Learning Plans & Activities
Signs, Structures, and Systems: Dismantling Racism Inside by Looking Outside

Using Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (Little, Brown 2020) as a jumping off point, students will examine their neighborhood, community, and state laws for signs and symbols that connect stated beliefs with outward practices.


English language arts

Social studies

American history

Ethnic studies




English language arts teacher, art teacher, social studies teacher


Students will form connections between figurative language, signs, symbols and their explicit and implicit meanings.

Students will evaluate the connections between stated beliefs and actual practices.


Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Access to research databases or materials


Three 60-minute class periods or equivalent


AASL Standards Framework for Learners

I.A.2. Recalling prior and background knowledge as context for new meaning.

I.C.4. Sharing products with an authentic audience.

I.D.3. Enacting new understanding through real-world connections.

II.A.3. Describing their understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community.

II.B.2. Evaluating a variety of perspectives during learning activities.

V.A.2. Reflecting and questioning assumptions and possible misconceptions.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

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

Instructional Procedure

Before reading: Discuss the connection between ideas, words, and actions having students cite specific examples from real life and complete the following chart.




In this class we believe it is good for everyone to have a learning environment that supports many different (and at times contrasting) opinions.

We have signage that says, "In this classroom, all opinions and perspectives are valued."

We practice this by taking turns sharing the air during classroom discussions so that all voices have the chance to be heard.

During Reading: As students read Section 2 of Stamped, take note of stated American beliefs, language embedded in the founding documents, laws and statutes of this country that are intended to uphold those beliefs, then analyze the connection between beliefs and modern-day implementation or actions. Annotate the text with observations and reflections.

After Reading: Identify a sign, mural, founding document (that forms the basis of a rule or law), statue, or monument in your community. Research its background and what lead to its creation. Evaluate it for its connection to racism or antiracism.

Evaluate using the following questions, plus those you create:

  • Does it support, institute, or uphold a racist power dynamic?
  • Do the conditions which lead to its adoption or creation still exist?
  • Are there any words or images that proclaim beliefs? If so, what are those beliefs?
  • Are those stated beliefs easily identifiable in present-day community or civic organizations?


Listen to Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You the audiobook, Part 2, then journal or speak about and record your thoughts and reactions.

Take a walk outside, take pictures of any signs, symbols or statues in your community. Research their origins and make connections to any community values or beliefs they uphold.


After research, using Flipgrid or any other method for capturing student reactions, record two to three-minute video reflections on whether the classroom, school, or wider community has signs, statues, systems or structures that uphold a racist status quo.

Collaboratively create a rubric or other system for evaluating whether a sign, structure, or system potentially upholds or could be used to dismantle racism inside individuals, a classroom, or the wider community.

Create QR codes that link to articles or other informational resources that provide additional background or a different perspective about a prominent monument, statue, mural or other structure. Post them on or near the artifact. Invite those who read the resources to learn more and give reactions via a virtual or actual community whiteboard.

Additional Resources

Get more ideas for teaching with this book in our "Curriculum Connections for Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You."

About the Author

Julia E. Torres is a veteran language arts teacher librarian in Denver, Colorado. Julia facilitates teacher development workshops rooted in the areas of anti-racist education, equity and access in literacy and librarianship, and education as a practice of liberation. Julia also works with students locally and around the country with the goal of empowering them to use literacy to fuel resistance and positive social transformation. She is the current NCTE Secondary Representative-at-large, a 2018-2020 Heinemann Publications Heinemann Fellow and Educator Collaborative Book Ambassador. Connect with Julia on Twitter @juliaerin80

MLA Citation Torres, Julia. "Signs, Structures, and Systems: Dismantling Racism Inside by Looking Outside." School Library Connection, March 2020, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2243262.

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Entry ID: 2243262

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