Grade level:


Approximate Lesson Duration:

Unit/Lesson New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS):

RI.6.3. Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).

RI.7.3. Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).

RI.8.3. Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

Brief Summary of Cultural Competencies Related to the Unit/Lesson:

What makes this lesson culturally relevant?

For sixth grade instruction, it is likely that a focus on Alvin Ailey will look at how he grew up and how the text illustrates his expressive movements and examples of breakthrough performances in dance.  Seventh grade standards add complexity to this notion in that this 1993 originally produced text shows how Alvin was inspired by the performances of Katherine Dunham and her dancers. By eighth grade, this text offers a moment of pairing a “diving deep” into character grade-level article with the text while considering intersectionality, as Alvin Ailey is recognized as an LGBTQ icon.

Lesson Overview:

Essential Question(s)
  • Why should readers consider an LGBTQIA+ perspective?
Enduring Understanding(s)
  • A reader can gain a better understanding of a text as a whole by considering multiple diverse perspectives, including marginalized groups (i.e. LGBTQIA+)
  • Inclusive language creates cultural awareness, compassion, and opportunities for transformational learning in a classroom community.
Potential Misconceptions

Students may have misconceptions about what it means to be a dancer, stereotyping the weakness of dancing over the strength and endurance that is required to perform.  Many searches online result in endless lists of misconceptions and stereotypes that male dancers wish no longer existed.

Learning plan, experiences, intstruction and learning activities:

What is Expected?
  • List the intentional learning objectives on the board.

Students will be able to:


  • Explain the role that intersectionality plays on characters in informational texts.
  • Use two forms of text to identify a growing list of identities and systems that overlap in one LGBTQIA+ historical figure’s life.



Today we will be working on…

Reading two different texts to dig even deeper when it comes to character.  We are going to learn just how complex characters really are. Beyond traits, we will look at identities and systems that overlap when it comes to historical characters in text.  Let me demonstrate what this looks like when we’re reading.

What is expected?
How will we hook (Introduce this to) the students?
  • Activate thinking
  • Consider the language you will use to introduce the lesson (See example in the table)

Link to Engagement

First, close your eyes and picture a dance in your head.  How many of you pictured a girl, or perhaps someone feminine?  As readers, we have to recognize when we might have a bias towards our characters.

As a matter of fact, recently we have been paying close attention to how characters are presented in informational texts.  Some of us have begun to notice their interactions with other characters or their influence on major ideas and events in texts.  What we are learning isn’t always turning out to be what we assumed or expected.

Turn and talk to a partner about…


  • One way in which you have begun to dig deeper when reading about characters in your books.  Whether you’ve been reading fiction or informational books, what are you doing as a reader to pay attention to your characters?


You are really beginning to understand… what it means to dig deeper with character analysis.

Today, we’re going to dig deeper with a new focus.  This focus is on intersectionality. Let’s review what it means to have an intersection.  I’m wondering what this means when it comes to dealing with a character in a text.

What equipment, resources, or materials are needed?

Recommended Text: Alvin Ailey by Andrea Pinkney and Brian Pinkney (Although this text is at a third grade reading level and recommended for grades 3-5, it can be used to discuss character complexities that students in grades 6-8 must be able to access.  This text makes such complex standards accessible to all learners).

How will we rethink or revise our thinking throughout the lesson?
  • What learning is confirmed?
  • What misconceptions are uncovered?
  • What is your new thinking?

At the end of the lesson, students will be given an opportunity to reflect on how intersectionality deepens their understanding of characters in a text.

How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning?

Refer to the exit ticket as a check for understanding.

How will we tailor learning to varied needs, interests, and learning styles?

Sample Anchor Chart:

How will we organize the sequence of learning during the lesson?

Scaffold the Instruction


The teacher will use Alvin Ailey by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney to model that many identities and systems can overlap when it comes to a character.

I’m thinking about how…in the beginning of this book, the author immediately positions us in the True Vine Baptist Church setting, showing us right away that religion is a joyful part of Alvin’s identity.  

Moving beyond religion I’m also thinking about how Alvin is an able-bodied dancer, with the ability to move and swivel to different rhythms, “dancing with an expression all his own.”

Guided Practice

  • The teacher will continue to read excerpts of the text and have students refer to the incomplete list on the anchor chart.
  • Ask students to listen closely about what inspires Alvin to build his dance company.  Students should identify that race, ethnicity, and education shape Alvin’s identity.
  • Ask students to work with a partner to dig even deeper: Near the end of the text, the author states: “Alvin and the other men jumped lively to the rhythm, strutting and dipping in sassy revelry.”

Today, I’d like you to spend some time with a reading partner, reading this one page wonder about Alvin Ailey.  Look at all of the text features and information provided to see if any additional identities play a role in Alvin’s life.

Students may use the text features to identify that the article recognizes Alvin as part of a GLBT History Month series of publications.  Some students will recognize additional references to the African-American experience as dance is discussed. Perhaps some students will reflect on complications that resulted in Alvin no longer being able to perform dance.  

Independent Practice

When you go off to read your choice novels on your own, be sure to think about your characters in new and evolving ways. Ask yourself: What are some ways in which intersectionality plays a role in my character’s life?  How am I digging deeper to notice that characters are complex?

Check for understanding:

(Formative evidence such as conferencing, group Q/A, teacher observation, exit-slip, etc.)

Exit Ticket:
Students will respond to the prompt below.
How does recognizing intersectionality help me become a better reader?

Quiz/Test (optional):
(attach copy of assessment)

Performance Task/Project:
(attach rubric)


Supplemental Resources:

There are many companion texts that can be used to introduce students to prominent LGBTQIA+ Americans who have made lasting social, political, and economic contributions historically (including individuals who are affected by many struggles or identities).  An incomplete list of suggestions follow:

  • Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders
  • Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights by Jerome Pohlen
  • Alvin Ailey, Jr. text (7th and 8th grade readability)
  • Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community by Robin Stevenson

Intersectionality can also be explored through fiction texts.  An incomplete list of suggestions follow:

  • Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
  • Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

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