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Social Justice & Change

Sixth Grade, Seventh Grade, Eighth Grade, Tenth Grade

Middle School, Upper School



The essential question shaping our work in Social Justice and Change asks students to consider how and why all literature is, necessarily, a form of protest, either endorsing or condemning various social, cultural and political structures. Furthermore, the course asks students to identify the ways in which a text can act as a mirror for our society and, simultaneously, as a vehicle to transform that society. Students will hone their literacy skills by engaging with texts that are intentional in their desire to effect change and by asking how they, themselves, can harness the power of language to shape the world they want to live in?

To wrestle with these questions, we adopt a three-pronged approach to balanced literacy, focusing on reading, writing and language as individual, albeit intimately connected, aspects of our work. Learning objectives for each of these elements are listed below:

I. Reading

We will be working on our analytical and interpretive skills as we read across genres in ELA. Specifically, we will be practicing active, close reading and annotating to observe how authors use literary elements and devices to deal with the theme of social justice and change in their texts. By pairing poems, short stories, film clips and non-fiction articles with the plays, novels and memoirs we read, we will see how an author's choice of genre also shapes his/her/their treatment of the theme.

II. Writing

Some sort of writing will transpire in class every day. Writing exercises and practices will range from informal (SYB exercises to begin class, stop-and-jot on class handouts and notes, free writes to generate ideas, journals entries, letters, etc.) to formal (critical analysis essays, book reviews, final creative pieces taken through the writing process, etc.). Much attention will be paid to generating complex, provocative thesis statements and supporting them with the use of textual evidence. Additionally, when delving into more creative writing, we will experiment with different styles, forms and techniques used by the writers we have studied in class.

III. Language

Through formalized language study, we will build vocabulary and deepen our understanding of Standard English Grammar rules. The goal is to bolster students' mindfulness and intentionality when making choices as speakers and writers, so their communication is cogent, compelling and original. Activities will include a study of morphemes and parts of speech, sentence structure analysis and reflection on how diction and syntax create a writer's voice.

Some of the longer form texts we will be reading include: Tangerine, Some Kind of Hate, Brown Girl Dreaming, Witness, and Internment.

Regarding social and emotional learning, students will build their empathy by engaging in perspective taking from multiple characters' point of view. When considering the touchstone texts we share as a class, students will write from non-narrating characters' perspectives and identify biases in the narrator's and/or author's recounting of the tale. Additional projects, like mock trials, debates around current events issues and original, creative pieces will promote students' ability to recognize and appreciate multiple points of view and sides of an issue. Our culminating project for the year invites students to select a social justice issue meaningful to them, personally, and then craft original works that address the topic they’ve chosen and inspire activism in their intended audiences.

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