Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges- Critical Discussion of Social Issues

Lesson Duration

Author: Joy F. Moss for ReadWriteThink

Students read and discuss a series of picture books that highlight social barriers and bridges of race, class, and gender. Prior to a read-aloud of each picture book, students participate in activities, such as research or independent reading, that help lay the context for critical discussion of the read-aloud. Throughout the series of readings, students respond to each book in a writing journal. After all the picture books have been read, students use their journal responses to help them synthesize the themes they encountered in the books. They discuss how they can take action to break barriers they have identified in their own worlds and to build bridges from what is to what could be. Finally, students read the novel Maniac Magee and discuss how the novel relates to the picture books they have discussed.


Students will

  • engage in critical discussions of three shared texts.
  • analyze and compare the three shared texts in terms of genre, historical settings, conflicts, character development, and themes.
  • explore the craft of the authors and artists.
  • discover the potential of the picture book for presenting complex ideas about the human experience.
  • engage in independent reading of nonfiction to prepare for shared reading experiences and to enrich the group discussions of the shared texts.
  • use intertextual links to build understanding.
  • confront injustices and inequities in the past and present.
  • learn how literature can become a catalyst for social action: breaking barriers and building bridges.
  • respond to shared texts in group discussions and in Response Journals.
  • respond to independent reading experiences in small group discussions and in Response Journals.
  • learn to formulate their own questions to generate critical study of literary texts.



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