Lesson Plans

Reframing the Gaze: Incorporating Joy into Our Truth-telling

Image by Melissa Bunni Elian.

Image by Melissa Bunni Elian.

This unit was created by Jairus Hallums, an ELA teacher at Shiloh Middle School in Snellville, GA, as part of the fall 2020 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Arts, Journalism, and Justice. It is designed for facilitation across approximately five 60–90-minute class periods.

For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.


Students will be able to...

  • Discuss various concepts related to representations of minority life, justice, and perspective on particular communities, in order to deepen their knowledge of the ideas presented.
  • Discuss what makes a story newsworthy, and why other stories might go underreported.
  • Define “truth” and “joy,” in their own words.
  • Apply their knowledge/learning of truth-telling in a performance task, which can be used to build community.
  • Describe present justice-related issues and use unit resources to brainstorm solutions.

Unit Overview:

How we view minority bodies dictates how we interact with them. Thus, the media could play a role in reframing the gaze. The push for justice begins with a renewed gaze. What if, in our truth-telling, we reported more on joy, in the midst of the reports on death, in all its iterations—political, social, and physical. This will give a more full portrait of minority experiences, and reframe the narratives that are often told. If we change the lens, such that the trauma of minority life is not the focus, but the beauty of minority life is, maybe the conversation on justice could shift. 

This conversation-based unit seeks to teach students to reframe/renew their gaze, so that in reporting on truth, they do not focus only on the dark side of it, but allow the light of underreported stories of joy to shine forth. Students will focus on identifying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating stories that often go underreported. In the process, they will be able to see the multidimensional aspects of truth, encompassing the beautiful/the joyful, and those stories that we typically see presented. Assessing the fullness of truth, with a renewed gaze, will enable justice work to be authentic, minority life experiences to be represented fully, and reporting to have a new standard by which to operate.

Resources for Facilitating this Unit:

Click here for a PDF outlining lesson plans for this unit, including warm-ups, resources, discussion questions, and activities.

Click here for example slides that illustrate unit facilitation.

Throughout this unit, students will be asked to keep a reflection journal.

Performance Task:

Students will create a journal of five reflections, over the course of the week, which will allow the space to think through the ideas presented in this unit. In the “Closing” section of each day, there is a prompt/question for reflection, whereby students will be asked to think, deeply. They are required to write, at least, one page in a digital or paper notebook, for each session. 

Students will also choose one of the following to complete as their sixth, and final, entry. Based on the themes they’ve thought through, on truth and joy, students will synthesize their learning about justice, journalism, and the arts:

  1. Using photography as the medium, capture “joy in the struggle” in your community. Write a detailed description of your snapshots, shedding light on the stories you’ve captured.
  2. Students create a space for stories of joy to be reported (or told).  Interview individuals about what joy means to them in the midst of injustice. Seek out individuals that have experienced injustice, in some form, and ask what brought them joy in those times.
  3. Write a poem or song in response to a local/national story of injustice. (Students may also respond using another art form)
Educator Notes: 

Additional Resources for Extension:

English Language Arts Georgia Standards of Excellence:


ELAGSE8SL1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. 

ELAGSE8SL2: Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.

ELAGSE8SL4: Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. 

ELAGSE8SL5: Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.


ELAGSE8RI1: Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

ELAGSE8RI2: Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

ELAGSE8RI6: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.


8LA.C.21: write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content

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