Facing Prejudice: All American Boys

Students explore the American experience through the eyes of two young men - one white and one black - connected through an incident of police brutality.

Unit Summary

This first 8th grade unit kicks off students’ year-long study of injustice and how people respond to forces of oppression. In this unit, students will explore issues of racial justice (and injustice) in the United States. The core text, All American Boys, is a 2015 novel written by two authors—one white and one Black—that tells the story of two teenage boys—one white and one Black. Their lives intersect unexpectedly when Quinn, who is white, watches as Rashad, a Black classmate, is beaten by a police officer outside a local convenience store. Quinn is suddenly forced to face the reality of racial injustice in his own community, while Rashad faces the harsh reality that the (white) world judges him primarily by his race. Both young men must grapple with how to respond to the event and the responsibility they have to stand up when injustice has occurred.

In addition to the core text, students will read diverse nonfiction texts, including a history of the Say Her Name movement, a TED Talk about growing up Black in America, and an excerpt from the United States Constitution. Throughout the unit, students will gain vocabulary and schema related to racial justice with the hope that they will come out better equipped to engage meaningfully with these issues in their own lives.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 1 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions


  • How do race and racial bias shape a person’s experience and understanding of the world?
  • What responsibility do people have when they witness—or are the victim of—injustice?

Enduring Understandings

  • Police brutality disproportionately affects Black Americans. 
  • Racism is present and pervasive in America today—whether or not people choose to acknowledge it—and has real and deadly implications for the Black community.
  • White Americans have a responsibility to engage with this reality, educate themselves, and stand up for racial justice. 




ally ambivalent amplify anti-racism bias dehumanize disproportionate dumbfounded explicit implicit naive perceive prejudice racism radical radical synonymous systemic racism white privilege


colloquial language connotation epigraph metaphor point of view/perspective structure thematic topic theme verbal irony

To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 8th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Notes for Teachers


  • This unit discusses issues of racial injustice and police brutality. No matter the racial identities of your students, this unit will undoubtedly spark difficult—and important—conversations. Students may have strong emotional reactions to the content. As always, it is important to consider the knowledge and diverse experiences your students bring with them to your classroom.
  • This unit is built on these premises: (a) your students are already aware of the conversation around racial justice/injustice taking place in our country; and (b) it is essential that students—regardless of their racial background—are having discussions about race and racial justice in their schools. A number of resources are listed below that provide guidance around having conversations about race with students.
  • Be aware that All American Boys includes multiple uses of profanity and references to teenagers drinking and using drugs.
  • It may be helpful to send a letter home to parents to let them know what will be discussed in this unit.

Lesson Map


  • “What is White Privilege, Really?”


Define significant terms related to racial justice.





Plan and outline a free verse poem that explores fear, anger, or forgiveness.




Interpret an experience of fear, anger, or forgiveness through a free verse poem.  


2 days


  • “My Father Died in Afghanistan, and I Support Colin Kaepernick”

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.8.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.8.1.a — Explain the function of verbals (gerunds, participles, infinitives) in general and their function in particular sentences.

  • L.8.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.8.4.a — Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

  • L.8.4.c — Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.

  • L.8.4.d — Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).

  • L.8.5 — Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

  • L.8.5.a — Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.

  • L.8.6 — 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.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.8.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RI.8.3 — Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

  • RI.8.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

  • RI.8.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

  • RI.8.6 — Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.8.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.8.3 — Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

  • RL.8.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

  • RL.8.5 — Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.8.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.8.1.a — 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.

Writing Standards
  • W.8.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.8.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

  • W.8.3.b — Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

  • W.8.3.c — Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence, signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another, and show the relationships among experiences and events.

  • W.8.3.d — Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.

  • W.8.3.e — Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.

  • W.8.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

  • W.8.9.a — Apply grade 8 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new").

Spiral Standards