We have it here folks! A sample of the CRT/Social Justice curriculum WCSD is looking into getting into our kids' classrooms. WCSD purchased the Benchmark Advance ELA curriculum for the district two years ago. With that purchase came the option to add-on a supplemental curriculum of "social justice" (critical race theory) material. As of June 2021, WCSD paused the use of this curriculum until a task force could be formed to explore its implementation further. Below is a summary of what those lessons and teacher discussion prompts look like in each grade.
THE SOCIAL JUSTICE/CRT CURRICULUM WRITTEN BY BENCHMARK ADVANCED AND PROPOSED TO WCSD AS AN ELA SUPPLEMENT FOR GRADES K-5:
The teachers are asked as they take the students through the Benchmark Advance Supplemental Curriculum that they always frame everything they are teaching according to the Essential Question (EQ) and the Social Justice Guiding Question (SJGQ).
The curriculum also prompts during every unit that the teacher ask the children to look for 1) “Linguistic bias” like “black sheep” and “that’s ghetto” or sexist words like “fireman” instead of “fireperson” 2) Stereotyping by ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, ability, and culture (for example what do families in the stories look like)
BIPOC = Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
Grade K Unit 1 - Rules at Home and School
EQ (Essential Question)- Why do we have rules?
SJGQ (Social Justice Guiding Question) How do we know if a rule is fair to everyone? What can we do if it’s not fair?”
Weeks 1-3 -The kindergartners, 5 and 6 year olds, are to learn about rules and if all rules are fair to everyone? If the rules are not fair then how do the children change them? Does everyone have to follow the same rule?
Who Gets to Play: Talk about the fairness of rules and rules are made by people who want to be comfortable and protect what they think is important. Talk about positive and negative consequences of following rules. Think about a rule that leaves someone out makes that person feel. Why is that unfair and how can you change it?
There is a box on the left side of the lesson plan telling the teachers how to support a social justice frame in the classroom. One item is social justice in the classroom is connected with an action. So the children are often asked to decide if something is fair, with the teacher’s direction, and speak up.
Just Asking: Explain how words can hurt people, even if just asked a certain way. Have them share what words have hurt their own feelings.
Whose Rules: Have children look at characters and illustrations and how the author feels influences the characters they create. Do the pictures they see look like their school community?
Read “Let’s Play by the Rules” Talk about unfair teams, feeling left out and helping those who feel left out.
Read “A New Pet” Discuss rules about pets, where they are and are not allowed. Why are they allowed in some apartments and not others?
Read “What are Some Rules at School” Look at the photos and see how it compares to their school.
Read “Rules are Cool” Point out rules are not always cool for example, many years ago, black and brown children were not allowed to go to school together. Why is it important that “uncool” rules can be changed?” Unfair or unjust rules can be changed. Ask how they could change unfair rules and make fairness posters for the classroom.
Grade K Unit 4 - Writers Tell Many Stories
EQ - Why do people tell stories?
SJGQ - How can stories help us learn about others and also help us see how we may have unfair ideas about others?
Weeks 1-3 - Teach how stories can perpetuate or challenge biased ideas.
Deciding About Others: Learn why authors write stories. What happens if you only read one author? Or the illustrator draws photos of someone they have never actually seen?
Include Me, Include Us: Examine characters. How would you feel if you were left out?
Views of The World: Look for how the story and illustrations are only about what those creators know.
Read “Who Did It?” Look at the illustration and see what the mom’s body language and face tell you. This can happen when people do something to help a community not everyone agrees with and they are quickly judged as being bad.
Read “The Spider and the Deer '' Talk about when the spider and the deer feel safe or scared and how to help each other, even if they don’t know or are different from each other.
Read “Who’s in the Shed” Discuss judging others and whether that is fair. The bear was captured and now he is being stared at by farm animals. What can the farm animals do to not be offensive to the bear?
Read “Ungolala” Discuss how you can look at someone and not see how special they are. We mistakenly see them a certain way, not who they truly are.
Grade K Unit 6 - Stories Have a Message
EQ - How do we know what is right?
SJGQ - How can the messages in stories make us feel or not feel safe, and proud of who we are?
Weeks 1-3 Stand up: Discuss messages in stories that are not fair and explain how these messages can make people feel unsafe.
Families Are Not All the Same: Continue to focus on the illustrations and see families have similarities and differences for e.g. friends can be family, families can be mixed race, foster children, and a single parent. Consider that families are not bound by dominant social ideas like a mom and dad.
Locations: Look at the settings of books and see how some settings and communities are labeled as bad. Would the story change if the setting changed?
Read “All Together Now” Ask what is missing from the story when the animals are only he or him? How it's unfair that none of the animals are girls.
Read “The Three Little Pigs” Then have the class discuss why children may have to leave a parent’s house? How would this feel to be unsafe in your own home?
Read “ The Boy Who Cried Wolf” Question how you are made to feel about the boy who has no shoes to wear. How does the boy see himself differently than the villagers see him?
Revisit the SJGQ and EQ and discuss how people identify themselves. What are the things that make a person who they are? (appearance, culture, language, etc.) How do the illustrations in stories send messages and how can we help others understand what is true or not? Have students draw their own counter-narrative art by first talking about how illustrations can create false ideas about diverse communities.
Grade 1 Unit 1 - Being a Good Community Member
EQ - Why do people get involved in their community?
SJGQ - How are people responsible members of the community?
Weeks 1-3 - The Spaces: Discuss with 1st graders, 6 and 7 year olds, what different neighborhoods look like and their beliefs about the people who live there and why. Describe their own communities and if everyone is welcome in all communities. How to get communities to help one another.
Climate Justice on My Street: Have the children discuss climate change and how it affects different communities.
Solving Together: Discuss how some communities get unfairly blamed for creating their own problems and are they helped to solve their problems.
Have the children write letters to community leaders asking for assistance for their school.
Read “Being a Responsible Citizen” Look at photos and ask if everyone sees the same depending on their neighborhood. Have the children think about what they and others may think about their own neighborhood. How to do good things in your neighborhood.
Read “People Who Made Contributions” Look at pictures and that people who create pictures have a point of view which can be positive or negative about certain groups of people.
Ask students to write and mail a class letter to local community leaders asking for assistance for the school community.
Grade 1 Unit 4 - Stories Have a Narrator
In this unit children are shown how people who write stories have biases. Share stories of marginalized people while stressing you can take action.
EQ - How do people create stories?
SJGQ - Is it fair to tell one side of the story? How would the story look if it was told from each character’s point of view?
The children will listen to a story and pick out the writer’s bias and who it is directed toward.
Weeks 1-3 - My Voice or Someone Else” Talk about who is telling the story and their opinions.
Almost Always Bad: Teach the children about stereotypes and how they become understood as truth. Show them how some animals are shown as having bad qualities like BIPOC communities (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) What negative bias or ideas have you seen or heard? How can you stand up and support positive images of characters or people?
Read “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse”: Discuss how people sometimes feel superior to others just like the mice do in this book.
Read “A Quiet Camping Trip” Discuss how Rosa is underestimated due to negative bias. Tell others your own ideas about social justice and bias.
Read “Chicken Little” Discuss how the photos in the text can create bias. Show photos of children from BIPOC communities and have the students ask what adjectives they think of when seeing the photos, positive and negative.
Read “ The Fox and The Little Red Hen” Tell the children the fox is labeled as bad, but maybe he had reasons for being bad like being hungry or to help his mom.
Assign writing counter narratives to help these diverse communities. All the writings will be bound together as a book.
Grade 1 Unit 6 - Stories Teach Lessons
Teach tolerance by allowing students to speak out against bias and injustice and affirming students ethnic, cultural, racial and linguistic identities while creating a safe learning environment for diverse identities.
EQ - What can we learn from a mistake?
SJGQ - How can encouraging people lead to better results than treating them poorly?
Weeks 1-3 - Who Is First?: Texts describe when characters were kind or unkind. Have a conversation about kindness and compassion.
Privilege’s Risk: Talk about people who have an advantage and how more money or power can be used to hurt people. This happened in the United States in the past and today. They enslaved African Americans and took them from their homes.
Justice: Characters get negative consequences for their actions. Explain social justice is when a person or groups of people are treated unfairly and also when people have opportunities and are not discriminated against. BIPOC/diverse communities are often described in negative ways. Who decides what is just?
Read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” Describe the wolf as in need, like communities who need healthcare, housing and food and they are criticized for crying out.
Read “The Ant and the Pigeon” Discuss how hungry the ant is and why it is unfair for some communities to not have access to healthy food. Discuss how to provide BIPOC communities access to quality food.
Read “Why Turtle’s Shell is Cracked” Get them to see themselves as the turtle and others want to help him by moving him to where he doesn’t want to go. Discuss how BIPOC communities have been relocated.
Grade 2 Unit 1 - Government at Work
Read about what the government does and government jobs.
EQ - Why do we need a government?
SJGQ - How do we know when the government is or is not meeting the needs of a community?
Weeks 1-3 - Messages and Flags: The children, ages 7 and 8 year olds, will learn about flags and how they unite and divide people. Create a flag that supports social justice for all people.
Laws: Read “Our Government’s Laws”. Are all people treated fairly under our government’s laws? Name unfair laws and treatment.
Revolutionary War-Dreams of Freedom: Explain to the children how people of color during times of war would fight to protect the nation even though they were not free.
Read “Can You Sew a Betsy Ross Flag?” Ask who in the country Betsy Ross sewed the new flag for and who was not included? Explain that some people use symbols such as flags to try to keep people separate but not equal. Why are some symbols so powerful?
Read “Our Government’s Laws” Ask why female officers are only working on safe assignments. Note while they do this safe work Max the dog is a hero. Ask why books do not often show women as heroes.
Read “Getting a Message to General Washington” Tell the children the characters of the Revolutionary War are white men and how do others feel being left out of the story? Discuss how looking through the eyes of only white men can affect our view of history. Why does it show only white men are brave? What other brave people being left out of the story lived at this time?
Grade 2 Unit 4 - Many Characters, Many Points of View
EQ - How can a story change depending upon who tells it?
SJGQ - How can telling someone else’s story cause both harm and good?
Weeks 1-3 - Hearing Honesty: Look at a story the author teaches that “good” wins out, but discuss how what is good is not the same for all people. Talk about how if someone is different do they not deserve good things to happen?
Better on the Other Side: Discuss what you need to feel safe. Now talk about when people who have advantages don’t share with the disadvantaged. Ask if everyone has food and then discuss how BIPOC react to the advantaged people’s stores having better quality products than their stores have.
Read “Ferdinand Frog and the Flea” Discuss that size doesn’t guarantee power and what gives BIPOC communities a voice? How can you stop racism and bullying?
Read “The Stone Garden” Discuss bias about the neighborhood and how to rewrite it. Ask if the drawings in this book show racial and gender diversity?
Have the children interview someone and write a story from the perspective of the interviewee describing how the person overcame adversity caused by racism and bias. These stories will be made into a book and shared on a website.
Grade 2 Unit 6 - Tales to Live By
Read stories from different cultures and see respective cultural beliefs. Examine texts and illustrations for bias; linguistic bias, stereotyping and diversity imbalance.
EQ - What can different cultures teach us?
SJGQ - Why do privileged cultures want oppressed cultures to be less valued and not want to learn from them? The non-colored people must learn to respect and affirm BIPOC people’s cultures and teachings.
Weeks 1-3 - Valuable: Discuss how we must learn to treat others fairly and care more about people than possessions. Learn about how BIPOC’s values, culture, language and identity help them from bad treatment due to systemic racism.
Collaboration: Discuss collaboration and how it is best when all are involved.
Abilities: Discuss different abilities of people that are sometimes overlooked because of bias and oppression. How groups are created by choice, but also by force?
Read “Why the Sky is Far Away” Look at illustrations and see physical differences like colors, face, hair, the setting, and clothing. Come up with lists of positive and negative descriptive words and what messages and bias come from the illustrator and author?
Read “The Lion and the Man” The children are told how truth belongs to the person telling the story. So the children will discuss how BiPOC/diverse communities are impacted when they aren’t given a voice to tell their own stories
Read “On One Wheel” Look at the illustrations and talk about diversity in school. Does every school have the same opportunities? How can the students help?
Have the student create a display of postcards spotlighting BIPOC identities, cultures, and contributions.
Grade 3 Unit 1 - Government for the People
How the government interacts with people. Question if the government has a positive effect on people’s lives and helps people equally?
EQ - Why do people participate in government?
SJGQ - What does participate mean and who is allowed to participate?
Weeks 1-3 - Accountability: Elected officials are supposed to support the communities they represent. People of color, young people, and women have had to speak up at voting booths to advocate for justice and change. What would you say to elected officials?
The Right To..: Discussion on people’s rights in the United States. Should everyone have the same rights? What rights are most important? Are those that are supposed to protect you taking away your rights? Learn how to speak up.
One Can Become Many: You may see in your own school prejudice and bias, so when someone does not feel safe or welcome you can speak up for social justice.
Look at the illustrations of physical features like race. Discuss how it is important to have communities of color vote.
Read “Election Day” Discuss the Fifteenth Amendment giving African Americans the right to vote, but why at that time, and how since then have people tried to stop them from voting? Also ask why women were left out? Look at the drawing of an indigenous man and ask how the drawing makes you feel about him?
Ask students to help get out the vote by creating posters to put up in the community.
Grade 3 Unit 4 - Comparing Points of View
Read stories and talk about how the author’s view affects the characters in the story.
EQ - What makes people view the same experience in different ways?
SJGQ - Why is it a matter of social justice that everyone who was there should be able to share their voice?
Weeks 1-3 - Gender and Beauty: Teach that they are social constructs. What is feminine? How does media affect gender and beauty? Discuss how biased ideas about gender and beauty impact communities, especially BIPOC communities. Is this fair?
Power, Choices, and Consequences: Read about Jack and how his choices affect other characters. Discuss types of power characters have to use to help or hurt. How does power shift when people march to fight injustice like civil rights, voting and feminist movements?
Who Decides Justice: How what a person believes is fair and what is true is shaped by family and community.
Look at illustrations and discuss how pictures especially affect BIPOC communities. Then discuss voices in the community and voices not heard like in the book “Cinderella, Too Much for Words.”
Read “Cap o’Rushes” Discuss the quote “Katie was a fine lady but took a servant’s job.” Have the students create a chart listing essential workers. Discuss how gender and race are imagined to fit with each essential job and how it is valued.
Read “The Giant’s Complaint” Discuss villains, stereotyping and how protesters today challenge the BIPOC stereotypes.
Read “The True Jack?” After an important event why it matters that different people are invited to share their voice.
Discuss the overall importance of having diverse voices. How does injustice affect people for a long time? And how socioeconomic factors privilege some and disadvantage others. Have the students paint to display a mirror reflecting a realistic image of their community.
Grade 3 Unit 6 - Making Decisions
Discuss how characters get into and out of difficult situations.
EQ - What helps us solve problems?
SJGQ - Why is it important when problems resolved outside BIPOC/diverse communities impact a solution on those communities?
BIPOC communities are often negatively impacted by actions that come from bias. Discuss how advantaged communities can create positive change.
Weeks 1-3 - Being Heard: How students can join together to create a powerful collective voice.
Luck: Not to be relied on. Discuss that obligation is something you must do. You are obligated to help the less privileged communities get health care, housing and healthy food that privileged communities already have.
Power Recognized: Privileged people benefit from work of under-resourced members of diverse communities. Discuss how the essential workers during COVID-19 might help support social justice.
Read “The Three Spinsters” Discuss the bias of men solving problems for women. Also, how the hardworking spinsters are portrayed as ugly. Is this socially just?
Read “Doctor Knowall” Discuss how smart people often went to college. BIPOC people have less access to college because of bias and systemic racism. How do we recognize these BIPOC people as valuable even though they did not go to college?
Read “The Wolf and the Fox” Animals in this story get assigned untrue negative qualities, just like people of color. What impact do these biases cause when the stories aren’t directly from BIPOC communities? How can counter narratives change the bias?
Have the students research and create a collage showing a counter narrative.
Grade 4 Unit 1- Government in Action
Learn how the government interacts and is in charge of people’s lives. Is the government positive by helping all people equally?
EQ - Why do we need a government?
SJGQ - How are people, agencies, and businesses regulated by the government?
Weeks 1-3 - Resolving Problems: How does where you live influence how you live? Think of examples of when the government was not prepared for disasters, like hurricanes and COVID.
Represented: Discuss if elected officials provide what you need in your community.
A Voice for Others: How legal action can give people voices.
Read “The First Town Meeting” Discuss towns sharing resources. Ask if all towns have equal resources and should those with more give to others?
Read “The State Government and its Citizens” Talk about judges being appointed vs voted in. Give examples of judges not following the law or protecting the rights of all.
“Fifty States Plus” Discuss the United States territories, the pros and cons of being a territory and if the territory or the government should decide the territory’s status.
Send letters to government representatives about needs they have not met.
Grade 4 Unit 6 - Confronting Challenges
Think of how communities just as individuals face obstacles to social justice.
EQ - How do we overcome obstacles?
SJGQ - Who decides which communities get choice and privileges while other communities get obstacles to choice and privileges?
Why do some people put obstacles in the way of others to make themselves feel secure? BIPOC communities often are not addressed equitably?
Weeks 1-3 - Tricks: Some people trick others to feel superior. Tricks can lead to forming stereotypes.
Hurt Not Help: How people feel justified taking from what they biasedly see as bad people such as diverse communities.
Foolish: Who decides what people are smart and who is foolish? How do inaccurate characterizations affect the people they are assigned to.
Read “The Valiant Little Tailor” See the negative adjectives used to describe the tailor. Have the students list biased words. Challenge negative words used to describe a diverse community. Reframe it and make it accurate.
Read “Molly Whuppie '' Discuss the suggestion it is good for girls to marry someone rich. Discussing the story, many houses lived in today have no food.
Hold a food drive to help people who are chronically hungry.
Grade 5 Unit 1 - The U.S. Constitution: Then and Now
This unit covers the government and how the Constitution was written. Think about who we picture when we think of the government and the founders? Why those images? Who, and whose narrative, is missing from the “history” of this period?
EQ - Why do laws continue to evolve?
SJGQ - How should society guide the evolution of laws to ensure they are just?
Discuss how believing a law is forever vs must be rewritten and/or removed.
Weeks 1-3 - Visuals Worth More Than a Thousand Words: Look at pictures and what lesson might have been intended by those who created them?
Laws: Hold a class about how racial and gender bias contributed to the “history” of the U.S. Ask why didn’t the framers of the Constitution include women in the conversation?
Dreams of Freedom: The Dred Scott case demonstrates how court decisions can be made, overturned, and appealed. Discuss the appeals process and what bias and stereotypes judges and lawmakers should not hold in order to serve.
Bridges: Read Thurgood Marshall’s quote, he says “The legal system can force open doors and sometimes even knock down walls. But it cannot build bridges. That job belongs to you and me.” Reflect on current events.
Read “Creating the Constitution” “We the people… is a loaded phrase that, at a time, really just referred to white males. MOST of the new nation's population was left out as framers omitted women, people of African descent, and Native peoples. Have students discuss how omission in law has contributed to systemic racism and bias.
Read “Mrs Stowe and the President” Discuss the description of Mrs. Stowe which suggests how women are supposed to feel and behave in the company of powerful men. Rewrite the paragraph to portray Mrs. Stowe as courageous and strong.
Read “Liberty Medal Acceptance Speech” Discuss how members of the Supreme Court are nominated and despite the rule of law judges make decisions based on bias. Look at how bias plays in the Dred Scott case. Ask students to graphically represent the relationships between social groups, privilege, oppression, as well as their impact - both negative and positive - on the law? (Side note, these are 10 and 11 year olds).
Have the students create a public service announcement addressing the issue of systemic bias including realistic legal solutions.
5 Unit 4 - Recognizing Author’s Point of View
EQ - How can other perspectives help us evaluate the world?
SJGQ - How has the omission of counter narratives from BIPOC/diverse communities subjected to prejudice and systemic oppression contribute to limited perspectives for evaluation of the world?
Weeks 1-3 - American Dreaming: Discuss how different authors have different views of what the American dream is.
Young People See: Young people need to speak up about what they see as truth.
Have and Have Nots: Discuss how two girls living in the same house have different life experiences because of personal history and social class. Note how having money impacts understanding of diverse perspectives.
Read “I Hear America Singing” and “I, Too” Look at the bias against men vs women. Whitman talks about America singing but never mentions people of color while Hughes speaks of African Americans when he says, “I, too, sing America”. How much has this changed for diverse communities today?
Read “Justice in Eatonville” Eatonville was the first town incorporated by African Americans in the United States. Initially, several white men refused to sell land to the newly freed black men. Now think about BIPOC communities working for access to housing, education, and the right to vote.
Read “Asparagus” Discuss if second class citizens should just take their ill treatment or confront those who try to take advantage of them? Ask why BIPOC communities should be happy with what they have and not try to get better healthcare, housing and education? How has racism effected these expectations?
Discuss the consequences of stories from mostly Eurocentric perspectives. Why are stories about heroes most often about males who are not members of diverse communities? How do the differences in housing make others feel about diverse communities? Have the students write poems that offer counter narratives for what they have heard or seen about BIPOC communities in the media. These poems can be shared for publication or during a social justice night at school.
Grade 5 Unit 6 - Up Against the Wild
EQ - What compels people to survive?
SJGQ - Why is it important that, when faced with challenges created by systemic racism, people from BIPOC/diverse communities maintain their cultures to survive?
Surviving Danger: How has systemic racism kept communities from interacting?
Choices: When survival depends on escaping an unjust situation what personal responsibility do we have to help others escape danger?
Bravery: BIPOC communities can survive by remembering who they are.
Read “Androcles and the Lion” Discuss how the media shows suffering and trying to survive as others watch and do not help. Injustices suffered by BIPOC/diverse communities have been treated as public spectacles. More often than not privileged communities do not intervene. How and why must this change?
Read “The Law of Club and Fang” A dog is stolen and enslaved. Discuss how this happened in the United States to African Americans and much of this history has been covered up. This is an extremely important example of the consequences of systemic racism. Why should these stories be amplified and fully told as part of U.S. history?
Read “Julie Fights for Survival” Discuss how it would feel to be called not by your own name. Members of the BIPOC/diverse communities change their names to be more Anglo. Discuss the pros and cons and how this perpetuates oppression.
Have the students create art and stories addressing issues of survival in BIPOC/diverse communities for a newsletter.
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