Pushing Beyond the Single Story — Part 2

In my last blog post, I shared some thoughts that I had on starting our year off with an inquiry into story.  Here, I want to pick up where I believe the heart of our unit will begin.

With looking at the single stories often told about a group of people and then looking to see what other parts of the story are out there that we have a responsibility to continue looking for.

I want to begin by modeling for my students. As I mentioned before, as a part of this work, I need to include the objectives for our units on memoir and on questioning.  So to do this, I want to model for more students how one person’s memoir or one person’s story can be a window into the lives of other people. However, if we do not question and do not allow our questions to guide us toward further learning, then we can NEVER know a person or group of people’s complete story simply by reading one memoir. We also can NEVER know a person or group of people’s complete story by listening to the narrative that is most often given to us by the media.

Before the inquiry part of this work begins. I want to share with my students a few examples of the single stories that are often told about a group of people and then show my students how we can search for other layers to the story and other sides to the story and how we have a responsibility to synthesize multiple pieces of information from multiple sources before claiming that we understand anything about a person or a group of people.

To do that, I am going to help my students to take a look at a group of people. Together we will think about the single story or narrative that is often told about this group of people, search for pieces of text and media that support this narrative and then, ask questions together to help us see who is telling this story, whose voice is not being heard, what is being shown and what is being left out of this story. We will then learn how to follow these questions in order to find the other side to the story or additional layers to the story that are not included in the narrative that is most often told.

Until I meet my students, until I know what interests them, until I hear what they want to talk about, I am not sure what group of people I will use to model this work for my students.  For that reason, I have spent time putting together a few resources that I might be able to use for a variety of groups of people.  No matter what group we end up looking at, I will be happy to have the other resources on hand for when the students then choose their own group of people to look into. These are resources that I will be able to provide to groups that are struggling to find direction.

For each group, I will first list a resource that feeds into the narrative that I believe is most often told or shown about a group of people. After that, I will list a resource or multiple resources that show a different side to this story:

Sports Players:

SINGLE STORY OFTEN SHOWN: Sports players as arrogant, selfish and caring only about money and material possessions.  

Google Search of Sports Stars Images:



Basketball players helping to stop violence in Chicago:


WNBA players wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts in protest:


South Side of Chicago:

SINGLE STORY OFTEN SHOWN: A place of extreme violence and danger and not much else.

Infographic on violence in Chicago:


First pictures in Gallery: Life on Chicago’s South Side:



This is Us Op-Ed Written by 5th Grade Students on the South Side of Chicago:



SINGLE STORY OFTEN SHOWN: People coming to a new country and asking for the country to help them.

Cost of refugees to America:



Video of refugees leaving Syria:


Blog post “I am a refugee” by the incredible Rusul Alrubail:


Documentary of a girl in a refugee camp who found courage while living there:


Muslim Women:

SINGLE STORY OFTEN SHOWN: Women in hijab who do not have a voice.

Muslim women in media infographic:


Google search for muslim women:



Muslim woman in the olympics:


Muslim women shown by 9 artists:


People with Disabilities:

SINGLE STORY OFTEN SHOWN: People we should help so that they can have moments of success.   

Helping a boy with a disability score a touchdown:



Trailer for 2016 paraolympics:


Open letter to Ann Coulter from a man with Down Syndrome:


So once we work together to dig deeper into the story of group of people, then I will hand it over to the students. This part of the plan comes completely from work done and shared with me by Shawna Coppola (I told you she was a genius and so very generous).

The students will work either on their own or with others to look deeper into the story of a person or a group of people. They will think about the single story that is often told about this group of people and find resources that support that story. They will then document the questions that they are left thinking about that can push them towards discovering deeper layers to the story most often told.  Those questions will guide them to discover more resources, to learn more, to think more deeply, to understand more about the group of people they are looking into.

After they discover more to their story they will choose a way to share what they have learned with others. In this way, they will be helping the world to understand more about a group of people that, perhaps, has been misunderstood.

With everything going on in this world, I think that my students need this. With all of the media that my students are surrounded by for nearly ever waking hour of their lives, I think that my students need this. If we ever hope to live in a better kinder world, I think that my students need this work. And I am so excited to join them in this inquiry and to see what we discover.

Too often we feel limited by the standards and objectives and units that we need to teach. Too often we allow this to stop us from doing the work that has the potential to truly make this world a better place. It is my hope that this work will allow us to do both of those things at once. We will learn how to learn more completely about groups of people who are often misrepresented by the media and at the same time we will learn the skills and strategies that are a part of our curriculum. By combining these goals we will have an authentic purpose and meaningful work within which we can practice applying the skills and strategies that we need to know. And I cannot imagine anything better.



4 thoughts on “Pushing Beyond the Single Story — Part 2

  1. Pingback: Pushing Beyond the Single Story — Part 1 | Crawling Out of the Classroom

  2. Awesome resources. I did something very similar last year! Feel free to contact me if you want more ideas. 🙂 Tied in throughlines and cultures of thinking.

  3. Pingback: The Seventh Wish

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