Claiming Our Place: LGBTQ+ Experiences in the United States

Students explore the contributions and experiences of LGBTQ+ Americans in the past and present.

Unit Summary

In this unit, students will read The 57 Bus, a nonfiction text about a momentary encounter between two teenage strangers on a bus in Oakland, California. One late afternoon in November of 2013, Richard—sixteen, African-American, male, from an economically depressed section of the city—took a lighter and lit the skirt of a sleeping teenager on fire. That teenager, Sasha—eighteen, white, agender, from a middle class area of the city—was rushed to the hospital with severe burns. Richard was arrested and charged with a felony hate crime. This text is an exploration of race, class, gender, sexual identity, criminal justice, and the gray areas that exist in the world and within us all. The supplemental texts that students will read alongside The 57 Bus are intended to support their understanding of the history, struggle, and successes of LGBTQ+ Americans as students continue their year-long study of what it means to be American.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 6 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What challenges have LGBTQ+ Americans faced in the past, what challenges do they continue to face, and how have they survived and thrived in spite of repression, violence, and discrimination?
  • How does binary thinking shape the way that we understand other people and the world around us?

Enduring Understandings

  • LGBTQ+ have had to fight for social acceptance and equal protection under the law in the face of discrimination, persecution, and violence.
  • Binaries limit our understanding of people and of the world around us; the world is a much more complex and interesting place than binaries allow us to see.

Vocabulary

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Text-based

affirm binary callous consensual conscientious divert eccentric lenient malleable nonconforming

Root/Affix

bi- hetero- homo-

To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 7th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Notes for Teachers

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We are very mindful of the fact that this unit only provides students with the most rudimentary introduction to the history and experiences of LGBTQ+ people in this country. Our core text provides students with a window into the life of one agender person (and their friends, who have diverse gender, romantic, and sexual identities). For their final project, students will have the opportunity to spend time studying an LGBTQ+ American more closely. But one of the strengths of this community is its diversity; students must leave this unit understanding that while LGBTQ+ Americans may share some common history and experiences, the community is anything but monolithic.

As always, it is essential that teachers ensure that their classroom is a safe space for all students, with a particular focus on supporting students who may experience this unit as more of a “mirror” than “window.” You may have students who are out as LGBTQ+ in your classroom, but it is equally important to teach this unit with the knowledge that you very likely have LGBTQ+ students in your classroom who are not out. There are many fantastic resources available for supporting LGBTQ students and building awareness of queer issues and history in your classrooms. Here are just a few:

We recommend letting parents know that you will be teaching this book and discussing sexuality and gender identity in the classroom. It is also important to let school support staff know so that they are aware of what will be addressed.

This text raises a number of very important issues about race and class in the United States. While students will regularly engage with these topics within lessons, our overarching focus in this unit is on gender and sexual identity. If you have the time and flexibility within your schedule, we encourage you to supplement this unit with texts that dive more deeply into the American criminal justice system, and the way it intersects with race.

A note on terminology: We have made the choice to use the acronym LGBTQ+ in this unit. There is no perfect acronym or word to use that encapsulates the entirety of this community, but we have chosen this acronym because of its inclusion of the “Q” (for queer, an umbrella term that a growing number of people prefer) and the “+,” which is an (admittedly imperfect) acknowledgement of the diversity of people included in the community.

Lesson Map

9

Writing

  • The 57 Bus

    W.7.9

Analyze the effect of the author’s use of second person point of view.

16

Writing

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.b

Translate the expectations of the writing task and gather evidence from research.

17

Writing

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.a

Construct a strong thesis statement and compose effective body paragraphs.

18

Writing

    L.7.1.a

    L.7.1.b

Incorporate simple, compound, and complex sentences into their own writing.

20

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Core Standards

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L.7.1

L.7.1.a

L.7.1.b

RI.7.2

RI.7.3

RI.7.5

RI.7.8

RI.7.9

SL.7.1

SL.7.1.c

SL.7.1.d

W.7.1

W.7.1.a

W.7.1.b

W.7.1.c

W.7.1.d

W.7.1.e

W.7.2

W.7.9

Spiral Standards

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L.7.2

L.7.3

L.7.3

L.7.5

L.7.6

RI.7.1

RI.7.10

RI.7.4

RI.7.6

SL.7.2

SL.7.4

W.7.10

W.7.2.a

W.7.2.b

W.7.4

W.7.5

W.7.7

W.7.8

W.7.9.b