Writing for Social Change

Writing for Social Change Unit

raised fist with pencil

Created by Keishunna Hardeman

Author’s comments: Students enter middle school each day with their own stories. Those stories are meant to be shared in English Language Arts classes. The students’ perception of content is a result of their worldview of power, culture, ideology, and learning. According to Sensoy and DiAngelo (2017), our ideas, views, and opinions are not simply individual, objective, and independent, but rather are the result of social messaging and conditioning structural forces (p. 35). This quote shows how students develop their insights as a result of society and bring those insights into the learning environment. Writing can help students put their insights onto paper.

This unit is focused on writing for social change and was developed for my students because they walk into school each day with varied opinions and experiences. Students develop their ideologies and thought processes based on their pre-conceived thoughts, opinions, and experiences. Units like this one help students form critical thinking and writing skills. These skills have practical applications in the real world. Social norms of a given culture, whether we conform to them or choose to challenge them, are powerful and unavoidable (Sensoy & DiAngelo, p. 41). We will examine social norms in America historically and currently throughout this unit. Middle school is the time period when students transform into the people they desire to be throughout their lives. This unit will help students discover their identities as social and emotional learners.

The essential questions (EQs) for the unit are as follows: How do we determine the author’s purpose in a given text? How do we identify the author’s response to counterarguments in a given text? How does the author convey their point of view or purpose in a given text? The initial essential question is worth answering for me as a teacher because determining the author’s purpose somewhat determines the reader’s purpose for reading the text. Answering the initial question is important for students because they need to know why certain texts are written. They also need to understand that writing has the power to affect change. The second question is worth answering for me because how the author responds to counterarguments affects how strong his or her argument is. Students need to recognize that texts and writing are not black and white. Therefore, conflicting evidence or viewpoints exist. Finally, the third question is important because it is significant to understand how an author delivers their message. Similarly, students need to grasp how the purpose for writing contributes to the structure of a text.

The EQs for specific texts are as follows: To what extent does power or the lack of power affect individuals? How can literature serve as a vehicle for social change? What are the benefits and consequences of questioning/challenging social order? We will be examining controversial issues like immigration, racism, and gun control throughout the unit. Social justice issues require students to think critically about power dynamics, social change, and social order. So, the EQs for the texts we will read will prompt students to think about the texts from a social justice standpoint.

As an example of a lesson, my students in an eighth grade English Language Arts classroom will be taught a lesson on determining the author’s point of view in a text. They will also analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints. Together, we will use a graphic organizer to break down several authors’ arguments. The teacher will model the entire analyzation process for the students. Then, students will mimic the breakdown of an argument in collaborative and individual activities. The graphic organizer will be primarily used for students to cite textual evidence that will help determine the author’s point of view and purpose in order to analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints. The students will begin the process by reading the article, “Trump Won’t Let My Grandmother Come to My Graduation: A new rule creates another impossible barrier for my family” by Ariana Momtazi-Bushweller. This text examines immigrants’ views on opportunities in America, discrimination against immigrants, U.S. citizenship, ties to their home countries, and immigration policy.

Her professor, nadia behizadeh, had this to say about keishunna’s work:

Keishunna Hardeman is an exemplary teacher candidate who is committed to incorporating critical pedagogy with evidence-based practices in her teaching. In this unit plan, Keishunna has skillfully employed text sets that represent multiple perspectives, embedded writing workshop methods and standards-focused instruction, yet also strived to ensure that purposes for literacy engagement are to help students examine the social order, voice their own experiences and views drawn from their lives and the texts they encounter, and then figure out what they want to say through composition, ideally sharing writing with those who are in positions to make changes. –Nadia Behizadeh, Spring semester, 2020