Exploring Identity: American Born Chinese

Students explore the American experience through the story of a young boy's conflicted relationship with his Chinese-American identity.

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ELA

Unit 5

7th Grade

Unit Summary


In this unit, students continue their year-long interrogation of the American Dream by reading the acclaimed graphic novel American Born Chinese, written by Gene Luen Yang. The reader follows protagonist Jin, the son of Chinese immigrants, as he navigates the standard experiences of being a young person coming of age in America, as well as the unique challenges of being Asian in a predominantly white community. His story is told alongside the traditional Chinese folktale of a Monkey King, desperate to transform himself into something other than who he is, and the story of Danny, (an apparently white American boy) whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of his Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee. American Born Chinese explores themes around identity, stereotypes, friendship, and self-acceptance through these three (ultimately intertwined) story threads.

This unit contains several supplemental nonfiction texts that explore the power of stereotypes and bias, the role of the media in creating and perpetuating stereotypes, and the impact of stereotypes on individuals—including the author of American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang. These texts provide students with schema around the concept of stereotypes, as well as necessary context to understand the specific history of stereotypes of Asians in America, which appear predominantly in our anchor text. Additionally, students will spend one day learning about graphic novels and how to read them, giving students the tools they will need to both understand and appreciate the unique features of this genre.

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Texts and Materials


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Core Materials

Assessment


This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep


Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.

Essential Questions

  • Where do stereotypes come from and how do they affect people?
  • What might motivate a person to reject aspects of their identity, and what are the risks of doing so?

Enduring Understandings

  • Stereotypes are oversimplified—often offensive—ideas about specific groups of people. Media can create and perpetuate stereotypes and can have a significant impact on the way that people think about and treat one another. 
  • Stereotypes can have a detrimental effect on the way that people in specific groups view themselves.
  • Graphic novels are a powerful medium by which to explore ideas through words and images.
  • Learning to accept yourself as you are is an important part of coming of age. 

Vocabulary

Text-based

blatant caricature deity devotion eloquence entrenched forfeit frolic grotesque insidious inevitable jeopardize pervasive perceive peril pinnacle prevalent stereotype transcend

Root/Affix

trans-

Academic

frame gutter narrative box panel point of view/perspective speech bubble splash page statistic theme thematic topic thought bubble

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 5, view our 7th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

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 book (and unit) contains discussions and depictions of a number of ugly, racist stereotypes about Asian American people. Although students will be thinking and talking about these stereotypes through a critical lens, they nevertheless have the power to cause harm. It is essential that you create an environment where all of your students—but particularly your Asian American students—are safe.  Students must understand that stereotypes and prejudice can lead to serious, real-world consequences for the people.
  • There are several examples in this text of “casual” homophobia, sexism, and sexual harassment. We recommend pointing these incidents out to students, so that they do not go unnoticed and unnamed, and therefore normalized (as they so often are).
  • Suggested additional resources for this unit:

Fishtank ELA Connections

Lesson Map


Common Core Standards


Core Standards

L.7.1
L.7.1.a
L.7.1.b
RI.7.2
RI.7.3
RI.7.5
RL.7.1
RL.7.2
RL.7.3
RL.7.5
RL.7.6
SL.7.1
SL.7.1.d
SL.7.3
SL.7.4
W.7.2
W.7.2.a
W.7.2.b
W.7.2.c
W.7.2.d
W.7.2.e
W.7.2.f
W.7.3
W.7.3.a
W.7.3.b
W.7.3.e
W.7.7
W.7.8

Supporting Standards

L.7.2
L.7.2.b
L.7.3
L.7.3.a
L.7.4
L.7.4.b
L.7.6
RI.7.1
RI.7.4
RI.7.6
RI.7.10
RL.7.4
RL.7.10
SL.7.1.a
SL.7.1.b
SL.7.1.c
SL.7.2
SL.7.6
W.7.1
W.7.1.a
W.7.1.b
W.7.3.c
W.7.3.d
W.7.4
W.7.5
W.7.6
W.7.6
W.7.9
W.7.9.a
W.7.9.b
W.7.10
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Unit 4

Finding Home: The House on Mango Street

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Unit 6

Claiming Our Place: LGBTQ+ Experiences in the United States