Social Studies

Uncovering the Dominant Narrative

So much of what we do in fifth grade at UT Elementary is surrounding the idea of dominant and counter narratives.  Students are constantly identifying dominant narratives, poking holes in those stories, and looking elsewhere to uncover counter narratives that might have something different to say.  But before we can get to this place, we have to first define what a dominant narrative is.  So this year, we started out with a new activity which I called our “Famous American Heroes” project.

First I told students about this idea of a dominant narrative.  A dominant narrative is the story of US history that you can find in most textbooks and in most classrooms.  We defined it as “the story that’s in charge.”  Counter narratives, on the other hand, are the stories that “fight back.”  These stories are not often found in textbooks, and if they are, they’re definitely not at the center of the story.  After discussing these ideas, I sent my students on a quest to uncover what these dominant narratives really are.  What is the story that’s in charge of US history?  Who is at the center of that story?

I compiled a lit of all of the people included in the fifth grade US history standards (it’s a lot of people!), and each student spent a couple of days researching one person from that list.   After completing their research, students created a poster (I very strongly encouraged students to make sure the skin color marker/crayon/colored pencil they were using was as accurate as possible), and we hung all of these posters up outside of the classroom.  Students then participated in a gallery walk of all of the posters, collecting data on what these people had in common.

We looked specifically at race, gender, age, accomplishments, and sexual orientation (students looked to see if a historical figure was married, and whether they were married to a man or woman).



















At the end of our data collection, we found out of a list of a total 30 people that we researched, 27 were men, 26 were white, and all were straight and gender binary.  In the words of one of our students, “somebody’s gotta change that.”

From here, we were able to conclude that the dominant narrative centers the people who have, and who have historically held, the most power: straight, white men.  Anyone who doesn’t fit that category is pushed to the outside of the story.

After uncovering dominant narratives, students were pumped up and ready to spend the rest of the year uncovering counter narratives (which we can do, because we just covered all of our history TEKS in two days 🤣).  What are these counter narratives all about, these stories that are so dangerous they can’t be heard? Who are these trouble makers whose voices people in power have tried to silence?  We can’t wait to find out!


Teachers, would you like to do a similar project in your classroom?  I’m happy to share my resources with you!  You can download the project packet here, and you can download the data collection sheets and interactive notebook pages here.  If you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll be happy to help!


Love, Learning, & Li’l Longhorns,

Ms. Green


English Language Arts

Hidden Figures

Last month, we kicked off Women’s History Month by presenting our Hidden Figures writing projects to our friends, families, and our Little Longhorn community.  The kids did an amazing job uncovering the hidden histories of powerful women who have had an impact on our country and our communities.  Here are some highlights!



Way to go, Little Longhorns!  We are so proud of you, as always.  You are leaders and changemakers.  



Blog Based Lessons

Poverty, Homelessness, and Financial Literacy

Hey fifth graders!  I am out sick today, but am wishing so badly that I could be at school with you.  Please be incredibly respectful to Ms. Noble today, and follow this blog post for all of your classwork today.  Station one will require you to use your reflection packet (either you already have it, or it’s at the front of the room).  Station Two will require you to use one page in your interactive notebook.  Please use the next available page, and you can label it “homelessness” in your table of contents.

Station One: Spent

Today we are going to begin our unit on poverty, homelessness, and financial literacy.  First, I want you to go to, and play a few rounds of this game.  You can play up to three times, and by the end of the third time, you should record your reflections (the paper is at the front of the room.  Here’s a digital copy if you need it).

This reflection is pretty straight forward, but the questions that I really want you to think about are numbers 5 and 6.  Really spend some time talking to your partner and thinking about these questions.

  1. Based on what you’ve learned during this game, what problems do you see with our country’s financial system? Is this a personal problem, or a societal problem?  
  2. What do you think should be done to fix this problem?  Is the solution personal or societal?  

When you finish this reflection packet, please turn it into the basket.

Station Two: Homelessness

It’s important to go in order at this station!  Please do the activities in order, and don’t watch the videos ahead of time.

Part One: First, take about 10-15 minutes to draw the first thing that comes to your head when you think of a homeless person.  Use one page of your interactive notebook to draw this picture (do not spend more than 10-15 minutes on this, it’s just a quick sketch).  On this same page, write 5-10 words that come to your head when you think of homelessness.


Part Two: The chances are, you have certain stereotypes in your head when you think of homeless people.  However, people can end up homeless for all kinds of reasons, and homelessness can look a bunch of different ways.  Think about when you played Spent.  It is incredibly hard to live on such a small amount of money, and if something goes wrong (a big medical bill, a disability, etc.), it can be easy to lose your home.

My guess is that in your picture, most of you drew adults (I could be wrong, but that’s my guess).  However, many children are homeless too.  A beautiful documentary was made about a teenager named Inocente, whose family was homeless for many years.  Let’s watch the trailer to her movie:


The movie Inocente won an Academy Award.  I think that part of the reason this movie was so impactful was because by showing us a different perspective of homelessness, it challenged the stigma associated with homelessness. We’re going to be using the word stigma a lot in this unit.  Here’s the definition.

Stigma: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

Try using this word in sentence with your partner.


Part Three: One of the best ways to fight back against negative stereotypes and the stigma of homelessness is to educate ourselves.  So we’re going to do just that!

Read this Newsela article, “Sleeping Under a Roof, but Homeless Still,” and answer the questions and the writing prompt.  I have left very specific annotations for you, so please respond to all of them!



Station Three: Getting Involved

While education is an incredibly powerful tool to fight against the stigma of homelessness, an even greater tool is building relationships and getting involved.  On April 5th, we will be taking a field trip to Community First Village.  Let’s take a look at what the Community First Village does:

Take some time to explore the Community First Village website, and I want you to focus specifically on the map of the village.

What kinds of buildings and community spaces are included in this village?  Why are these places significant?  Do any buildings stand out to you, as something you might not have thought to include?


Station Four: Thank You Cards

Thank you for working hard to get everything done!  We will continue talking about all of these things for the next few weeks.

Since you have finished all of your work, you may make thank you cards for our Dr. Seuss readers.  Ms. Green’s reader was Ashley Zimmermann.


Thank you for your hard work! I will see you bright and early Tuesday morning! Love, Ms. Green

The University of Texas

Thinking About Identity

This is a post for Ms. Green’s class at The University of Texas (or, as we say at UTES, “The Big UT”).



Please read “Family: A History of Naming,” a short excerpt from the YA novel, The Sun is also a Star.



Please read, “Hair: An African American History,” an excerpt from the YA novel, The Sun is also a Star.

After watching these videos and reading the excerpts, please answer these short polls:


Blog Based Lessons

Who Run The World?

Women, and specifically women of color, have faced their fair share of challenges in America.  Women have made incredible contributions to our country, and yet, the contributions of many of these women still go unnoticed.  Recently, one of these stories has been unearthed.  Let’s watch this trailer together:


In the trailer for Hidden Figures, the character Mary Jackson says, “every time we have the chance to get ahead, they move the finish line.”  What do you think this quote means?  Who is “they”, and what is “the finish line”?


The story of these women, and this consequential movie, was brought into the light because someone started poking around and asking questions.  These questions are the very same questions that we ask to challenge the dominant narrative in Ms. Green’s class!  Whose voice is not being heard?  Who is being kept on the outside of this story?  This Newsela article looks deeper into the discovery of these women’s stories.  Read this article with a partner, annotate the passage, and answer the questions.  We will discuss as a class afterwards.



We’re going to be discovering our own “hidden figures.”  There are so many important stories that have gone untold in America’s history, and we’re going to start poking around and asking questions to uncover a handful of these stories for ourselves.

Your project:

We will be working to discover our own “hidden figures.”  You will be researching one woman, or group of women’s, contributions to American history and/or current events.

We will be pushing past the dominant narrative by researching women who are truly hidden figures (you can’t research Ruby Bridges, Malala, Helen Keller, etc.).  I expect you to research a woman we have not already talked about in class, or who would normally not be talked about in a US history class.

Your project is due Wednesday, March 1st, in celebration of Women’s History Month.  We will be presenting our projects throughout the month of March, and the best of the best will be featured on the blog.

To download instructions for your project, as well as an example project, click here.


English Language Arts

Ms. Green at NCSS!

I have been out of school Thursday and Friday, and am presenting at the NCSS conference in Washington DC.  Yes, that’s right, our Little Longhorns get to do the coolest projects, and teachers from around the country want to hear about what we’re up to!

This post is mainly for teachers looking for direction and resources in setting up a civil rights timeline for their students.  Like I promised those of you at the presentation, here is the blog post full of links and resources to guide you through setting up this incredible timeline project in your own classrooms.



click here to download my powerpoint presentation in PDF format (includes working links)


For a copy of the handout, including lists of resources, click here

Many of the resources discussed in the presentation are available on my TeachersPayTeachers site.  These resources include:


I have done this project with my students for two years in a row now, and they have absolutely loved it.  It’s amazing to see how their understanding of the civil rights movement can change and grow throughout an in depth project like this.  To see our students’ work from the past two years, check out these blog posts:

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-12-54-04-pm screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-12-55-01-pm




Thanks for checking out my presentation, and our work here at UT Elementary!  I hope that you take a minute to look around the blog a little bit to see our work in other units of study as well.  You can see a more in-depth view of my curriculum here, and much of our work in social studies here.


Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.  I would love to support any teachers who are wanting to recreate this project in their own classrooms!


Love, Learning, & Lil’ Longhorns,

Ms. Green

Blog Based Lessons

WWII, America, and the Dominant Narrative

What do you know about WWII?  You probably know that the United States fought other countries.  (Remember that a civil war is a war within one country, and a world war involves multiple countries?)  This week we’re going to focus on many groups of American people during World War II, many of whom have been excluded from the dominant narrative.

Talk with a partner: What do you think the dominant narrative of American involvement in World War II is?  Which groups of people might be excluded from this story?

Here are some things that you should know about World War II before we get started:

  • The war involved many different countries, and these countries split into two “teams”: the Axis powers and the Allied Powers.  When is another time that you have heard the word “allies” used?  Think back to our civil rights unit.
  • The Axis Powers included Germany, Italy, and Japan.
  •  The Allied Powers included the United States, Britain, France, the USSR,  Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Greece, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Yugoslavia.  That’s a lot of countries!  Our study will focus specifically on the United States, with some mention of Britain and France.
  • World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945, but the United States didn’t get involved until 1941.  The United States entered the war after Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was bombed by Japan.
  • The dominant narrative paints a heroic picture of the United States fighting against the Nazis.  While part of this may be true, the reasons behind US involvement, and the things happening at home in America, were much more complicated.  (Remember that at this time, the United States was segregated!  It seems kind of backwards that we would fight for freedom for the Jewish people while at the same time committing such acts of racism within our own country.)
  • If you have read all the way to this last bullet point, but a star on the top right corner of the first page of your exploration packet.

This week, we are going to take a look at how this war affected people here in the United States.  Next week, we will zoom out and look outside of the United States and into Europe to learn more about the Holocaust.

As you rotate through these stations, record your thoughts and answers in your exploration packet.


Station One: Women on the Home Front

Part A: Women at Work

While the men of the United States went away to war, they left jobs open at home.  Not only did they leave jobs vacant, but war also creates jobs.  Employees were needed to make clothes for soldiers, and to create weapons.  American women were left to fill these roles.

Look at the following 2 posters.  Both posters were used to recruit women into jobs that needed to be filled.  Answer the questions that follow.


  1. What do you notice in this picture?
  2. Have you seen this picture before?  If so, where?
  3. Why do you think the woman is standing like this?
  4. What do you think this poster was used for?
  5. Of all of the photos we may look at, this one might be the most iconic.  Why do you think this poster is still used so much today?



Here is a Newsela article about the original “Rosie the Riveter.”  Take a look for a current events connection.






  1. What stands out to you in this picture?
  2. What do you see?  What do the words say?
  3. What similarities do you notice between this poster and the first poster?
  4. Do you think this poster would have been effective in recruiting women into jobs?  Why or why not?
  5. Is this what you would picture a working woman to look like?  Why or why not?


Part B: Flipping the Script: Women of Color


  1. What is different in this painting than in the first two posters?
  2. What is the same in this painting as it is in the first two?
  3. What jobs do you think these women could have had?  How do you know?
  4. Do you think that this painting was made first, or the white Rosie the Riveter?  Why?
  5. Do you think white women and women of color had the same jobs during World War II?  What differences or similarities might they have encountered?



  1. What is different in this painting than in the first two posters?
  2. What is the same in this painting as it is in the first two?
  3. When do you think this art was made?  Why?
  4. Do you think that this painting was made first, or the white Rosie the Riveter?  Why?
  5. What statement do you think this piece of art is making?

Station Two: Japanese Americans


In 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.  After this bombing, many Americans acted in fear towards all people of Japanese descent, even Japanese Americans, many of whom were citizens who had been living in the United States for generations.  After this bombing, Franklin Roosevelt signed an order that put all Japanese Americans into internment camps.


Newsela has adapted the order signed by FDR.  Use your Newsela account to read this article and answer the questions that follow.


After you have read and responded to the Newsela article, let’s take a closer look at this photograph:



  1. What do you see in this photograph?
  2. What stands out to you?
  3. Who do you think owns this store?
  4. Who do you think hung the sign that says “I Am an American”?
  5. Why did this person hang that sign?
  6. Do you think that signs like this would have been common during World War II?  Why or why not?


Now let’s examine some more primary sources.  Let’s take a look at the words of Yuri Kochiyama, who experienced the Japanese Interment camps firsthand.


article used with permission from “Students of History,” available to purchase at

The Japanese-American civil rights activist and author Yuri Kochiyama was born and raised in San Pedro, California. She and her family were among the 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast who were rounded up in a wave of anti-Japanese hysteria that followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, giving the army the power to arrest all Japanese-Americans (mostly children born in the United States) and transport them to camps to live under prison conditions. Yuri Kochiyama describes the conditions in the detention camps.

Continue reading “Yuri Kochiyama on Japanese Internment Camps,” (paper copies are in your exploration packet), and respond to the questions that follow.


Station Three: The Bracero Program

The following resources surrounding the Bracero Program are adapted from a journey box created by Juana Marquez, an undergraduate student at the University of Texas, as a class project for Noreen Rodriguez.  For more resources from Noreen and her students, visit her website.

The Bracero Program was an agreement between Mexico and the Unites States of America that let millions of Mexican men come to the United States to work for a short period of time. Most of these men worked in the fields with certain rules, or contracts, that they needed to follow to be able to stay to work.

The Bracero Program was created during the time of World War II.  During this time, America used all of its resources, including its workers, for the war.  Even women were sent to work in factories.  America soon realized that it needed more people to work the fields in the United States. Therefore, on August 4, 1942 the United States agreed to let Mexican agricultural workers come to the United States to work.

The Bracero Program was only supposed to last about five years, but it ended up lasting more than twenty years.  The Bracero Program ended in the year 1964.  Over the twenty-two years that the Bracero Program lasted, more than 4.5 million Mexican citizens were hired to legally work in the United States.  Most of the Braceros worked in the states of Texas and California, both in the farms and on the railroads.

Braceros were recruited from different cities in Mexico, including Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua.  Many Mexicans went to these recruitment sites in search of better opportunities in the United States. Once the Braceros arrived to the United States, they were inspected in processing centers.  In these processing centers, personnel looked for weapons, and hopeful Braceros were sprayed with DDT, a chemical pesticide that was commonly used in the US to protect plants against insects.  (This chemical was canceled in 1972, after people working around this chemical reported harmful side effects.)  Despite this poor treatment, the Braceros were still hopeful of having a better life in America.

Once the Braceros entered the United States and began work, they were only paid about $3.00 a day. Braceros not only had to deal with such little pay, but they were also discriminated against by the American people. Similar to African Americans during the era of Jim Crow, Mexicans were not allowed into many places, like restaurants and movie theaters.  Many Americans were angry about the Braceros, and demanded they return to Mexico.  These people believed that American jobs were unfairly being given to foreigners, who were willing to work for less money.

The Bracero program was a big milestone, or step,  for the United States.  It helped create a migration pattern in the United States in which individuals such as Mexicans could come into the US to work, go home for awhile, and then return to the US once again to make more money to bring home to their families.

Despite their hard work for the United States during wartime, the Braceros were treated poorly.  When they were no longer needed, they were told to go home, and they never received recognition for their contributions to America during World War II.  The dominant narrative largely excludes Braceros from American history.

Answer the questions in your exploration packet before watching the following video.



When entering the United States, Braceros were given a book of rules to follow. These are pages from those rule books. Some of the rules included that Mexican workers could not go into certain restaurants and movie theaters. If you can read Spanish, help your group to read these rules.






This is a photo of Braceros being sprayed with DDT at a processing center, while entering the United States.

1. What do you see in this photo?


2. Why do you think Americans wanted to clean these migrant workers before letting them enter the United States?


3.  The word dehumanizing means to make someone feel like they are not human.  Do you think this process might have been dehumanizing for these men?  Why or why not?



Station Four: African American Soldiers


Complete the DBQ “African Americans in WWII,” copies are in your exploration packet.

When the DBQ begins to talk about Charles Drew, watch this video before answering the questions:




Station Five: Contrasting the Dominant Narrative

This week, we have examined four different perspectives on American life during World War II.  Each of these stories challenges the dominant narrative in one way or another.  Like we mentioned earlier, the dominant narrative paints a very heroic picture of the United States.  These next two photographs fit into the heroic dominant narrative of the United States during World War II.

Take a look at these two pictures and answer the following questions.


  1. What do you see in this photograph?
  2. What can you see on the people’s expressions?  What do you think they’re feeling?
  3. Why do you think they’re feeling this way?
  4. How many different skin colors do you see in this photo?
  5. Do you see any women in this photograph?
  6. Why do you think this photograph is part of the dominant narrative?
  7. What statement is this photograph making about America?



  1. What do you see in this photograph?
  2. Who do you think these people are?  Why?
  3. What are these people doing?
  4. Why do you think these people are doing this?
  5. Why do you think this photograph is part of the dominant narrative?
  6. What statement is this photograph making about America?