Modern Voices of Adversity | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M2B:U3

Modern Voices of Adversity

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In this unit, students move from the monologues of medieval times to modern voices of adversity. They do this through a study of John Grandits's concrete poems in the collections Blue Lipstick and Technically, It's Not My Fault. As in Unit 2, students continue to read closely for word choice, figurative language, and themes of adversity found in these poems. Students consider how these themes of adversity apply to their own lives and the lives of their peers. In the mid-unit assessment, students are assessed on speaking and listening skills as they participate in discussion groups focusing on the language of the poems, the themes of adversity conveyed in these poems, and the connections between the voices of these poems and the voices from the characters of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

In the second half of the unit, students identify a theme of adversity they would like to convey in their own writing. Then, through a series of narrative writing lessons, and using either a monologue from Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! or a John Grandits concrete poem as a model text, they write their own modern monologue or concrete poem. For the end of unit assessment, students submit their best draft of their writing. For the performance task, students orally present this narrative to an audience of their peers.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do modern authors use language to convey theme and meaning in a literary text?
  • How can I share the adversities I face?
  • Authors use figurative language, word choice, and text structure to convey meaning and theme in a literary text.
  • Themes of adversity can be both specific to and transcendent of time and place.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about modern adversities faced by children and adolescents.  However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies Practices and Themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content.

These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework:

Unifying Themes (pages 6-7)

  • Theme 1: Individual Development and Cultural Identity: The role of social, political, and cultural interactions supports the development of identity. Personal identity is a function of an individual's culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences.
  • Theme 2: Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures: Role of diversity within and among cultures; aspects of culture such as belief systems, religious faith, or political ideals as influences on other parts of a culture, such as its institutions or literature, music, and art; cultural diffusion and change over time as facilitating different ideas and beliefs.
  • Theme 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments).
  • Theme 5: Development and Transformation of Social Structures: Role of social class, systems of stratification, social groups, and institutions; role of gender, race, ethnicity, education, class, age, and religion in defining social structures within a culture; social and political inequalities.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Technically, It’s Not My Fault
by John Grandits
ISBN: 978-0618503612
Blue Lipstick
by John Grandits
ISBN: 978-0-618-56860-4

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite an expert on drama or theater to discuss the specific dramatic genre of monologue.
  • Invite a local poet or spoken word performer to come to your class to model how poetry is performed.


  • Arrange for a visit to a local theater to see the production of monologues.
  • Arrange for a visit to a local poetry reading or poetry "slam" to see modern poetry in action.

Through the writing of their own monologues, students explore and express multiple themes of adversity that face teenagers. Any (or all) of these themes could translate into individual or group service projects for students. 


  • Students could perform their monologues (narratives and concrete poems) to a wider audience (families, school community, public venue.)
  • Students could create audio or visual recordings of their monologues (narratives and concrete poems) to share digitally. 

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