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Volume IV: Social Justice

Powerful Change: Speaking for Social Justice
Erika Arms
Arlington Accelerated Learning Academy

This unit will not only provide students the opportunity to study and execute a speech, it will allow them to examine individuals who made a deep impact on a social justice issue. Ideally, students will gain a vast amount of knowledge about one significant activist. Students should develop a great understanding of who their person was and what impact they made on the issue in which he or she fought for. With research conducted, students will be able to take on the character of an individual, in order to give a speech on their behalf. In the beginning of the unit, we will examine famous speeches and their attributes. Students will use tactics and tools that are used in these speeches to write and deliver their own.

Originally designed to be taught in conjunction with the Unit 5 Core Curriculum for 8th grade, this unit can work for other grades in both Language Arts and Social Studies. The "CORE Curriculum" is the name for the Reading Curriculum in Pittsburgh Public Schools for sixth through twelfth grade. Since I will be teaching this unit in an Accelerated Learning Academy, the lessons are written to fit 90 minute reading blocks. This could certainly be adapted to fit different time frames. The unit is designed for a three-week period but again, the lessons and activities can be adapted to fit your needs.

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Creating Citizens: Building Community in a First Grade Classroom
Lora B. Bethea
Pittsburgh King Pre K-8

After teaching about citizenship to my first grade students, I felt that social justice in our class community was not demonstrated by my students. I focused this unit on the relationship between social justice and the importance of community building within a classroom environment that teaches students that their actions not only impact themselves but others. This unit is taught using a combination of mini-lessons, read alouds, and two lessons from the Social Studies Curriculum, along with Pennsylvania Communications and Social Studies standards. Even though this unit is focused on specific themes, the concept of community building and social justice can be infused in the core curriculum all year long.

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Listening Well and Speaking Out: Social Justice Debates
Cheree Charmello
Pittsburgh Gifted Education Center

"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds." ~Samuel Adams

At face value, Listening Well and Speaking Out: Social Justice Debates may seem to merely be another unit on debate, but in essence, it is a forum for creating social awareness and inspiring just social change. It will enable students to respectfully, clearly, and systematically make their arguments heard.

This unit has been designed as a stand-alone course for seventh and eighth grade students in the Humanities Department of the Pittsburgh Public Schools gifted education program. These students have extremely high cognitive abilities and need strength-based enrichment activities in addition to what they receive in the mainstream curriculum. Each student attends the center one day per week. The students have the rare, college-like opportunity to choose the courses they will take each semester. Each course meets for 1.5 hours per week over a 16-week semester.

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Struggles for Social Justice during the Great Depression of the 1930s
A Middle-School Communications Unit
Kipp Dawson
Pittsburgh Colfax ALA

Middle-school students are quick to use the label "unfair." However few have had the opportunity to look at fairness, or justice, in social terms. Fewer still have a sense of "justice" as a social phenomenon. Even fewer have had the opportunity to explore issues of social justice in historic context.

The current unit is designed for use in a 6th, 7th or 8th-grade Communications (English/Language Arts) classroom. During these grades, in Pittsburgh Public Schools, students read novels based in the Great Depression of the 1930s. This unit is designed as a corollary research/writing unit which explores the social justice movements of that time. During the course of such research, students will learn both about the problems people faced in those times, and about the organized responses to those problems which led to the massive social protest which was a hallmark of the time. Students are given the opportunity to explore the concept of "social justice' as one based in time and place; to survey the movements of the 1930s; and to select a movement to research in some depth. They will learn methods of selecting, evaluating, and synthesizing information from a variety of sources, and to present their findings both in a written Report of Information, and in other forms of their choice. This unit attempts to provide the teacher with an extensive, annotated list of sources and possible tools, both to help the teacher prepare, and to share with students. It is hoped that in the process of using this unit, teachers and students will develop an excitement both about the movements they are researching, and also about the process of researching and writing.

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Movin' on Up; Female Reformers of the Progressive Era 1890-1925
Sonia Henze
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School

Movin' on Up: Female Reformers of the Progressive Era is a unit for high school teachers who want to challenge their students to play an active part in American History, specifically the Progressive Era 1890-1925. The overarching goal is to have the students work through the learning process and investigate their own view of social justice. The teacher guides students through independent research then provides the framework for debate. In the end, students will be intrigued and perhaps even interested in the history of social, political and economic reforms. Ultimately, they will be better informed to participate in the American democratic system.

This unit may be used to teach American History in the early 1900's or as a supplement or review for Advanced Placement American History classes. This curriculum fits into Unit 3 module 3 of the PPS core curriculum which should occur at the end of the first nine weeks or start of the second nine weeks.

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Researching the Role of Youth in Social Justice
Rachael Hittinger
Pittsburgh Student Achievement Center

This unit has been created for tenth graders in an alternative education setting, and will precede a unit in which students read the novel In The Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez. The unit will include discussions and understanding social justice. Students will discuss and write about the relevance of social justice to their daily lives, and will research the life and times of a young person who worked for social justice. Student research will be presented to the whole class to create a core of common knowledge that will prepare students for understanding the characters in the novel. This deep understanding of social justice as it relates to today and to the lives of youth will help students make connections and have meaningful discussions while reading In The Time of the Butterflies.

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When Social Justice is Missing: Night by Elie Wiesel and the Holocaust with a Look At Other Incidents of Genocide
Daniel Kliber Jr.
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School

This curriculum unit focuses on the book Night, by Elie Wiesel and the Holocaust. The unit has a focus on the Jewish population before, during and after the Holocaust to give students a full understanding of what life was like for the Jewish people and how their lives were taken away from them during the Holocaust. Although the book Night is the main focus of the unit, a lot of the activities and lessons can be incorporated to any Holocaust unit at the high school level. Some of the activities would even be appropriate for middle school students.

The unit also gives an in depth look at the history of genocide, while bringing the students to present day, looking at modern day examples of genocide. It gives the students the opportunity to realize what is going on and make decisions on how they can become advocates to organizations to stop these cruel acts on minority groups of people.

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Questions of Social Justice and Conscience
Kristen Kurzawski
Pittsburgh Brashear High School

This is a month long unit designed for senior English students in an urban high school. The students in this course are considered college bound, and therefore much of the work in this unit is designed for students used to doing quite a bit of reading and other homework independently. The unit examines the idea of social justice. The students will have extensive discussion on the topic of social justice while reading one of three novels and completing a research paper on a person working to achieve social justice. The novels used to help teach the concept of social justice are The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The central technique used within this unit is Literature Circles, but students will also have large group discussion, debate their ideas, read non-fiction texts, conduct research, and peer conference student writing. By the end of the unit the students should have a clear idea of social justice, gained a deeper understanding of global social justice issues, and begun to consider the implications of social injustice within their own lives.

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Exploring Conflict Through Literature and Writing
Amy Madigan
Pittsburgh Arlington ALA

I am developing this unit as a separate unit to the Core Curriculum that will only focus on the novel The Giver by Lois Lowry. The first concept that I think is important for students to consider before reading the novel is to imagine what would a world without conflict would look like. Student led discussions will be key here. After students develop a sense of what that might look like, students will then examine our own society and what governs it, to get a sense of comparison. They then will take on the task of working in small groups to develop their own constitutions for their own "just" societies without conflict. Major themes and discussions that will come up throughout the development of their projects as well as the reading will be: defining what freedom is, discussing differences between dystopian/utopian society, who develops the rules in a society, and what makes personal feelings and experiences so important in a society.

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It's Not Fair: Social Justice Poetry
Renee Tolliver
Pittsburgh Oliver High School

Students will create a poetry portfolio based on a rigorous study of texts that requires them to define and explain social justice and citizenship. This unit will be presented to my ninth grade English I students because their civics course is built around citizenship and social justice issues. This poetry unit will reflect the main themes found in the civics course: understanding the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and their application to current issues; how citizens generate change in society government and economics; and the relationship between local, state, national and international economics and government.. Students will approach the four themes by addressing five major questions as presented in Tom Tyler's (et.al) book Social Justice in a Diverse Society. These questions examine how justice is defined, how it influences individuals' thoughts and actions, how it shapes their behavior, and when and why it matters. Students will capture the essence of each theme by incorporating the most poignant and important details in a variety of traditional and nontraditional poetic forms. This unit will concentrate on skills and content so that each lesson focuses on specific poetic devices and techniques in conjunction with rigorous content of citizenship and social justice.

Students will access a list of readings during this unit. This list will contain not only informational pieces, but also powerful examples of poetry and other genres that speak to the issues that we will discuss. The culminating project will be a collection of the social justice poetry and reflections that the students write. Exemplary student writing will be presented in a bound volume that showcases the students' ability to articulate complex ideas via a creative format. It will capture the essence of what it means to "Be the Change," the slogan for the ninth grade civics course.

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How is a Social Conscience Developed, and How Can Educators Help?
Elouise E. White-Beck
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School

This unit is designed for tenth grade English students and will address social justice through literature. Students will read Ernest J. Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying and apply concepts of social justice and social consciousness while following the Pittsburgh Public Schools curriculum for the novel. The research section of this unit can easily be adapted to other works of literature or can stand alone for the teacher who wants to introduce the concepts of social justice and social conscience to any grade level.

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Chatham University
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Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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