Unit 6: Claiming Our Place: LGBTQ+ Experiences in the United States
Students explore the contributions and experiences of LGBTQ+ Americans in the past and present.
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.
Please Note: Updated enhanced lesson plans for the writing lessons in this unit will be released in October 2023. There may be 3-4 instructional days added to the unit writing projects.
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Book: The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2017)
Article: “Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement” by PBS.org (WGBH Educational Foundation)
Article: “LGBTQ Rights Milestones Fast Facts” by CNN (Cable News Network)
Article: “Victory! Federal Court Rules Trans Students Must Have Access to Bathrooms That Match Their Gender” by Lambda Legal (Lambda Legal)
Article: “We Need Gender Neutral Bathrooms Everywhere” by Adryan Corcione (Teen Vogue)
Video: “Trans People Nail The Absurdity Of The Bathroom Debate | Trans 102 | Refinery29” by Refinery29 (YouTube)
Video: “Oakland Police Seek Witnesses, Good Samaritans Aboard AC Transit Bus” by KRON 4 (YouTube)
Video: “Oakland California Victim in Bus Burning Fire” (YouTube)
Article: “Hate Crimes, Explained” by Swathi Shanmugasundaram (The Southern Poverty Law Center)
Website: Hate Crimes by FBI.gov
This assessment accompanies Unit 6 and should be
given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
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.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 6, view our 7th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
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 to help teachers prepare for this specific unit
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.
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
Identify significant events in the fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights and draw conclusions about what these milestones reveal about the political and social reality for LGBTQ+ Americans.
Create a poster that educates classmates about a significant event or aspect of LGBTQ+ American history.
Describe how a text is organized, how specific chapters fit into the overall structure of the text, and how the author makes structural choices to develop the reader’s understanding of characters, setting, and plot.
Describe how Sasha’s community responded to their gender identity, and how specific chapters in the text contribute to the reader’s understanding of characters, ideas, and events.
Identify a writer or speaker’s argument and assess whether the evidence they provide is relevant to claims.
Explain specific chapters fit into the overall structure of the text and how the author makes structural choices to develop the reader’s understanding of characters, setting, and plot.
Analyze the way that Slater develops the reader’s understanding of the fire on the bus and compare news reports about the incident with facts and details Slater includes in The 57 Bus.
Make connections between larger legal concepts and events in The 57 Bus, drawing evidence from both texts to support ideas.
Analyze the effect of the author’s use of second person point of view.
Identify an author or speaker’s argument and assess whether the evidence they provide is relevant and sufficient.
Explain the way that events affect individuals’ emotions, beliefs, and behavior in The 57 Bus.
Explain how specific chapters in The 57 Bus fit into the overall structure of the text, and develop the reader’s understanding of characters and ideas.
Describe how The 57 Bus is organized and how Slater's structural choices develop the reader’s understanding of characters and ideas.
Identify central ideas in The 57 Bus and explain how Slater develops ideas over the course of the text.
Engage in a Socratic Seminar with peers, responding directly to others by rephrasing and delineating arguments, determining the strength of evidence, and posing clarifying questions.
Translate the expectations of the writing task and gather evidence from research.
Analyze a mentor text, craft strong introductory statements, and outline body paragraphs.
Incorporate simple, compound, and complex sentences into their own writing.
Add to introduction and conclusion, and revise for clarity, mechanics, and organization.
Assessment – 2 days
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Explain the function of phrases and clauses in general and their function in specific sentences.
— Choose among simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences to signal differing relationships among ideas.
— Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
— Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).
— Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to the development of the ideas.
— Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.
— Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium's portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).
— Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
— Analyze how two or more authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information by emphasizing different evidence or advancing different interpretations of facts.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.
— Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
— Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
— Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.
— Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content
— Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
— Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
— Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions for further research and investigation.
— Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
— Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Spell correctly.
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Choose language that expresses ideas precisely and concisely, recognizing and eliminating wordiness and redundancy.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 7 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., belligerent, bellicose, rebel).
— Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
— Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6–8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
— Follow rules for collegial discussions, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
— Pose questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant observations and ideas that bring the discussion back on topic as needed.
— Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.
— Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
— Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
— Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
— Establish and maintain a formal style.
— Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
— Use appropriate transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
— Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
— Establish and maintain a formal style.
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
— With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
— Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.
— Apply grade 7 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g. "Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims").
— Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
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