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Writing Program Resources on Teaching for Social Justice

Social justice fellows are TOs in the Writing Program (teaching 111 or 112) who discuss the role of social justice teaching frameworks in the writing classroom. Fellows explore issues such as digital activism; decoloniality, transnationality, and translinguality; emotion and affect; citizenship; environmental and spatial justice issues alongside discussions of race, class, gender, disability, and sexuality. Specifically, fellows explore social justice opportunities related to:

  • teacher development and self-reflection;
  • student learning outcomes and challenges; and
  • pedagogical revision.

Fellows work not only on theoretically processing and critiquing issues related to social justice pedagog(ies), but also on creating activities and applications for the writing classroom. This page compiles and shares the resources and activities developed during their fellowships.

Teaching Resources Developed by Social Justice Fellows

Sarah Ahmed smiles into the camera in front of a street.Thinking Archives by Sarah Ahmad

This assignment sheet centers around "seeing how all knowledge is constructed . . . [and asks students to] work on an archival project . . . that reckons with the ideas of power our reading, writing, and research will be working towards. This archival project could take many forms: you could construct a personal archive, delve into existing one that means something to you, or fashion an alternative archive for something that interests you" (Ahmad 1).



Students walking and biking near Du Bois Library.Reflecting Through Self-Design by Leah Barber

This project re-imagines the final self-reflection unit of the College Writing curriculum. It prompts students to reflect on their experience in the course through self-design and metacognition. Students look back to the first unit of the course, Inquiring into Self, and design an in-class activity or homework assignment based on the course goals for that unit. To prepare for the assignment, students read a short selection of critical pedagogy. The instructor also shares lesson planning materials with students to give them an inside look into the course design process. Through metacognition—thinking about thinking—students can reflect not only on what they learned, but how they learned it, and how they may transfer these new skills and thought processes to other areas of their studies and lives.

Students sit around tables in Isenberg working or relaxing.Critical Literacy in the College Writing Classroom by Chris Buck

This project includes three assignments that focus on critical literacy and "would work well as writer’s dashboard posts [though they could be adapted into unit assignments]. These assignments have three interrelated objectives: 1) invite students to become more self-aware; 2) help students better understand the sociopolitical systems in which we live; and 3) develop students’ critical literacy skills" (Buck 1).



Jarrel De Matas smiles at the camera and pets a dog.'More Than Movies' - Critiquing Society Through Film by Jarrel De Matas

This assignment asks students to  participate in multiple activities, such as "Choos[ing] a film/series and outline points for discussion based on how the film represents a socio-cultural critique of a particular problem" and a scavenger hunt for sources discussing a particular film, in order to prepare them for a unit project that asks students to consider the ways films critique society. This is intended for Unit 3, but could be adapted for either Unit 1 or Unit 2.



A person wearing a mask walks along a sidewalk on campus holding a shopping bag.Mental Health and Communication in the Academic Context by Molly Hennigan

This assignment draws students' attention to the power structures that influence conversations around "subjects like disability rights, mental illness, healthcare, or bodily autonomy . . . [and asks them to] explore hidden or subtle power dynamics that can operate at composition level and work collaboratively to challenge these. Two key aims of this unit are identifying power imbalances in the environments we inhabit and then taking action in achievable and impactful ways" (Hennigan 1).


A student is reading in Old Chapel. Behind the student, three others are talking to one another.College Writing Conference Call for Papers and Circulating the Conversation by Stacie Klinowski

This project includes both a call for papers for a conference "to platform the excellent social justice work that you[r 111 and 112 students] are already doing and to build networks with others who are also invested in the movements you [and they] are participating in" and an assignment sheet for the Circulating the Conversation unit in College Writing that would lead to students presenting their work at the conference (Klinowski, "College Writing" 1). 


JR Mahung looks off to the left of the camera.Teaching Video Games by JR Mahung

"This text is a work in progress that illustrates/articulates my experience thus far teaching When Rivers Were Trails, a video game developed collaboratively by numerous American Indian creators through the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. The point and click survival/adventure game positions the player as an Anishinaabeg person dispossessed from their lands in the 1890’s. They are tasked with making their way to their newly state designated territory while surviving hunger, ill health, loneliness, and numerousthreats from settlers. This overview will focus on When Rivers Will Trails but the general principals, I hope, can be applied to most any video game you wish to teach as an in-class text" (Mahung 1). 

A picture of Du Bois Library in the distance framed by budding trees.Course Focus: Bias, Credibility, and Impact by Laura Marshall

This project comprises a series of assignments and activities that can be incorporated throughout the semester, focusing on educating students about the conscious and unconscious biases that influence writers (including themselves) as a means of evaluating credibility. In the final unit, The Writer's Portfolio, students are guided to "reflect on the biases in their own texts and the impacts those could have on their intended audiences" (Marshall 1). These exercises can be used in sequence or as individual assignments, depending on an instructor's pedagogical objectives.


Students sit in a circle talking and looking at their phones.Towards a More Equitable Peer Response Process by Shannon Mooney

This project asks us to consider how we can "place students at the center of peer response and avoid allowing the labor of this process to fall unevenly across racial and gendered lines" (Mooney 2). To begin answering this question, this project offers insights and sugggestions from scholars, including Wei Zhu, Elizabeth Tomlinson, and Asao Inoue.



Mitia Nath stands in front of a tree, smiling at the camera with snow in the backgroundComposing Safe Spaces by Mitia Nath

This assignment asks students to consider what safe spaces are for themselves and others, asking them to "go beyond the political and material boundaries that limit our existing safe spaces, and imagine what it would mean to extend our safe space endlessly. By reading our classmates’ safe spaces alongside ours, we will try to understand what makes our utopias similar to and different from that of our peers" (Nath 1).



Mansavini Rajan smiles into the camera.Reflections on Digital Activism and the Writing Classroom by Manasvini Rajan

Throughout this essay, Manasvini Rajan reflects on using the Circulating the Conversation unit in College Writing to have students participate in digital activism on an environmental issue of their choice. Examples of some students' final projects include "an infographic about the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of colour, an Instagram account dedicated to raising awareness about the problems sea turtles face, a comic strip about the potential increase in the frequency of future pandemics, a series of images about bio- and linguistic diversity in Indonesia, a blog post about the Texas power grid failure in early-2021, and a linktree about the damage caused by fast fashion and what we can do about it" (Rajan 5).

Rachel Smith smiles into the camera, wearing a UMass shirt.Classroom Discussion Planning Guide by Rachel Smith

This guide "is intended to help instructors scaffold classroom discussions, particularly about difficult or sensitive topics. Before you begin planning, be sure to consider if a discussion is the best way to engage this topic and accomplish your intended goal(s). While discussions are great opportunities to delve into a topic collectively, they are just one of many pedagogical tools that can foster reflection, cross-communication, and deeper understanding" (Smith 1).



Chandler Steckbeck smiles at the camera.If X Then Y: Resources for Reacting to and Supporting Student Needs by Chandler Steckbeck

This guide serves as a reference for instructors looking to offer resources to support their students. Encompassing both on- and off-campus resources, this guide is designed to allow instructors to easily navigate the complex systems in which many resources are entrenched so that they can better support their students in a timely and time-efficient manner. The “If X then Y” guide is organized, as the title suggests, by general concerns that may arise in the classroom. Along with general information about each resource, the guide also includes hyperlinked text throughout and a second table of contents that organizes the resources by type (community vs. university) so that instructors can easily offer resources relevant to the student's particular need. 

Students walking around campusIncorporating Discussions and Activities Around Organizing into English 111/112 by Sarah Stetson

This project includes "Resources, ideas, and readings around bringing concepts and practices of organizing -- working with others to identify and address a shared concern, building a movement, directly addressing a concern through collective action -- into our classrooms. Examples are focused specifically on organizing in higher education. . . . You can adapt/choose ideas, resources, readings, however works for you -- the suggestions are meant to be flexible. It's not a fully formed 'assignment sheet' or lesson plan! Anyone can use it: You don't need to be an expert organizer, labor studies scholar, etc." (Stetson 1).

Thakshala Tissera stands in front of a brick wall looking into the camera.Composing Citizens: A Critical Approach to Citizenship in the Writing Classroom by Thakshala Tissera

This project focuses on using a critical approach to citizenship within College Writing, offering exercises, activities, readings, and more in order to meet a "two-fold call 1. To be critical and reflective about the ways in which we connect the idea of “citizenship” – often used as a blanket, un-interrogated term – to skills developed in the writing classroom. 2. To adopt a critical approach that is both aware of the problematic nature of connecting reading and writing skills to citizenship and also capable of using the writing classroom to deepen student thinking about questions of citizenship, and developing skills that can be used for greater civic engagement (while being aware of its limitations)" (Tissera 2).

Rebecca Valley bends down to look at the geese that surround her.Ethical Grading: A Reflection for Writing Instructors by Rebecca Valley

Grading is a space in which the power dynamics between student and teacher are most clear. Grading is also rarely, if ever, taught - instead, instructors tend to reproduce the grading system they were subjected to in the past. Though there is not truly ethical way to grade, the goal of this presentation is to offer teachers space to reflect on their own grading practice, in order to develop a more intentional and equitable system for their students. The presentation includes excerpts from recent scholarship on grading ethics, reflective questions, and a collaborative list of grading methodologies that instructors can use in their classrooms.