Challenging the Dominant Narrative

This year in Ms. Green’s class, we’ve started a conversation that will last the whole year.  We’re talking about what it means to challenge the dominant narrative.  The dominant narrative is the story that’s usually told, and that most people are comfortable hearing.  In a US history context, this dominant narrative says that rich white men built America, which is now the greatest country in the world.  The textbooks are full of old, rich, white men, the media is full of white men- where are the people of color?  Where are the women?  Where are the critiques saying that maybe we haven’t gotten everything right, maybe we could learn a lot from other countries?  Certainly some voices aren’t being heard.

We’re in the baby steps beginning of this conversation, but we’re starting out where we always do- with current events, conversation, and literature.  Here are some of my favorite ways that we’re beginning to challenge the dominant narrative in fifth grade.



We learn a whole lot about Martin Luther King Jr. and his non-violence, but was he the only one who played a role in the Civil Rights Movement?  Did MLK and Rosa Parks link arms and win monumental civil rights victories all on their own?  And did everyone in the African American community agree that this was the best way to do things?  Certainly not!  Nakia is getting a headstart on his Civil Rights project by reading By Any Means Necessary, a biography of Malcolm X.  We don’t know a whole lot about Malcolm X just yet, but we sure are excited to learn!




Ja’Syah is right behind Nakia with this African empowerment.  He is reading the Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet comic book, written by one of Ms. Green’s favorites, Ta-Nehisi Coates.  (Ms. Green is listening to one of his grown-up books on audio every day on her way to work, so we’ll be able to compare author notes.)







Other new additions to our classroom library include these beauties:



Building off of our conversation on the Constitution and the three branches of government, we touched a little bit on another one of Ms. Green’s favorite people, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Ms. Green last year on 5th grade’s Supreme Court day

Justice Ginsberg has some pretty radical ideas, and our fifth graders will be able to decide what they think about the Notorious RBG with the new release (released today, should be delivered by Amazon tomorrow morning!!), I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark, by Debbie Levy.  One RBG quote in particular a few of us looked at, when studying the branches of government last week, was this:


“When I’m sometimes asked, when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?  And I say, ‘When there are nine.’  People are shocked.  But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”



Pretty revolutionary, don’t you think?  We can’t wait to get our hands on this book so we can learn more!






Another one of our favorite things right now is the new Soy Yo music video, by Bomba Estéro.  Take a look, we think you will fall in love too.



What do you think?  How does Bomba Estéro challenge the dominant narrative with this video?


Thanks for reading and for being a part of our fifth grade community, whether from near or far!  We appreciate you.




4 responses to “Challenging the Dominant Narrative”

  1. Ellen Mangelsdorf Avatar
    Ellen Mangelsdorf

    I swear, you make teaching fifth grade sound like to COOLEST grade to teach ever! Your students are beyond lucky to have you!


  2. Tonya Avatar

    Good job, Ms. Green. Please continue to challenge our students above and beyond the norm of academic goals.


  3. hcweicker Avatar

    And you’re back! I’m looking forward to following your journey this year with the fresh crop of 5th graders. So glad you’re keeping up the good work. Helen

    Sent from the family iPad



  4. […] all of which led up to this amazing timeline exhibition.  We started out by talking about the dominant narrative (the story that’s usually told), and decided that the story that’s usually told […]


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