This unit was created by Charles Sanderson, a high school Language Arts teacher in Woodburn, OR, as part of the spring 2021 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Stories of Migration. It is designed for facilitation across approximately ten 60-minute in-person or virtual class periods.
For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.
Students will be able to…
- Use underreported stories to craft persona poems that honor, celebrate, and amplify the voices of people’s lives who deserve to be heard by a greater audience.
- Build bridges of empathy, affinity, and understanding between themselves and those who may seem vastly different through their exploration of underreported stories and giving those stories voice through poetry.
- Craft persona poems that honor, celebrate and amplify the voices in their community that deserve to be heard by a greater audience.
Award-winning writer Jacqueline Woodson describes her books as “real, hard, yet hopeful.” This unit strives to be all three. Certainly, we need to give students opportunities to analyze and understand the world and its injustices; however, we also have an imperative to help foster hope while giving students the agency and skills to use their voices to speak up and change the world—even if that world is the one right outside their front door.
This unit hopes to amplify voices of individuals that you don’t often hear from—those from underreported stories, and from students’ own communities. Through these individual stories, universal truths are also illuminated.
Students will explore underreported stories that are narrative-driven, focusing on the lives of individuals. While this unit provides a list of stories to choose from, it is essential that educators find stories that will have particular resonance with the students they serve.
Next, students will write first-person persona poems from the perspective of the people they encounter. Lastly, students will turn to their own community and lift up the voices of everyday people whose stories are worth telling to a larger audience. Once again, students will use first person persona poems to honor and celebrate the lives of their loved ones, family, friends, or community members.
This unit will culminate with a community celebration where students, the subjects of their poems, and honored guests will hear the beautiful stories from our community, illuminating that they too are definitely worthy of being reported on by Pulitzer Center journalists.
Eight-day unit plan for teachers, including warm-ups, texts and video resources, discussion questions, activities, graphic organizers for student projects, and performance tasks for the unit.
Daily graphic organizer in which students will brainstorm, write, revise, and reflect.
This unit is assessed through the following formative and summative assessments.
- Responses to Poll Everywhere prompts
- Completed daily graphic organizer
- Collaborative persona poem in response to an underreported news story
- Click here for examples of collaborative poems written by students in Charles Sanderson’s spring 2021 class
- Personal reflections and feedback on the unit and the experience of writing persona poems
- Persona poems written in response to underreported news stories
- Persona poems written from the perspective of a community member whose story students believe deserves to be shared more widely
- Click here for examples of persona poems written by students in Charles Sanderson’s spring 2021 class
Common Core Standards:
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:
DI.9-12.8 Social Justice Diversity Standard #8
I respectfully express curiosity about the history and lived experiences of others and exchange ideas and beliefs in an open-minded way
DI.9-12.9 Social Justice Diversity Standard #9
I relate to and build connections with other people by showing them empathy, respect and understanding, regardless of our similarities or differences.