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Teacher Lesson Return to "Discovering Myself Beyond the Binary"
Discovering Myself Beyond the Binary
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ELA Literacy & Social and Emotional Learning
Don’t Box Me In

Story Summary: Andrew always felt different and unaccepted because of their gender identity and sexuality. Starting in middle school, they’re teased because of the fact that they don’t fit neatly into stereotypes of who or what boys should be or like. But after finding some accepting friends who don’t question their lifestyle, and spaces in the internet where they can learn about others like them, Andrew gains confidence and self-esteem.

Lesson Objectives and Common Core Connections
• Students make personal connections to a text and successfully participate in story-based activities and discussions.
• Students will respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives (CCLS SL.1).
• Students will read and comprehend literary nonfiction proficiently (CCLS R.10).
• Students will write routinely over extended and shorter time frames for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences (CCLS W.10).

Before Reading the Story (10 min)
This opening activity will activate background knowledge to boost reading comprehension and set the emotional tone for the story.

1. Before the group begins, draw a T-chart on a whiteboard or piece of chart paper with “male” written above one column and “female” written above the other.

2. After welcoming the group, tell them that they will be doing a brainstorming activity that allows them to learn more about what they and their peers think about a topic.

3. When the group settles, review the directions. Tell them:
• "I am going to read out to you a number of items one by one. As a group, it will be our job to decide if each item tends to be associated with being male or female. I will then write what we decide in the appropriate column.”

4. Read the first item and ask group members to explain why they think it belongs in the “male” or “female” column:
• "A basketball”

5. Write down the item name in the appropriate place. (If the group has a difficult time categorizing an item, you can let them compromise by writing half of the name in one box and half in the other, by writing the item next to the T-chart itself, or some other solution that you come up with.)

6. Once the group has decided (it can be majority rules) on the item, repeat steps four and five for the following items:
a. “Yoga mat”
b. “Dumbbell (3 lbs or less)”
c. “Video game”
d. “Pink T-shirt”
e. “Hair gel”
f. “Skinny jeans”
g. “Yankees baseball cap”
h. “Cell phone”
i. “Math textbook”

7. After all objects have been categorized or otherwise dealt with, explain that this T-chart represents what is called the “gender binary,” the idea that there are only two genders: male/female, and that a person must fall neatly into one category or the other.

8. Facilitate a discussion using the following questions:
• "Was this easy or difficult to do? Why?”
• "What did we do with the items that didn’t fit into the boxes? If these items were people, how do you think they might feel?”
• "Aside from objects, what else does our society sort into male and female categories?”
• "What is gained or lost by separating things this way?”
• "Are there limitations to thinking in terms of a gender binary? What do you think is a better way of thinking about gender?”

9. Thank group members for sharing their opinions.

During Reading (20 min)
By practicing active reading strategies while reading aloud and discussing as a group, students build comprehension and support fluency.

1. Introduce the story (see the summary above).

2. Share the expectations for a group read-aloud: volunteers take turns reading aloud as much or as little as they would like. As the group leader, you may stop periodically to discuss or check in on active reading by asking students to share their responses to the story.

3. Tell students they will practice an active reading strategy called reading for a purpose. This will help them read for a purpose and be prepared to use the text in later activities.

4. Reading for a purpose directions: Ask students to identify times when the story raises a question for them. When this occurs, students should write a “?” in the margin.

5. While sitting in a circle, read the story aloud together. Stop to discuss periodically, supporting peer-to-peer talk and non-judgmental listening. To do this, ask for volunteers to share what they wrote an “?” next to and why. Alternately, you can pose an open question such as “What stands out to you in this section and why?”

6. When you finish the story, ask the group to discuss their reactions to the story, including the questions it raised for them. They can turn and talk to a neighbor before you discuss as a whole group.

After Reading the Story (15 min)
During this post-reading activity, students will make connections, build understanding, and rehearse positive behaviors.

1. Introduce this activity by saying to the group:
• "Now that we’ve read the story, we’re going to do a Journaling activity about acceptance. We see that being accepted for who they are is really important for Andrew’s sense of self-esteem and confidence.”
• "This is a chance to express your thoughts and feelings without worrying about spelling and grammar.”
• "There are no right and wrong answers to these questions, just your own ideas.”
• "If you don’t know what to write or get stuck, just keep your pencil to paper and keep writing the last word you thought of over and over until a new idea comes.”

2. Read the prompts aloud from the chart paper you’ve prepared:
• If you were to meet someone like Andrew who didn’t fit neatly within the gender binary, what are some things that you could do or say to show that you accept them?
• Even if you don’t fully understand them, how can you be their ally and not their troll?

3. Pass out journals or notebook paper and pencils.

4. Give group members about 5-6 minutes to write. Move around the room offering encouragement and support.

5. When 5-6 minutes are up, tell group members to finish their last thought and put their pencils down.

6. Explain to the group that they are now going to do a Pair Share. Tell them to turn to the person next to them and take turns sharing parts of their responses that they feel comfortable sharing.

7. Each member of the pair should take about a minute to share. Cue partners to switch roles after the first minute. Use a timer or wait until the hum of conversation dies down before refocusing the group.

8. Lead a discussion by asking group members to describe some of the highlights of their conversations. They can share connections they made with their partners’ writing, new ideas that their partner gave them, or questions they still have about the topic.

9. Thank group members for sharing and listening.

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