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Do You Know My Struggle? A Writing Unit Designed to Explore the Voices of Middle School Students

Author: Michelle Todd


Wagner Middle School

Year: 2012

Seminar: "But Mostly I Lie A Lot" - The African American Short Story in the 21st Century

Grade Level: 5-8

Keywords: external conflicts, internal conflicts, literacy, short stories

School Subject(s): English, Literature

For the Middle School Literacy unit, students will enjoy reading short stories that they will be able to relate to. Reading these stories will give students a chance to analyze the lives of others and relate it to themselves through discussion, writing and creative activities. Students will learn how to become empathic to others and decipher what they would do if they were in any of these situations.

Students in inner city schools are apt to do better academically and learn more efficiently if they are allowed to read and write literature they can relate to. By developing an understanding of the endeavors of a fictional character and seeing how that character prevailed, turning the struggle to their advantage, a child can discern that they can do the same. They may learn to use their struggle to work for them rather than against them. Using historical short fiction would help students understand how conflict and character relate. The students will analyze how the character develops, their conflict, how they choose to resolve the conflict, and the lesson learned in the story.

The focal point for this unit will be conflict. Students will focus on the internal and external conflicts of the characters. In turn, they will apply the theme, the lesson learned, to their own everyday lives. My intention is for students to see that they are not the only ones going through an unforeseen struggle. It is hard for children to talk about problems, issues and conflicts. Sometimes children think they have the worst issues around them, not knowing there may be other students going through the same thing. Understanding and reading the struggles of other children may help them find strategies for addressing their issues in the world around them.

In this unit, I will use the short stories “Key to the City” and “Neighbors” by Diane Oliver and “The Lesson” and “Raymond’s Run” by Toni Cade Bambara. These stories interest me because they are about children. Students are better able to relate to the internal and external struggles of children rather than adults.

Download Unit: Michelle_Todd_Unit_Revised.pdf

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