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Teaching Critical Literacy using Civil Rights Materials By Arlene Marcus, Elissa Austria, Andrea Vaccaro and Debbie Kemp-Jackson Union County College Pedagogical Basis for Teaching Critical Literacy First : Historical Overview of Civil Rights Movement Materials Used: Videos

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teaching critical literacy using civil rights materials

Teaching Critical Literacy using Civil Rights Materials

By Arlene Marcus, Elissa Austria, Andrea Vaccaro and Debbie Kemp-Jackson

Union County College

first historical overview of civil rights movement
First: Historical Overview of Civil Rights Movement

Materials Used:

  • Videos
  • Internet Sites

Brown vs. Board of Education

Facing History Website

  • Facing History Binders
materials to elicit student responses
Materials to Elicit Student Responses


  • Warriors Don’t Cry
  • Eye of the Storm
  • The Bad Samaritan?

Types of Responses

  • Creative Writing
  • Role Plays
  • Letters
materials to elicit student responses5
Materials to Elicit Student Responses


  • Students model format from memoir
  • Students connect deeply with social trends and history
  • Students can express empathy / sympathy with characters and their situations
  • Students recognize the need to be more thoughtful citizens
dialogue between characters
Dialoguebetween Characters

Terrence Roberts and Robin Woods

Terrence: Hi, no, I don’t have a book.

Robin: Well, we can share mine. My name is Robin.

How do you feel in your first day at school?

Terrence: I am nervous, to be honest I feel strange, I never thought that will be like this.

Robin: Don’t worry about what people think. Sooner or later they are going to understand that we all are equal. Every human being has the same rights.

dialogue between characters cont d
Dialoguebetween Characters Cont’d

Terrence: Thanks for giving me hopeful words. I couldn’t imagine that a white girl will help me and open her heart to be friends.

Robin: We cannot judge a person just because of others’ actions. I’m not like them…

Sandra and Aderli

role play 1
Role Play #1

A man is cheating on his wife. His wife is on to him and trails him with her best friend. Her suspicions are confirmed when they reach the mistress’s house and follow the two around on a date. Outside a restaurant, the wife calls her father-in-law and asks him to speak to his son about his philandering. The father refuses to, saying it’s neither his responsibility to do so nor his problem. The accompanying friend then confronts the husband and beats him up.

role play 2
Role Play #2

A husband is the victim of domestic abuse by his wife. The wife’s brother lives in the house and consistently sits idly by while his sister beats her husband. During one particularly bad beating, the husband pleads to him for help. The brother-in-law merely shrugs, whereas a neighbor from next door knocks on the door to see what’s the matter, evaluates the situation, and calls the police.

role play 3
Role Play #3

A young couple is out with friends dancing at a club. The woman mentions that she wants to wait until marriage to have sex, and her boyfriend says, “Yeah, baby, fine with me. I just want to be your man, and that’s enough.” He then turns to one of his friends and brags he is going to drug and take advantage of her that night. Another friend overhears this. With the aid of the complicit friend, the boyfriend drugs his girlfriend’s drink and attempts to hurry her out of the bar. The friend who overheard the situation steps in and grabs the girl out of her boyfriend’s arms before he is able to escape with her.

book themed letters
Book-Themed Letters
  • Dear Mr. Faubus: What would you do if you couldn’t feel your freedom? What would happen if you couldn’t walk on the streets quietly and safely? You would absolutely have an unhappy life. Colored people feel, think and love like you, so they deserve an honorable and equality life. Don’t do things that you wouldn’t like to feel… Eduardo
  • Mr. President, The integration has to happen in Central High School. You have to force the Governor to do the integration peacefully. The Governor cannot disobey the law. I would like you to ask the Governor to change his mind. Marie
book themed letters12
Book-Themed Letters
  • To a Segregationist, I know that you are a segregationist and I would like to ask you what is the difference between your son and Emmett Till? Have you ever thought about if your son went to places where people do not accept white people and then everybody started laughing and hitting him? How would you feel about that? I do not think that you would agree with people that discriminate against your son or somebody in your family. It is time to start thinking about the fact that everybody has the same rights and should receive the same benefits… Elizabeth
book themed letters13
Book-Themed Letters
  • Dear Jane Elliott, The example about blue eyes and brown eyes was perfect. I think that people have to go through the feeling of being discriminated to understand what black people felt when they were discriminated too. You can see how just one word from you could changed their mind and make them realize that discrimination is wrong. Your students may or may not remember your class verbadum or remember your name but they will never forget the principals and words that you imprinted on them what you did was foresee the future at the country and change the way our ignorant history showed us. Maydet
book themed letters14
Book-Themed Letters

To Melba from Grandma

  • It’s not going to be easy because the majority of people in Little Rock don’t want integration of public schools. You are strong girl and I know that you are going to integrate Central High. Sometimes we have to pass by a million bad things, and this makes us everyday stronger. Remember all the things that you are doing now are going to help not only you but also all of the family of The Little Rock Nine. Yohana
  • Don’t stop fighting. You are making a difference in this country and you’re a girl that people follow because of what you are doing. Emerson
book themed letters15
Book-Themed Letters
  • Dear Melba: Hey! I’m very proud of your reaction on p. 164, when they were trying to get you with the flaming balls. Sweetheart, is about time you respond back to them. So far I’m with you, you been putting up with a lot. There’s no excuse for them to treat you the way they been doing. I’m very happy for yourself because finally you become stronger. Mayra
  • Melba, Everybody needs an internal warrior that grows inside us… it is good because it could be the engine that gives you energy to continue and reach your goals. But never forget who we are and where we come from because that could fool your decision and create a monster instead of a warrior that tell you that “whatever” is valid to survive. Don’t forget that the same respect that you deserve they deserve too. Robinson
student letters to the author
Student Letters to the Author
  • To be honest with you I tried to read other books before but I didn’t finish them because I got bored, didn’t find them interesting. But with your book is completely different. Willy
  • Thanks to the book I learned many things about… the Little Rock Nine and the impact it caused over here in United States and the rest of the world. I want to say thank you because you and the other Nine made a better future for us. Katherin
  • After reading this story, I’ve become more accepting and tolerant towards people who are different from me. Color, race or ethnicities are not a means judging people. Mario
a class blog
A Class Blog
  • Having Our Say Class Blog
  • Video/Audio clips
  • Personal responses to prompts
  • Creative/Original Writing
  • Better understanding of text and characters
  • Improved reading and writing
  • Learned to use web 2.0 tool
best practices
Best Practices
  • Point-of-View Writing
  • Conjoined Class Activities
  • Class Magazine

What we learned from the project

What students learned

Responses from students about project