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Lesson Plan

Exploring Perspectives on Desegregation Using Brown Girl Dreaming

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Exploring Perspectives on Desegregation Using Brown Girl Dreaming

Grades 5 – 9
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute Sessions
Lesson Author

Scott Filkins

Scott Filkins

Champaign, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



From Theory to Practice



Designed to complement a fuller study of the Civil Rights Era and the process of desegregation in America, this lesson gives students an introduction to Jacqueline Woodson's verse memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming.  Using the jigsaw collaboration model, student groups first read and discuss a poem about segregation/desegregation from the point of view of one of Woodson's family or community members.  Then, they meet in a second group to learn about each of the other poems to explore the diverse ways people in Woodson's life experienced crucial events of the period.

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In their introduction to the March 2009 Voices from the Middle themed issue on poetry study, editors Roxanne Henkin, Janis Harmon, Elizabeth Pate, and Honor Moorman argue that “poetry provides an emotional journey not often experienced with other literature” but suggest that students and teachers alike lose the focus on emotion in pursuit of correct, single interpretations (p. 7).  This lesson introduces students to high quality poetry in the context of the study of a broader topic among many other text types, encouraging students to come to the poems as texts they will already know something about and have a way to interpret.

This lesson is also built on assumptions that student talk is valuable and that students need time and space to develop ideas that go beyond simple responses, important conditions for effective talk outlined by Zwiers, O’Hara, & Pritchard (2014).

Henkin, R., Harmon, J., Pate, E., & Moorman, H. (2009).  The road seldom taken: Poetry.  Voices from the Middle 16(3): pp. 7-8.


Zwiers, J.,  O’Hara, S., & Pritchard, R. (2014).  Conversing to fortify literacy, language, and learning.  Voices from the Middle 22(1): pp. 10-14.

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