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Units November 13, 2023

No Longer Silent: The Genius Within Us



Lesson Summary: Students explore how they can use their voices to address ways in which people are marginalized through silence, and develop a deep understanding of where genius has been found in history and how they can find it in themselves, through text analysis, research, writing expository essays, and creating original narratives. Downloads: Unit resources

This unit was created by the IPA Multilingual Maestras team as part of the 2022 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately four weeks.


Students will be able to: 

  • Recognize the feelings and perspectives of others.
  • Understand how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning and beauty of a text [e.g. song, book, story, graphic novel, film].
  • Write an opinion piece supported with evidence.
  • Write an expository piece that reflects a cause they believe in.
  • Identify the characteristics of a narrative and create a narrative that reflects their knowledge of a historical or current figure of African descent.

Unit Overview

The themes addressed by this unit include SILENCE and GENIUS. 

Essential questions:

  • How can silence oppress others?
  • How can we use our voices to break silence?
  • What is genius?
  • How has genius been demonstrated throughout history by Black and Brown people?
  • How am I a genius?

Students will practice the skills of summarizing, predicting, developing opinion and expository pieces, locating evidence in literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research, as well as analysis of visual and multimedia elements for their contribution to the beauty of a text. The pedagogical vision of this unit is for students and instructional staff to both construct knowledge regarding how we can use our voices to address ways in which people are marginalized through silence. Moreover, we seek to develop a deep understanding of genius, where it has been found in history, and how we can find it in ourselves.

Week 1 – Focus on the book Born on the Water (Reading Skills: Predicting, Summarizing, Vocabulary, Image Analysis; SEL: Perspectives of Others)

Weeks 2/3/4 – Analysis of Supplemental/Layered Texts (Finding Evidence, Developing an Argument, Writing Expository Texts, Creating Presentations)

By the end of the unit, students write an opinion essay and expository essay to reflect their analyses. They research and present on the stories of figures of African descent. They also create original narratives to present the story of a figure they researched and reflect on how storytelling can combat silence and amplify genius.

Performance Task:

Weeks 1-2 :

Students will apply their analyses of the books Born on the Water and Stamped to an opinion essay responding to the following prompt: Do you think ideas about race have changed since the 1400s? Why or why not? 

  • Opinion Writing Planner [.pdf]

Students will then use the texts above, and analysis of additional texts, to explore how different figures throughout history have responded to challenges that result from unfair practices and policies. They will reflect their analysis of the texts by writing an expository essay responding to the following prompt:

What is a cause or belief for which you would be willing to take a risk? Describe or explain this cause and its importance.

  • Expository Template 1 [.pdf]
  • Expository Template Planner [.pdf]
  • Expository Template 2 [.pdf]

Weeks 3-4:Considering the proud genius of Black Americans conveyed in Born on the Water, as well as the talents demonstrated by figures in STAMPED For Kids and other texts, students will explore the stories of Black and Brown individuals from the historical and modern eras who have demonstrated genius in the areas of science, the arts, literature, and/or public service. Then, working in teams, they will select two individuals to research. Once they have completed their research, groups will utilize their analysis of genius in the texts explored throughout the unit to an analysis of how the figure they researched also demonstrates genius.  

Students will develop a presentation that compares the genius of one historical or current figure in history to the genius they see in themselves. They will then write original narratives about a figure they researched that reflect details from that person’s story and how that person demonstrated genius.

  • Research Presentation template [.pptx]
  • Final presentation Rubric [.pdf]

Narrative Four-Square Organizer [.pdf][.docx]


Formative: Working bibliography, Biography note-taking document, Co-created Genius Criteria Checklist, Compare/Contrast Graphic Organizer


  • Expository essay rubric [.pdf]
  • Final project rubric [.pdf]

Narrative Rubric [.pdf]


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