Mosaic develops workshops and lesson plans that demonstrate how Mosaic’s content, books, and culture can help empower educators, parents, and community-based organizations to use books, writing, and reading to engage curious minds. Click here for a schedule of recent workshops
Few residents of 20th-century Black communities grew up without hearing about The Numbers. While 21st century America gets giddy every time the Mega Millions or the Powerball Jackpot soars into the hundred million (or, as was the record-breaking case in January 2016, cracks a billion), African Americans are traditionally well-versed in The Numbers, the side-hustle of many a striving, struggling Black family.
This lesson plan focuses on two informative books on the subject Louise Meriwether’s Daddy was a Number Runner and Bridgett Davis’ The World According to Fannie Davis. Click here to preview and download the lesson plan.
Accused of a crime he did not commit and not willing to accept a guilty plea, Kalief Browder spent three years on Rikers Island, primarily in solitary confinement, while awaiting trial. Two years after his release, he committed suicide –he was 22 years old.
Kalief Browder’s life has come to symbolize all that is wrong with policing and the soul-grinding policies of the American penal system. This lesson plan will use his life as a nexus to explore media representation, racial criminalization, and judicial inequality; and how these topics can serve to broaden social conversations and classroom instruction on a variety of topics: social and government studies, media studies, and criminal justice. Click here to preview and download this lesson plan
The Fire This Time
Jesmyn Ward is the author of the novel Where the Line Bleeds and the novel Salvage the Bones, which won the 2011 National Book Award. An associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University, Ward also wrote the memoir Men We Reaped. With her fourth book, The Fire This Time, Ward has assembled a powerful collection of works by contemporary writers of African descent. Divided into three parts, Legacy, Reckoning, and Jubilee, The Fire This Time examines the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and is an homage to James Baldwin.
Ward works in the African tradition of call and response, recognizing Baldwin’s 1963 Fire as a call that the author-activist issued through time and across Movements to his literary descendants. Those descendants, Gen X and Millennial writers like Edwidge Danticat, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Emily Raboteau, and Mitchell S. Jackson, respond, with meaningful reflections, stirring meditations, and calls to action, all collected in Ward’s 21st century Fire. Click here to preview and download this lesson plan
Audre Lorde (1934 – 1992) described herself as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” A champion for the liberation of all dispossessed people, Lorde concentrated her activism on the struggle for freedom for Black lesbians. Her poetry has impacted the lives of countless diverse people around the world, enabling active readers of her work to move closer to their own personal freedom. Lorde’s work is important because it is art; it is also important because it is activism.
Lorde worked as a freedom writer to dismantle homophobia, racism, classism, and sexism. She also famously said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” The hope is these lesson plans will help give a new generation of learners the experience, information, and inspired vision to build their own houses. Click here to preview and download this lesson plan
James Baldwin: In Perpetuity
There are many lenses through which to view literary great James Baldwin. These lesson plans examine Baldwin the author activist and provide a historic context for young people to better understand that #BlackLivesMatter is a fresh iteration of the centuries-long Black freedom struggle.
Civil Rights struggles are as varied and diverse as the beautiful diversity within the Black community. For contemporary youth to begin to know and appreciate the revolutionary aspects of Black life, they must begin to know and appreciate more than what most schools teach. One way to examine the deep engagement of countless African Americans in our own liberation is to study the contributions of one of them. Click here to preview and download this lesson plan
Black Poets Speak Out/BlackLivesMatter
Black Poets Speak Out (BPSO) began as a response to a conversation initiated by Amanda Johnston. Jericho Brown, Mahogany Browne, Jonterri Gadson and Sherina Rodriguez-Sharpe responded to the call with ideas, suggestions and various plans of action. What resulted was a hashtag video campaign house on a tumblr site featuring hundreds of videos from Black poets reading in response to the grand jury’s decision on November 24 not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who murdered Mike Brown. According to organizer Mahogany Browne, the project’s purpose “is to centralize in one space hundreds of poems, songs, prayers and testimonies speaking on behalf of black mothers, black fathers, black brothers and sisters—thousands of voices insisting on justice. BlackPoetsSpeakOut videos are a collective outcry for our black lives.” Click here to preview and download this lesson plan
Black Lives Matter
These lesson plans encourage learning about the origins of the #BlackLivesMatter movement to enable students to understand the structural organization required to effectively lead nationwide direct action to successful outcomes. The lessons also encourage critical thinking and rigorous interrogation of media portrayals of everyday ctivists. Opportunities to study language and the power of word choices are also present in these lessons. An entire section is devoted to the Black women associated with the Baltimore Uprising. Finally, the last section of the lesson plan examines youth participation in the Uprising and celebrates the persistence of Black joy in Baltimore specifically and more broadly throughout the African-American community. Click here to preview and download this lesson plan
Down These Mean Streets: The World of Piri Thomas
Piri Thomas is widely celebrated as a progenitor of Nuyorican literary culture and a literary godfather to contemporary writers of Latino descent, including award-winning poet Willie Perdomo and Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz. In his bestselling memoir, Down These Mean Streets, Thomas evokes the isolation and invisibility of mid-20th century Puerto Ricans living in New York’s El Barrio. Down These Mean Streets was published in 1967, two years after the publication of both The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land. Taken together, these three coming-of-age narratives center Black and Brown male life and give voice to the discontent that arose from marginalized communities of color during the Black Power Movement, the Chicano Movement, the American Indian Movement, the Asian American Movement, and, from 1968 to the early 1980s, the expansion of the Young Lords. Click here to preview and download this lesson plan
Walter Dean Meyers: The Basketball Study
Walter Dean Meyers is widely recognized as one of the most important young adult fiction writers of our time. Winner of several prestigious literary awards and Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2012 – 2014, Meyers has touched countless readers with his striking YA novels. A significant body of his work centers around the sport of basketball. The following lesson plans will aid educators in guiding close student readings of two of Meyers’ basketball-themed books. Pre-reading study of the author, of basketball terminology, and of the Harlem community Meyers writes about will help guide students into the narratives. Topics for discussion, essay ideas, and additional activities will help students understand the important motifs in Meyers’ basketball novels. In addition, other book titles are provided for educators and young readers to pursue an even closer, independent study of Meyers’ basketball novels. Click here to preview and download this lesson plan
Young readers are consuming Speculative Fiction at high rates, with YA series, movies based on these books, and websites devoted to loyal fans garnering high numbers. From best-seller lists, to box office numbers, and Nielsen online measurements, it is clear middle and high school readers love Speculative Fiction. This issue of Mosaic examines Afro-Surrealism, a genre of the Black literary tradition rooted in oral folk tales, voodoo conjuring, and the folk wisdom born of generations of dispossession. These lesson plans can not hope to introduce young people to Afro-Surrealism – they already know the stories of our people, and they have heard the fantastic, bizarre, weird, and wonderful from elders all around them. What these lesson plans hope to do is help the thoughtful teacher guide students to a deeper understanding of Afro-Surrealism. Click here to preview and download this lesson plan
In Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora, Emily Raboteau’s second book, the author journeys from New York to Israel, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana, and the American South on a quest for the Black Promised Land. A memoir that penetrates Raboteau’s deep need for a homeland to call her own, this narrative expresses the African American longing for a place to belong. The forced displacement of Africans and the subsequent erasure of an authentic African identity has generated the beautiful, expressive culture of Diasporic peoples in the west. Yet, an insistent urge to locate a place of origination persists in the communal heart of slave descendants, and this narrative is its pulse. Click here to preview and download this lesson plan.
Lorna Goodison’s By Love Possessed is a collection of short stories that explore Jamaican life. These lesson plans can be used to engage younger readers across skills levels, as they offer opportunities for both reluctant readers and more confident readers to discuss the literature and examine specific narratives in a more substantive way. Students will be given the opportunity to study symbol, character, and theme. These lesson plans also provide the opportunity for students to research Jamaican artists, Jamaican music, and aspects of Jamaican history. Students may also use Goodison’s fiction to express their own creativity through art, photography, and/or writing. Click here to preview and download lesson plans
Theme One: Everyday Women in an Extraordinary Movement
Theme Two: Bodies in Prison, Minds Set Free
Theme Three: Hurricane Katrina’s Criminals
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Theme One: Black Power
Theme Two: Reading History in Poetry and Prose
Theme Three: Family and Community in Literature
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Theme One: Family
Theme Two: Documenting our Lives
Theme Three: Expanding the Rim of Blackness
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Theme One: Urban Studies
Theme Two: Documenting Hate
Theme Three: Coming of Age