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Units April 11, 2023

Literacy and Liberation


Lesson Summary: Students examine the relationship between literacy and liberation by learning about multiple modes of literacy and analyzing examples of how literacy has been used to empower and advocate across time. Downloads: Unit resources

This unit was created by the Good Trouble team as part of the 2022 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately four weeks, or ten lessons.


Students will be able to...

  • Engage in disciplinary-specific thinking to understand and address issues of equity, power, and justice.
  • Examine and explain the relationship that literacy has to the formation and perpetuation of culture and how literacy has the capacity to empower people to make meaningful choices and decisions for themselves and their communities.
  • Examine what liberation is and how literacy adds to one’s ability to act as a social change agent.
  • Consider languaging and the use of language as a source of liberation, connection from past to present.
  • Engage in communication and problem-solving about community issues, concerns, and activities.

Unit Overview

This unit aims to help students understand the relationship between literacy and liberation. Through the examination of multiple modes of literacy, students will work to expand their working definition of literacy. Further, students will have the opportunity to analyze both historical and present-day examples of how literacy has been used to empower and to advocate for social justice.

At the conclusion of this unit and following the completion of a student-generated community literacy action project, we expect that students will be able to recognize the power of literacy in their own lives and how it may be used as a form of liberation to empower themselves and their communities.
This unit will also help students to interrogate their own literate identities and what it means to be working for liberation in those identities. Here, students become what Lorena Escoto Germán describes as “researchers, ethnographers, advocates, and writers of community affairs,” empowering them as activists in the present and in the future.

To see the unit in action, watch this video. The video includes lecture and class discussion clips, as well as teacher and student reflections on the unit.

Performance Task

Based on their learning throughout the unit, students will develop a creative product that demonstrates their views of what literacy is and what its relationship is to liberation. The product students complete is up to them, or may be determined in consultation with the teacher. It could be a painting, a poem, a video, a dance, a podcast, a collage, a song—almost anything their hearts desire. The expectation is that all students will be able to creatively detail the connections literacy has to the ability of people to advocate for their own personal, familial, and community needs. 

Regardless of the form/product students choose, they must all be sure to include the following:

  • Definition of literacy
  • Examples of types of literacy
  • Explanation of how literacy is related to ideas of liberation
  • Evidence from texts that have been used in this unit


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