Unit Overview: Exploring how journalism can be used to (dis)empower communities, and using news stories to examine the roots and effects of injustice, and find our own place in movements for change.
Resources for Facilitating this Unit:
Complete ten-day unit plan including warm-ups, resources, discussion questions, and activities
Performance Tasks: Using persuasive, creative, and expository writing, drawing, and photography to summarize, analyze, and propose solutions to issues of injustice.
This unit was created by Edith Duckett, an ESOL teacher at Joseph E. Soehl Middle School in Linden, NJ, as part of the fall 2020 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Arts, Journalism, and Justice. It is designed for facilitation across approximately ten class periods. For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of communication and storytelling?
- How do the stories we tell, the forms and methods we use to tell them, and the contexts in which we tell them influence our worldview and the worldview of others?
- How can journalism empower and disempower people in different contexts, both global and local?
- How do global issues connect to our lives?
- How can art provide an opportunity for reflection and emotional connection?
- How can you use the power of art and stories to engage people with an issue you care about?
- What is my place in the movement for change?
This unit will utilize journalism to center the stories and voices of communities systematically neglected and currently fighting ethnocide and ecocide. The pieces of journalism selected are also intended to serve as a catalyst for reflecting on both the root causes and effects of injustice as well as how those affected can be empowered, engage in activism, and maintain a sense of agency.
Throughout the unit, students will consider both the intent behind and impact of the stories, along with the potential of journalism to either empower or disempower, as well as influence our worldview and the worldview of others. Students throughout will be encouraged to consider journalism as an art form and to consider how art, in all of its forms, can be used both to communicate important messages as well as bring about change.
Resources for Facilitating this Unit:
Click here for a PDF outlining lesson plans for this unit, including warm-ups, resources, discussion questions, and activities.
For complete instructions for these performance task, see the full unit plan.
- After Day 1, students will create bar graphs and pie charts visualizing how students in their class get their news, and will write a paragraph that includes two advantages and two disadvantages of either television, social media, radio, websites, apps, or print newspapers as a news source.
- After Day 2, students will write sentences making local/personal connections to news stories about injustices Indigenous people are facing in South America.
- After Day 3, students will write acrostic J-U-S-T-I-C-E poems related to the news stories they are exploring.
- After Day 4, students will draw a picture or take a photo representing tekohas, which is the place where we are what we are, and will write a paragraph explaining why that image represents tekohas to them.
- After Day 5, students will use comic panels to summarize/retell a news story they explored in class, and will write sentences predicting what might happen in the next section of the story.
- After Day 6, students will reflect on the issues of (in)justice they have discussed in class in order to create a picture of a tree. Across the trunk, students will write "injustice." Along the roots, they will write three causes of injustice. On the branches, they will write at least five effects of injustice.
- After Day 7, students will take a photo or draw a picture of themselves dressed as a superhero. They will select an injustice discussed in class and write a paragraph to explain who or what they will defend, and why.
- After Day 8, students will reflect on how visual art can be connected to empowerment and justice and will write sentences expressing their opinions.
- After Day 9, students will use the writing they have done throughout this unit to create a calligram in the shape of something connected to the discussions and readings from this unit.
- After Day 10, students will revise persausive essays about justice issues, which they have been working on in class, and will record an iMovie of themselves reading their essay aloud.
New Jersey Student Learning Standards for English Language Arts:
NJSLSA.R1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences and relevant connections from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
NJSLSA.R6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
NJSLSA.SL1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
NJSLSA.SL4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
NJSLSA.L3. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
NJSLSA.L4. Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
NJSLSA.W4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
NJSLSA.W5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
Social Justice Standards from Teaching Tolerance:
Justice 12 JU.6-8.12 I can recognize and describe unfairness and injustice in many forms including attitudes, speech, behaviors, practices and laws.
Justice 14 JU.6-8.14 I know that all people (including myself ) have certain advantages and disadvantages in society based on who they are and where they were born.
Action 16 AC.6-8.16 I am concerned about how people (including myself ) are treated and feel for people when they are excluded or mistreated because of their identities.
Action 20 AC.6-8.20 I will work with friends, family and community members to make our world fairer for everyone, and we will plan and coordinate our actions in order to achieve our goals.