Grade level:


Approximate Lesson Duration:

2-3 blocks

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

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 – Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

6.3.12.D.1 – Analyze the impact of current governmental practices and laws

affecting national security and/or individual civil rights/ privacy

TECH.8.1.12.C.CS2 – Communicate information and ideas to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats

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

What makes this lesson culturally relevant? 

Note: This lesson is meant to be completed after Sakia Gunn, Safe Spaces, and NJ Anti-LGBTQ Violence Mobilization. The materials and background if the first lesson will help reinforce fundamental understanding of the various structural systems of hierarchy and control present within our society. If intending on modifying this lesson for standalone use, please refer to the materials for the Sakia Gunn Safe Spaces lesson for additional background.

The 2003 murder of Sakia Gunn in Newark, NJ was a hate crime that mobilized friends, and family into action, and marked a turning point in Newark queer history. The events that led up to and followed their death demonstrates how structural systems of social control intersect and overlap in numerous ways, influencing beliefs and actions of people across and within groups. The murder of Sakia Gunn laid bare the understanding that in a society where multiple systems of hierarchy and control play roles in people’s lives every day, the media is no different, making value judgements in who, and what gets covered in the news cycle. In learning about Sakia Gunn, their death, and response to it in the community and across local and national media outlets through analysis of primary and secondary materials, students can develop an understanding of the persistence of systems such as patriarchy, hyper-masculinity, homophobia, and racism, with the hopeful result of developing a comprehensive toolkit to confront and dismantle them.

Lesson Overview:

Essential Question(s)
  • How can community action play a role in local political processes?
  • What factors influence what event gets covered, and to what extent?
  • What is a bias?
  • How do we, as consumers of news and other media, identify, and contend with these factors, or biases?
  • In what ways do patriarchy, concepts of masculine and feminine ability and appearance ideals, and social norms influence access gender non conforming individuals’ have to personal freedom, safe spaces, and human dignity?
  • How have economic, political, and cultural decisions promoted or prevented the growth of personal freedom, individual responsibility, equality, and respect for human dignity?
Enduring Understanding(s)

The obstacles individuals face today based upon their race, religion, gender or sexual identity are a result of long-standing structures created over many centuries by individuals and like-minded groups.

In a society built upon multiple, overlapping systems of hierarchy and privilege, opportunity, representation, and access are unequally distributed to individuals. 

These systems of hierarchy influences all aspects of our daily lives, from access to safe spaces, clean water, access to good, affordable housing and health services, and who or what gets represented in the media.

This unequal distribution is based upon value assumptions frequently (but not always) made by individuals and groups not belonging to the same group as those most affected.

Potential Misconceptions

Power, Opportunity, Access, and Representation are equally shared by all within society.

The intersections of the systems of patriarchy, capitalism, settler colonialism, and white supremacy in America mean that one cannot treat all individuals in America as a monolithic block, with similar access to opportunities, and representation.

Power, opportunity, access, and representation is always shared equally within groups that combine multiple groups. 

Learning plan, experiences, intstruction and learning activities:

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

Students will be able to:

  • Discuss and collectively develop a definition for the words “access” and “representation”
  • Review and discuss current glossary of LGBTQIA+ terms
  • Learn about the life and death of Sakia Gunn, a Black, gay, gender-fluid teen through analysis of primary and secondary sources
  • Analyze primary and secondary source texts about Sakia Gunn and differences in media coverage between her death and other victims of LGBTQ violence
  • (Optional) View Dreams Deferred – The Sakia Gunn Film Project Documentary and discuss 
  • Complete Essential Content Graphic Organizer
  • Discuss how multiple systems can simultaneously influence an individual or group’s access to power, opportunity, representation, and basic human necessities.

Today we will be working on… Analyzing documents related to the life and death of Sakia Gunn to better understanding how multiple systems of social hierarchy can simultaneously remove/reduce individual and group access to power, opportunity, and representation in a community and society.

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

Recently, we…

Learned about the life and death of Sakia Gunn and how systems of hierarchy and control such as patriarchy and heterosexism can determine not only levels of access, opportunity, and representation, but sometimes life and death as well. Today we will be taking a closer look at how these unequal systems can also determine who or what gets covered in our local and national media. We will be doing this by learning more about Sakia Gunn, a Black, gay, gender-fluid teen who was murdered in 2003 in Newark, NJ. We will also be viewing a documentary that, along with other articles, discusses possible reasons for differences in access and representation for various individuals and groups in local and national media.

Turn and talk to a partner about… 


  • What the words “access” and “representation” mean to you. 
  • How might the availability or lack of availability of these things influence a person’s life?



You are really beginning to understand how something as seemingly basic and overlooked as the ability to access and be represented within society can directly influence opportunity and access to power. Today, we’re going to dig deeper with a new focus.  This focus is… understanding how multiple systems of social hierarchy can simultaneously work to limit or remove individuals or groups’ access to basic human rights such as access to opportunity and representation within society

What equipment, resources, or materials are needed?

 Materials for this lesson include …(materials listed below will be provided)

    • PFLAG LGBTQIA+ Glossary of Terms (June 2019)
    • Dreams Deferred – The Sakia Gunn Film Project Documentary 


  • Erasing Sakia – Who’s to Blame? By Kelly Cogswell and Ana Simo, from The Gully Online Magazine (6/06/03)
  • Sakia Gunn: Three years on, a few still remember By Kim Pearson (5/11/2006)
  • Sakia Gunn, the news coverage and the gay hate murder  By GSNContributor, GayStarNews (6/7/2013)
  • Sakia Gunn Memorialized, by Mick Meenan, from (2004)


    • Excerpts from Small Murders: Rethinking News Coverage of Hate Crimes against GLBT People, Kim Pearson, chapter 9 of News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity


  • Essential Content Graphic Organizer



How will we rethink or revise our thinking throughout the lesson?
  • What learning is confirmed?
  • What misconceptions are uncovered?
  • What is your new thinking?
  • As students are analyzing the related texts, discussing and evaluating their and their classmates’ reflections, questions from the graphic organizer, teacher, and guiding questions should help the class frame questions such as 
    • “Who is affected by the discussed or related event or outcome? 
    • What are the factors determining media access and representation related to on a larger scale? What system(s) are primarily at work for each example?
    • “What societal concepts are promoted or prevented by the event or outcome?” 
    • Conversations about hierarchy, preservation of social order, and power can all be transitioned into for more extensive conversations utilizing related texts
  • Misconceptions that will most likely be uncovered:
    • Power, Opportunity, Access, and Representation are equally shared by all within society 
    • Reasoning with factual evidence is enough to always convince individuals or groups that long-held beliefs or understandings should be set aside for the benefit of individuals or groups outside of their own, or even within their group.
    • Individuals or groups do not knowingly create systems of privilege and advantage for themselves, at the expense of others considered outside of the dominant group.
    • Power, opportunity, access, and representation is always shared equally within groups that combine multiple groups. (i.e., Men or women across racial, religious groups, etc.)
  • New thinking that considers how laws, social mores, beliefs, and actions can have different intents, and outcomes-based upon what individual or group is the actor and what individual or group is the focus of the action(s) will develop. 
  • Use of contextualization and empathy, increased rigor, intellectual honesty, and reflection when considering past, present, and future action are hopeful eventual individual outcomes.
How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning?

Completing the related graphic organizer, along with whole-class discussion and individual/small group reflection and discussion will assist students with self-evaluation and reflection on their learning.

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

 Follow all IEP/504 plan modifications.

  • Introduce key vocabulary before the lesson.
  • Work in small groups.
  • Level texts according to ability.
  • Provided guided notes, written instructions and/or scaffold outline.
  • Use visual aids.
How will we organize the sequence of learning during the lesson?

Scaffold the Instruction

  1. Model
    1. The teacher will review the  PFLAG LGBTQIA+ Glossary of Terms, again to ensure a more comprehensive evaluation and discussion of materials later in the lesson.
  1. Guided Practice
    1. Students will analyze primary and secondary documents based on established procedures for sourcing, contextualization, corroboration, and close reading.
      1. A copy of the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) Historical Thinking Chart has been provided for guidance on sourcing, contextualization, corroboration, and close reading.
    2. If utilizing Dreams Deferred – The Sakia Gunn Film Project Documentary, use the Essential Content Graphic Organizer so students can organize information as they watch the documentary for these key areas:
      1. Leaders of anti-LGBTQ violence mobilization related to this and other events
      2. Groups
      3. Events
      4. Historical Content
      5. Opposition
      6. Tactics
      7. Connections 
    3. Use Erasing Sakia – Who’s to Blame?, Sakia Gunn Memorialized, Sakia Gunn: Three years on, a few still remember, Sakia Gunn, the news coverage and the gay hate murder, and Excerpts from Small Murders: Rethinking News Coverage of Hate Crimes against GLBT People to establish an understanding of the various potential factors leading to differences in reporting of anti-LGBTQ crimes by local and national media outlets. Utilizing comparative graphic organizers such as venn diagrams may prove a useful aid for organizing the various systems influencing these differences in coverage.
  1. Independent Practice
    1. Student analyses of the provided materials, which will also be recorded in the provided organizer.
    2. Optional development of a larger constructed response based upon guided practice questions and graphic organizers.

Check for understanding:

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

Teachers should monitor written and verbal responses for understanding and frequently check in on the progress of the students to see that they are completing the task at hand. 

  • Ongoing brief Q/A check-ins throughout the lesson
  • Student responses to class and small group discussion
  • Student Responses to Graphic Organizer
Quiz/Test (optional):
(attach copy of assessment)

Performance Task/Project:
(attach rubric)


There are many options for a summative performance task. A potential task includes having students craft a constructed response utilizing three or four related documents to substantiate the claim(s) of their responses.

Supplemental Resources: 






Download Lesson Plan PDF: