The League: Part One

I spent 30 minutes deciding how to launch this. At first, I was going to upload the formal lesson plan and worksheets and then I realized that I watch new educators look at a lesson plan and deliver it in the wrong way. I also have to run professional developments, after designing a curriculum, to provide a shining example of what the lessons should look like when they’re enacted.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to launch this, differently:

Welcome to The League. 

I wrote this for the Brooklyn kids.

Okay, I wrote this for the Brooklyn parents and educators.


I wrote this for all five boroughs and anyone who’s living in a major city and watching it change before their eyes. Your children are watching this change too. They’re raising their hands in class, asking why the regular bodega is shut down and under repair, where the new Starbucks came from, and why their neighborhoods are unrecognizable.

The League is a historical fiction series, with sample Langston League instructional material, for middle schoolers. The Bedstuy Excalibur School for Boys is based in Brooklyn, New York. The characters in this story go back and forth, through time, learning the ins and outs of their local hangout spots and what they used to be. They’ve lost enough and the entire crew has decided that they’re not going to lose anything else.

How you can use the series:

  • Use it for daily literary readings with your scholar.
  • Use it to roam the city, recounting the story in the places they might’ve happened.
  • Use it to enhance your scholar’s vernacular, interest in history, reading level, and high-order thinking.
  • Use it to visit historical sites, plan field trip days.

Although we’ll be reading a part of the central text, every time, no day will be the same. Sometimes we’ll be analyzing poetry, other days we’ll be diving into related informational texts, and most times we’ll be sending you on an adventure. Remember! This is sample curriculum. We want to give you a taste. If you like what you get, hire us. *wink*

We’ll also zoom in on new standards/skills every few lessons. Be sure to follow Langston League’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, to get tips, tricks, and freebies on launching this with your scholar.

You have to make me a promise before you go on. This lesson WILL NOT WORK they way I intended it to work unless you INTERNALIZE IT.

What do I mean by “internalize?”

Before you launch this with your scholar, you must read this blog and story in FULL…way in advance. Print it out, mark it up, underline words your scholar might not know, and answer all prompts before they do. (Yes, you have homework too.) The MAJOR KEY *Khaled voice* to impacting student learning is have clarity around the goals of the lesson. Know each lesson in this series backwards and forwards, so that you’re an expert when you launch it and you’re just as excited as I am.

There are culturally responsive strategies that MUST be implemented in the classroom environment, in order for scholars to latch to the material and enhance their learning capacity. It’s literally neuroscience. More on that later. Here are all the things that are imperative to making this an experience that your scholar will NEVER, EVER unlearn:

  • Voice: Have I given my scholar multiple opportunities to voice their learning, to me or anyone else?
  •  Differentiation: Have I provided several ways for scholars to express their learning which have been informed by scholar input and my knowledge of their needs?
  • Access: Have I communicated in three or more ways that are informed by scholar input and their learning styles?
  • Connection: Is there more than one real-life connection made or represented from a variety of cultures or life experiences?
  • Activism: Have scholars been given the opportunity to connect their learning to concerns that are relevant to them and enact change meaningful to them?
  • Decolonization: Are the discourse and perspectives presented in a variety of ways that are inclusive of non-dominant backgrounds? Do all students of non-dominant backgrounds have access and feel included in the material?
  • Gamification: Did my scholar get to use a digital program or gamified technique to solidify their learning?
  • Critical Thinking: Were there many opportunities for higher order applications and creative thinking?
  • The Griot: Did I use storytelling technique to bridge complex/simple concepts to educator/student personal/home/current-event experience? Was it said with passion and conviction?

I know; that was a mouthful. Don’t worry. Even though we’ll be using a lot of these strategies throughout each lesson, we’ll zoom in on each one via blog and FB/IG Live for each installment.

I’ll also be dropping some of my favorite movie clips, too. You may think that most teacher movies are feel-good stereotypes, but I’d have to argue with you on that. Most of my classes start with a hook as powerful as Denzel Washington’s in “The Great Debaters.” In two minutes and thirty seconds, Denzel’s character spits two poems/quotes, from the Harlem Renaissance era, emphasizes a vocabulary word, and blends historical fact with a personal anecdote.

He uses three strategies in TWO MINUTES AND THIRTY SECONDS: Voice, Connection, and The Griot.


Although he’s using three strategies, in this moment, this lesson plan component is called the hook.

The Hook is a strategy to get scholars engaged in a lesson by introducing what’s interesting about the lesson in a brief, up-front manner. It’s your moment to shake them up, to get them behind the cause, to get ready to conquer whatever’s ahead.

For The League, we’d like you to hook your scholar with YOU.

We want you to use “The Griot” strategy and engage them to a story that’s your own or one you’re truly passionate about, that connects to the content of the story.

In two minutes and thirty seconds, like our brotha Denzel, you’ll pull your scholar in with a tale. Cater to the visual learner with personal/researched pictures from that era. Bring in your aural learner by telling the tale in a variety of voices. Allow your social learner to interject and ask a quick question or two. Give your solitary learner a few minutes, or a day in advance, to pour over the images and/or other materials alone.




My parents once took me to a theater that was closed down. It was the first place they’d had a date. When we got dressed for the evening, I had no idea where we’d be going. We drove into Flatbush, as they pointed to their old haunts. Some were still standing, some were not. It didn’t matter. I was just excited to envision the concrete of my parent’s childhood. Our last stop was the theater. It was closed down.

I jumped out of the car and tried to press my face against the glass doors. I asked what they ate, what movie they saw, and what they wore. They answered all of my questions and begged me to get back into the car on the cold December night. I never forgot that day. It wasn’t filled with a big surprise or treat, but it was a magnificent experience. The theater has been remodeled and reopened since. I’ve been inside and I can imagine my parent’s teenage awed voices whenever I take in its gorgeous interior. I can’t wait to take my own children there. I can’t wait to tell them its rich history and how our family is a part of it.


Walk/drive/run your scholar to a place that doesn’t look the same. Show them the evolution of that space through your eyes. Pull out a photo of you or a family member there. Sing them a song you used to sing during that era. Read them a poem that stuck with you, from that time. Tell them a quote your momma used to say to you. This is how new information latches to memories: through sight, sound, smell, and heart.


Mr. Williams told us that his entire family had no clue who his grandfather was, but he did. He was only fifteen. We had no idea what he was talking about but we were locked in. He told us to turn to page two of our packets. In front of us was the picture of a man that could’ve been Mr. Williams twin. He had deep brown eyes and was wearing a blazer. On that blazer, there was a star of David. Some of us remembered what this meant because we were visual learners and it had been emblazoned in our minds. We asked, “Was your grandfather in the…the…?”

It was at the tip of our tongues and he finished it for us, “The Holocaust.” This is how he started our unit on Elie Wiesel’s “Night.” He told us a story of his own. He brought in an image of his grandfather. I remember that ENTIRE UNIT. I talk about Mr. Williams all the time.


Remember what it was like to see your teacher in the grocery store? That’s the same feeling scholars get when you bring in a piece of YOU or something YOU LOVE into the classroom. They want to hear about your 6th-grade experience, your mother’s quilts, AND your family cat. (Please remember objectivity rules when it comes to sharing.) Your story should be connected to the changing of your neighborhood (like The League) or one you’re familiar with and passionate about. When you share this information, it must feel like something you’re entrusting scholars with. They will cherish it forever.

Got it? See how I did it with a story? *wink*

This is our goal for today’s lesson:

Get scholars to latch to the central text, so they can use it as a pathway to the vocabulary. Each lesson we’ll focus on a different National Common Core Standard. Today, we’re using this one:

Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

What are these strategies?

  • Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
  • Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., audience, auditory, audible).
  • Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.
  • Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).

Whenever I was at my grandmother’s house and I didn’t know a word that I came across in my textbook she would yell in Jamaican Creole (Patois), “Go tek up the dictionary and find out!”

This was helpful. Did I remember all the words I looked up? Not so much. Sure, we should have a dictionary to consult nearby. However, we should be leading scholars to meaning based on context clues and inferences too. Dictionaries should solidify our notions. There’s nothing cooler than opening up the dictionary after inferring a definition and realizing, “I was right!”

There are two copies of the text. One copy is for YOU and the other is for the educator. Your copy is filled with prompts and exemplar answers. Read these in advance. Try to be so prepared for your “lesson” that you won’t need your document while reading with your scholar. Keep it nearby, if you do. The scholar copy is open for annotations, interpretations, highlighting, and just plain ol’ aesthetic reading. I’m all about that too.

I’m looking forward to hearing how lesson one goes!

Teacher Edition: The League, Lesson One

Scholar Edition: The League, Lesson One

Wanna make sure you got the terms locked down, with your scholar, in this lesson? Do a verbal exit ticket! Ask scholars to sum up the words they learned in their own words

  • Do this right after your lesson.
  • Do this, as you take your next drive through your evolving neighborhood.

Don’t know what an exit ticket is? Head here. 

Need to know more about the different types of learners. Head here.