struggling, ask them to consider any of the following: getting a pet; having a new sibling; meeting an important person; meeting someone they looked up to; learning a skill; learning a lesson; coming to terms with something that was really difficult; overcoming something hard; succeeding; starting school; starting a job; playing a sport; heartbreak; meeting a best friend; losing someone; family. Tailor this to the age group you are working with. List: Ask students to respond to the following: "If you knew me well, you would know that..." OR "One thing about me that I wish you knew. is..." For younger students, a list of happy times (or important times) is great. They should make a list of at least 4-5 items. Photo: Ask students to bring in (or have access to) a photo of an important, fun, meaningful, or interesting time in their lives. Spend time describing the story of the photo. Write Away: Do a timed writing (25 minutes, for example) and ask students to just write everything they can think of in response to the prompt. Students should not pay attention to spelling, grammar, structure, etc. Draw: Students can use images (magazines) or draw on their own to visually depict important events in their lives. Tell a Story: Have students turn and talk to a partner and tell a story to him or her. The partner should listen and generate at least one question for the speaker. Questions such as, "How did that make you feel?" "What happened after that?" "What did you learn from that situation?" "Why was that so special to you?" "What was your favorite part of that experience?" "Why was that hurtful to you?" can be offered as examples if necessary. The speaker may want to jot down any questions the listener had and also note the order of events when they spoke the story aloud. You may consider giving each speaker a 2-5 minute time limit to tell their story. Lucy Calkins On-Demand Performance Assessment Prompt for Narrative Writing: Use the Lucy Calkins writing prompt and ask students to tell their own "Small Moment" story. "I'm really eager to understand what you can do as writers of narratives, of stories, so today, will you please write your best personal narrative, the best Small Moment story that you can write? This should be the story of one time in your life. You might focus on just one scene or two. You will have forty-five minutes to write this true story, so you'll need to draft, revise, and edit in one sitting. Write in a way that allows you to show off all you know about narrative writing."
Choosing a Story
Sharing: Have students look at their brainstorm work and decide which story they like best, which seems the most important for them to tell so that others can understand their perspective or what is important to them. They can share out with partners, in small groups, or if they are comfortable, as a class. (Note: If the story is sensitive in nature, be sure the classroom is a safe space for students to share.)
Reflecting: Older students can reflect by responding briefly to a journal prompt: Why did you choose this particular story? Why do you think it is important? Do you think others will understand you better if they know this story? Can your story help others? Is this story connected somehow to your identity?
Younger students can respond verbally (or in writing, if possible): Why do you want to tell this story? Who do you think should hear this story? Teachers may need to guide students if they are struggling to pick a story.
Planning the Draft
Students should answer the question about their story: Who (all who were involved)? What? Where? When? Why? How? Note: There may be some clarification needed with this step, but the idea is just to get them to include the details. Older students can expand upon the why and how as they understand them and the why and how piece can be omitted for younger students.
Have students create a timeline (example here). Older students may prefer to do an outline and younger students may do a timeline in just pictures. Students could also do a timeline with an illustration and a brief explanation underneath each tick in the timeline (example here) to further articulate their ideas. Ask students to create a working title for their story.
Drafting the Story
For younger students: What are the most important events that happened? You can provide a graphic organizer for younger students and ask them to fill in the boxes labeled "First," "Then," "Next," "Last," and ask students to articulate the four sections in the order of events they articulated in their timeline, adding details and focuing only on the most important parts.
Freewrite. Let students know the night before that they are going to be freewriting the next day and lay down some ground rules: the goal of freewriting is to get out ideas, not to create a perfect draft. There should be no concern with spelling or grammar or whether the ideas even make sense at this point. If they run out of things to write about they can write about something unrelated if necessary, but they should keep writing for 25 minutes (modify the time depending on the age group).
This section can also include mini-lessons on leads, incorporating details, showing not telling, transitions, endings, and general organization. Some ideas may be strategies for writing strong leads, such as explaining the setting, putting the reader into the action, starting with a quote, etc.; providing a list of transition words for beginnings of paragraphs; offering a mini-lesson on and modeling the process of adding detail to sentences with a list of adjectives; and writing an ending that connects to the beginning.
Methods for Providing Feedback
Partner Peer Feedback
For older students, peer feedback. Rubrics can reflect the content of the mini lessons, or you can use a blank, adaptable rubric like the one here.
For younger students, peer feedback can also be different. Are the pages in order? Is there a whole story with a beginning, middle, and end? Does the story include details? Did the sentences include capitalization and punctuation? Were transition phrases used? Students can also complete a reflection using the rubric before meeting with a peer. This can spark some conversation and allow partners to have specific things they are looking for.
Small Group Feedback
Place students in groups of 3-4. Note: these can be homogeneous in terms of skill level, or homogeneous. Each group should be given specific outcomes and questions they should ask one another and perhaps give a time limit to each student. What did the writer do well? What can the writer improve? What was interesting to you? What did you want to know more about?
Teachers can do individual conferences with students and offer opportunities to provide individualized verbal feedback and answer questions. The rest of the class will need to be given specific instructions on their own responsibilities during this time. You could also have the class work with partners and when they are done speak with you or start making revisions. You could also visit the small groups and offer feedback that way.
Encourage students to speak to a parent or other adult. You may want to have the student use the rubric, so the parent is clear on what you are looking for.
Exemplar / Modeling
Use a few students' papers that are well done (take the names off) and allow students to read and discuss. What did the writer do well? You may also consider using your own writing as an example and allowing student to critique it.
Revising and Polishing
This is really the students' time to put together all they have learned. For this piece, a workshop setting is nice. Students can be working quietly, they can ask for their peers to read their work and offer additional feedback, and you can be available to address questions.
Students should use this opportunity to update adjectives from bland to interesting (this is a good resource); they can create a title - for younger students this can be on a separate page|desw xz
Empower students to share their stories. As much as possible, create a celebratory space for this piece. The goal for this is twofold: 1. To allow students - to the exent that they are comfortable - the opportunity to share their stories and 2. To reflect on how telling the story made them feel, grow, etc.
Create a "mural" in the classroom of all of the different stories. For older kids, have them choose a word or two that is particularly powerful, or create a mural with all of the different titles. The idea is to help them see the collective story of their individulal stories.
Students can draw one picture or for younger students choose one of their illustrations and combine them to become a larger story.
Students can read a section or all of their stories to the class or to small groups.
Encourage students to choose an object that is connected to their story. They can share the story title and explain how the object connects to it.
Create a class blog and have each student share their story in a post.