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Teacher Lesson Return to "Speaking My Truth"
Speaking My Truth
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ELA Literacy & Social and Emotional Learning
Don’t Be Silent

Story Summary: Aishamanne is accused of being angry for “ranting” about race as a writer in her school newspaper. After interviewing some friends and teachers on the subject, she concludes that it is important for her to speak her truth, no matter how many feathers it ruffles along the way.
See the story "Speaking My Truth"

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

1. Welcome students to the group. Introduce the lesson by telling them you will be reading a true story by a teen who stands up to peers that call her angry and too opinionated for writing about for what she believes in.

2. Introduce opinion continuum by explaining to the group that they will be doing an activity where they move around while learning more about what they and their peers think about a topic.

3. Opinion continuum directions: Clear a large area in the center of the room. On one end post a sign that reads “Agree” and on the other one that reads “Disagree.” Have students gather in the center of the space.

4. Tell students to notice the two signs you’ve posted. Then review directions:
• I will read a statement and then you will decide whether it’s true for you (agree) or not (disagree). You will move somewhere in between the two signs that best matches your opinion.
• You can stand anywhere along the continuum. In the middle is not sure/depends.
• Once everyone has moved, I will invite volunteers to share why they chose to stand where they are.

5. Next, have students stand up and move to the open space that you’ve created in the room.

6. Read the first statement and have students move to a space between the two signs:
• People stereotype and label others all the time.

7. Once everyone has moved, ask students to share why they are standing where they are. Students may change their position if they’re influenced by a peer’s opinion.

8. Repeat for these other statements:
• Being angry and being opinionated are pretty much the same thing.
• If you notice a problem, you should not rest until something is done about it.
• It’s crucial to remain calm when talking about important political or social issues.
• It’s a complement if someone calls you an “activist.”

9. Thank participants 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 read for moments in the text when they agree or disagree with what’s being said. Tell them that the writer interviews a variety of her peers and uncovers a lot of opinions. If you agree with a point that’s made, put a check mark (“”) in the margin. If you disagree with a point, write an “X”.

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 a “” or “X” next to and why. Alternately, you can pose an open question such as “What stands out to you in this section and why?”

6. Next, ask the group to further consider these questions:
• Do you think Aishamanne made the right decision to continue writing about these topics? Why or why not?
• Do you personally connect with the story? How?

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

1. Introduce Journal Jot and Pair-Share activity by explaining to the group they will be writing for 5 minutes in response to a prompt, then sharing their writing with a peer and the rest of the group.

2. Read this quote from the story: “When you talk about a problem, you raise awareness and let people know about it so we can work together to create a solution. If people like you don’t talk about it, how are we supposed to create change? The first step is always raising awareness.” Pause, then say, “What is a problem in your school or community that you’d like to raise awareness about? How could you raise awareness to help solve this problem?”

3. Ask students to get out their journal or a piece of paper and use it to write their response. After 5 minutes of silent writing, ask for writers to Pair-Share by turning to a partner and sharing out what they wrote.

4. Large group debrief: Bring pairs back into the large group and ask the following questions:
• What are some issues you want to raise awareness about?
• How would raising awareness help this issue?
• What are some ways you could raise awareness?

See the story "Speaking My Truth"
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