lesson summary sawsan

Units August 8, 2023

The Architecture of a Counterstory: A Blueprint for Reclaiming Our Own Narratives

Lesson Summary: Students explore reporting about the lived experiences of BIPOC and historically marginalized people, eventually designing children’s books that tell their own important and underrepresented story.

This unit was created by Sawsan Jaber, an 11th–12th grade English Language Arts teacher at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, Illinois as part of the 2022-2023 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program. It is designed for facilitation across approximately 10 days of 60-minute instruction and student development days. For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.


  • Analyze and interrogate the power of elevating underreported stories in journalism
  • Reflect on their own lived experiences and determine 1–2 stories in their own lives they feel are important to elevate
  • Determine what mode is most effective to use as a means of sharing their stories
  • Craft multimodal stories by using personal voice while integrating their cultural and linguistic pluralism in their work
  • Share their creations with authentic audiences

Essential Questions:

  • How do we celebrate ourselves and the multiplicity / pronouncement of our identities? 
  • How do we read the world critically? 
  • Where do our differences come from? 
  • How do personal stories help us understand and empathize with stories outside of our lived experiences?
  • What story do I want to share about my own lived experiences that counters what others may think about who I am?

Unit Overview:

Stories have the power to pierce people’s hearts and change their minds.  They are a conduit to building empathy and resurfacing the voices of historically marginalized groups whose narratives have often been told by the oppressors. The hunter telling the story of the lion has been so normalized most people do not recognize that the “other” perspective is missing. 

This unit will focus on the concept of counter storytelling by analyzing and interrogating Pulitzer Center-supported underreported stories that represent the lived experiences of BIPOC and historically marginalized folks. Students will use these stories as a springboard to consider the power in people telling their own stories. They will analyze the impact of being immersed in these stories, and make personal connections to themes, ideas, and issues that inspire counter narratives.

Performance Task:

Educator Preface: Since I teach in a primarily minoritized school district, this unit will give students the opportunity to craft their own counterstories integrating their personal identities, language, values, lived experiences into those stories. Like underreported stories, students will see the intersections and power of elevating those stories. Students will determine how they want to craft those stories as content creators and must be able to rationalize their choices as they progress through the completion of the task.

Students craft children’s picture books that they will be required to transform into multimodal outputs in video form. 

Students will reflect on their own lived experience and history to amplify a story that you feel is important to share. Students will consider:

  • What part of your history and lived experience do you want to elevate?  
  • What story do you want to tell that will serve as a mirror of your own experience and as a window for others to learn about you (Sims-Bishop, 2016)?  
  • Who is your authentic audience and why do they need to know your story?
  • What word choice, images, or sounds will enhance the telling of your story? 
  • What rhetoric will you use in order to make your story memorable?


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