Unit 1: 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.
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.
Please Note: In May 2023, we updated writing lessons in this unit and added several lessons. Additionally, in August 2023 we made additional changes to the end-of-unit narrative writing project. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.
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Book: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Article: “What is White Privilege, Really?” by Cory Collins (Teaching Tolerance)
Video: “A Conversation about Growing Up Black” by The New York Times (YouTube)
Video: “How to Raise a Black Son in America” by Clint Smith (TED Talk)
Website: The Constitution of the United States
Website: Right to Peaceful Assembly: United States (Library of Congress)
Article: “The ‘Say Her Name’ Movement Started for a Reason: We Forget Black Women Killed by Police” by Precious Fondren (Teen Vogue)
Speech: “Why Black Lives Matter” by Alicia Garza (Open Transcripts)
Book: Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017)
Assessment Text: “My Father Died in Afghanistan, and I Support Colin Kaepernick” by Kelly Mchugh-Stewart
Rubric: Narrative Writing Rubric (G8, U1, L24-28)
This assessment accompanies Unit 1 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
point of view/perspective
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 1, view our 8th 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
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
Define significant terms related to racial justice.
Explain how specific events and sections of text in All American Boys reveal aspects of Rashad’s character and his perspective.
Explain how specific events and sections of text in All American Boys reveal aspects of Quinn’s character and his perspective.
Explain how racism and racial bias shape the way that characters in All American Boys—and people more generally—are viewed.
Unpack a prompt, study a mentor text, and gather evidence in preparation for writing a paragraph response.
Outline and a paragraph response, including a strong claim statement, important details, and a concluding statement.
Draft and revise a paragraph response, focusing on writing strong analysis.
Explain how Smith uses figurative language in his TED Talk to develop and support his central idea.
Explain how authors Reynolds and Kiely use figurative language and word choice to provide insight into characters’ emotions.
Explain how events and lines of text reveal characters’ perspectives of themselves and others in All American Boys.
Explain the impact of Rashad’s assault on characters and their perspectives in All American Boys.
Explain how events in All American Boys reveal and challenge characters' beliefs.
Outline a paragraph analyzing how Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely explore the topic of invisibility in All American Boys.
Plan, draft, and revise a paragraph response.
Explain how specific events in All American Boys reveal and/or change Rashad's perspective.
Explain how Quinn makes the decision to attend the rally, and the impact of this decision in All American Boys.
Determine the technical meaning of words using context clues and reference texts to develop an understanding of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Draw conclusions about Quinn and Rashad’s perspectives based on what they say and do in All American Boys.
Describe the structure of All American Boys and explain how it contributes to the text’s meaning.
Determine themes in All American Boys and explain how they are developed over the course of the text.
Determine Precious Fondren’s purpose in her article. Clearly and succinctly present information about a Black woman killed by police.
Explain how writers use figurative language and make structural choices to develop and support key ideas.
Engage in a Socratic Seminar with classmates, drawing evidence from unit texts, and carefully explaining reasoning.
Unpack the expectations of a narrative writing task, study a Mentor Text, and brainstorm possible topics.
Outline and begin to draft a personal narrative.
Revise narratives for descriptive details, sensory language, and dialogue.
Outline and begin to draft a narrative written from a different character's perspective.
Revise both narratives for transition words and edit for verbals.
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 verbals (gerunds, participles, infinitives) in general and their function in particular sentences.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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).
— Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
— Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.
— 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.
— 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.
— Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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 and decision-making, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
— Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
— Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
— Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from 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.
— Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
— Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
— Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
— 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.
— Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
— 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.
— Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.
— Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.
— 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.
— Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
— 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").
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.
— Use punctuation (comma, ellipsis, dash) to indicate a pause or break.
— Use an ellipsis to indicate an omission.
— Spell correctly.
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Use verbs in the active and passive voice and in the conditional and subjunctive mood to achieve particular effects (e.g., emphasizing the actor or the action; expressing uncertainty or describing a state contrary to fact).
— Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., precede, recede, secede).
— Use the relationship between particular words to better understand each of the words.
— Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., bullheaded, willful, firm, persistent, resolute).
— Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.
— Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 6—8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
— Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
— Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
— 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.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6—8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
— Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
— Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
— Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
— Establish and maintain a formal style.
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
— Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
— 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.
— Apply grade 8 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., "Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced").
— 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.
Encountering Evil: Night
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