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

Assessment

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

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • 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. 
     

Vocabulary

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Text-based

ally ambivalent amplify dehumanize disproportionate explicit implicit naive perceive radical synonymous

Academic

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

Related Teacher Tools:

Notes for Teachers

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  • 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

1

  • “What is White Privilege, Really?”

    L.8.6

Define significant terms related to racial justice.

2

  • All American Boys pp. 1 – 23

    RL.8.3

Explain how specific events and lines of text in All American Boys reveal aspects of characters.

3

  • All American Boys pp. 24 – 40

    RL.8.3

Explain how specific events and lines of text in All American Boys reveal aspects of Quinn’s character and his perspective.

4

  • All American Boys pp. 43 – 60

  • “A Conversation about Growing Up Black”

    RL.8.3

    RI.8.3

Explain how racial bias shapes the way that characters in All American Boys—and people more generally—are viewed.

5

  • “How to Raise a Black Son in America”

    RI.8.2

    RI.8.4

Explain how Smith uses figurative language in his TED Talk to develop and support his central idea.

6

  • All American Boys pp. 61 – 93

    RL.8.4

    L.8.5.a

Explain how authors Reynolds and Kiely use figurative language and word choice to provide insight into characters’ emotions.

7

  • All American Boys pp. 94 – 120

    RL.8.3

Explain how events and lines of text reveal characters’ perspectives of themselves and others in All American Boys.

8

  • All American Boys pp. 123 – 162

    RL.8.3

Explain the impact of Rashad’s assault on characters and their perspectives in All American Boys. 

9

Writing

    W.8.9.a

    L.8.5

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

10

Writing

    W.8.3.d

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

11

  • All American Boys pp. 165 – 185

    RL.8.3

Explain how events in All American Boys reveal and challenge characters’ racial biases.

12

  • All American Boys pp. 186 – 218 — (page break)

    RL.8.3

Identify and explain the ways that characters’ lives are shaped by race and racism in All American Boys.

13

  • All American Boys pp. 218 – 246 — (after break)

    RL.8.3

Explain how specific events in All American Boys reveal and/or change characters’ perspectives.

14

  • All American Boys pp. 249 – 282

    RL.8.3

Explain how Quinn makes the decision to attend the rally, and the impact of this decision in All American Boys.

15

  • The Constitution

  • Right to Peaceful Assembly

    RI.8.4

    L.8.4.a

    L.8.4.c

    L.8.4.d

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.

16

  • All American Boys pp. 269 – 296

    RL.8.3

Draw conclusions about Quinn and Rashad’s perspectives based on what they say and do in All American Boys.

17

  • All American Boys pp. 297 – 313

    RL.8.5

Describe the structure of All American Boys and explain how it contributes to the text’s meaning.

18

  • All American Boys — Whole Text

    RL.8.2

Determine themes in All American Boys and explain how they are developed over the course of the text. 

19

  • “The ‘Say Her Name’ Movement Started for a Reason: We Forget Black Women Killed by Police”

    RI.8.6

Determine Precious Fondren’s purpose in her article. Clearly and succinctly present information about a Black woman killed by police.

20

  • “Why Black Lives Matter” — focus on paragraphs 1-35

    RI.8.2

    RI.8.4

Explain how writers use figurative language and structural choices to develop and support key ideas.

21

Discussion

    SL.8.1.a

Engage in a Socratic Seminar with classmates, drawing from unit texts to support ideas.

22

Writing

    W.8.3

Translate the expectations of the writing task and analyze a mentor text. 

23

Writing

    W.8.3.d

Outline a short story that explores the power of perspective.

24

Writing

    W.8.3.a

    W.8.3.b

Apply some of the storytelling strategies they studied in All American Boys to a narrative.

25

Writing

    W.8.3.c

    W.8.3.e

Compose a complete narrative and revise for transitions, mechanics, and organization.

26

2 days

Assessment

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

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • 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.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.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

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L.8.1

L.8.2

L.8.3

L.8.4.b

L.8.5.a

L.8.5.b

L.8.5.c

L.8.6

RI.8.1

RI.8.10

RI.8.2

RI.8.3

RI.8.5

RI.8.7

RL.8.1

RL.8.10

RL.8.2

RL.8.3

RL.8.4

RL.8.6

RL.8.9

SL.8.1

W.8.1

W.8.1.a

W.8.1.b

W.8.10

W.8.2

W.8.4

W.8.5

W.8.9.b