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Lesson Plan

Sí, Se Puede: Making a Difference, One Letter at a Time

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Sí, Se Puede: Making a Difference, One Letter at a Time

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Cathy Allen Simon

Cathy Allen Simon

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



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In this lesson, students read the book ˇSi, Se Puede!/Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A., and discuss unions, strikes, and organizing for change.  Students then develop questions and interview a staff member in their school to learn about their daily work life.  Students determine the criteria for effective letters and write letters to the editor advocating for fair wages and working environments (or another local, contemporary work-related issue).  Students draft their letters, then peer review and revise them. Finally, they publish their letters using an online tool, and mail a copy to the newspaper, if desired.

Note: This lesson is based on the idea of fair wages and working environments, but can be adapted to examine other social justice topics that are important to students themselves and that are real issues in local communities.

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Letter Generator: This online tool helps students learn the parts of a letter while publishing their own.

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In their article "Critical Literacy," Leland and Harste argue: "Teachers who want to reimagine [the read-aloud] as an opportunity to engage children in critical conversations about power and social justice can help them begin to understand that every text is written from someone's perspective." (468)  The use of picture books, which are a quick read, allows students to explore  multiple perspectives around the theme of social bridges and barriers. Picture books can invite students to engage in critical discussion of complex issues of race, class, and gender. They "show how people can begin to take action on important social issues . . . and help us question why certain groups are positioned as 'others'" (Harste, 2000, p. 507). Read alouds enable students to engage in dialogue as they consider the narratives in terms of historical contexts, the nature of the implied barriers, and how individuals can take action to promote social justice and equity.

Further Reading

Leland, Christine H. and Jerome Harste. 2000. "Critical Literacy." In K. M. Pierce (Ed.) Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K-Grade 6 (pp. 465-487). Urbana, IL: NCTE.


Harste, Jerome. 2000. "Supporting Critical Conversation in Classrooms." Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K-Grade 6. K. M. Pierce (Ed). Urbana, IL: NCTE.


Moss, Joy. 2002. Literary Discussion in the Elementary School. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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