Movements for Equality

Students learn about the concepts of fairness and justice and people who worked to overcome injustice, while developing informational reading strategies for reading narrative nonfiction texts.



Alternate Unit 5

1st Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students explore the concepts of fairness and justice by learning about many of the equal rights movements that have happened in the United States. Over the course of the unit, students study the fight for women’s rights, the civil rights movement, the fight for labor and workers’ rights, the LGBTQ+ movement, the disability rights movement, and the Indigenous Water Protectors movement. With each movement, students read biographies of people who are not in positions of power and analyze how they were able to fight for justice, equity, and change. This unit builds on work done in the Kindergarten unit  “What is Justice?” and pushes students to build a deeper understanding of discrimination, justice, and action beyond just the civil rights movement.

Students continue to think about how details are connected. Students explore how one person can influence others in various ways, noticing the connections between people and events. Students also continue to think about the specific reasons authors include in the text and illustrations to help support ideas about the different movements for equality. During discussions, students continue to work on engaging with the thinking of others. 

Students continue to build their writing fluency by writing daily in response to the Target Task question using a variety of simple and complex sentences. Students also learn how to brainstorm and craft paragraphs when writing either informational or opinion writing pieces using a single-paragraph outline. Over the course of the unit, students have multiple opportunities to craft opinion paragraphs that state an opinion, include two to three reasons, and provide a sense of closure about the content of the unit. The unit culminates with students continuing to solidify their research skills by conducting research on one of the people they read and learned about in the unit and writing a final informational piece.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


These assessments accompany this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Before you teach this unit, unpack the texts, themes, and core standards through our guided intellectual preparation process. Each Unit Launch includes a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning to ensure you're prepared to support every student.

Essential Questions

  • Why are movements for equal rights important?
  • How have people who are not in positions of power led the fight for equity and justice? What can we learn from them?

Reading Focus Areas

  • To understand events in a text, readers think about how details are connected.

  • Authors include specific reasons in the text and illustrations to support points in a text.

Writing Focus Areas

Informational Writing

  • Name a topic.

  • Supply facts about the topic.

  • Provide closure.

Opinion Writing

  • State an opinion. 

  • Include two to three reasons to support the opinion.

  • Provide a sense of closure.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Build on others' talk in conversation by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges.

  • Use specific vocabulary. Use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share their thoughts.



accepting accessible activist bold burden confidence demand determined defiant demonstration dignity disrespect grit motivated negotiation nonviolence passionate polite preposterous protector resistance refuse resilient trailblazer unstoppable urge urgent


dis- non- un-

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 5, view our 1st Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

This unit is built around Learning for Justice’s Social Justice Standards. In particular, students build a deeper understanding of the following K-2 Standards:

  • Justice 12 - I know when people are treated unfairly.
  • Justice 13 - I know some true stories about how people have been treated badly because of their group identities, and I do not like it.
  • Justice 14 - I know that life is easier for some people and harder for others, and the reasons for that are not always fair.
  • Justice 15 - I know about people who helped stop unfairness and worked to make life better for many people.
  • Action 16 - I care about those who are treated unfairly.
  • Action 19 - I will speak up or do something if people are being unfair, even if my friends do not.

By the end of the unit, students should be able to articulate the following key knowledge:

  • The fight for women’s rights focuses on ensuring that women have the same legal rights, opportunities, and personal freedom as men.
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the first leaders of the women’s rights movement, pushing for women to have the right to vote.
    • Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to the US Congress and the first Black person to run for president.
    • Kamala Harris is the first Black female Vice President of the United States of America.
  • The civil rights movement was a time in our country when people came together to fight racial discrimination. People were fighting against laws that said that segregation was legal, meaning that Black and white people were not allowed in the same public places.
    • Clara Luper was a civil rights activist who led the Oklahoma Sit-ins in 1958.
    • The Greensboro Four sat down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter to stand up for civil rights and integration. Their actions were an important part of the civil rights movement.
    • Hundreds of school children in Birmingham, Alabama, marched to protest segregation and demand equal rights. 
  • The fight for labor and workers’ rights focuses on protecting the common interests of workers. This means making sure that workers have fair wages, reasonable hours, and safe working conditions.
    • Fed up with the mistreatment of women in the sewing factories, Clara Lemlich led the largest walkout of women workers in the country’s history.
    • Janitors in Los Angeles participated in the Justice for Janitors strike to fight for fair wages and better working conditions.
  • The LGBTQ+ movement advocates equal rights for LGBTQ+ people.
    • The Stonewall Inn Uprisings were a series of protests by the LGBTQ+ community in response to police raids of the Stonewall Inn nightclub. 
    • Harvey Milk and Gilbert Baker created the Gay Pride Flag, which became a symbol of the LGBTQ+ rights movement.
  • The disability rights movement focuses on making sure that people with disabilities are able to participate in everyday life.
    •  Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins fought alongside lots of other people to fight to get the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed. The ADA protects people with a range of disabilities and ensures they have equal access to society.
    • Alan Rabinowitz became an activist for animals and people who stutter. He was thankful for his stutter because it helped him find his passion with animals.
    • Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah showed that being disabled does not mean being unable to ride his bike across Ghana with only one leg.
  • Water is a sacred part of Indigenous communities, but it is at risk. Water Protectors work to keep water safe and clean and to teach others about why it is important to protect water.
    • Nokomis Josephine-ba Mandamin and the Mother Earth Water Walkers walked all over North America to bring attention to the need to protect, respect, and love water.
    • In April 2016, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe stood up to protect their water source and sacred land from an oil pipeline.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Notes for Teachers

  • This unit includes multiple different topics. The goal is not for students to have a deep understanding of each topic; the goal is rather for students to begin to understand the different movements for equal rights in the United States. If you are unable to teach the entire unit, you can pick which equal rights movements are most applicable and engaging for your students. The standards for the unit spiral, so if students do not complete the entire unit, they will only miss content knowledge, not standards.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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