Counter Narratives

Alternative Text, Missing Perspective, Critical Reading

Counter Narratives are written, oral, and visual representations that allow students to examine alternate perspectives that may be missing or underrepresented. For any given topic, teachers should select resources that represent a wide range of viewpoints, challenge stereotypical assumptions, and illustrate the diversity and complexity of our world. Students develop critical reading and thinking skills by exploring and analyzing experiences and perspectives that differ from the traditional narrative. In addition to teacher-provided resources, students can also construct Counter Narratives themselves. For example, when learning about immigration trends in the United States, students can interview family members who have moved to the U.S. and use this information to write a story about an immigrant family that challenges traditional assumptions. Using Counter Narratives increases student engagement and builds a positive classroom community that validates students’ identities, values, and experiences.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Online Resources

Websites with Counter Narrative Resources

List of websites with counter narrative resources. Access the websites provided to find materials that can be used in lessons or activities to help students explore different perspectives and gain a deeper understanding of an event or topic.

Grade 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · English Language Arts, Reading, Writing · 1 pages

Implementation Tips

Selecting Texts
When selecting counter narratives to use during a class activity, consider student backgrounds and experiences. Some questions to think about are: What narratives would challenge some of the assumptions my students have about themselves or the world? Are there missing perspectives that if included would inspire or motivate my students? A student inventory can be used to gain a better understanding of student interests and personal background.
Classroom Library
Consider including counter narratives and texts that represent a range of perspectives in your classroom library. The [[|Central Text Anthology]] prepared by Teaching Tolerance and [[|Scholastic’s Trade Books to Use When Teaching Critical Literacy]] lists numerous texts for all grade levels that encourage students to question common understandings and consider multiple viewpoints.
Discussion Questions
Engage students in a critical analysis of a text by asking open-ended questions like: Whose perspective is this representing? Whose voice is missing? What might be a counter narrative to the perspective presented in this text?
Students Write Own Counter Narratives
Have students develop his or her own counter narratives. Prior to writing, it may be helpful to have students reflect and define their own Multicultural Self. Teaching Tolerance's Multicultural Self [[ |Lesson Plan]] and Multicultural Self [[|Graphic Organizer]] can be used as a pre-writing activity.
Online Resources
Websites can be used to find primary source documents, photos, and other texts to help students better understand the complexity of an issue/event and differing perspectives. Click here for: [[| A List of Websites With Counter Narrative Resources]]


Social Awareness and Inclusion
Working in groups, students can examine a text, image (advertisements, photos, etc.), or song and discuss what story or message is being conveyed. After reflecting on their own lives and experiences, groups can then create or find an alternative text that presents a different viewpoint or challenges the assumptions being made in their original text. For example, after seeing an advertisement with a large family eating an extravagant Thanksgiving dinner in a nice house, a group might choose to write an alternative text about a girl who spends Thanksgiving Day visiting her father in the hospital and comes home to a small apartment to share a simple meal with her mother.
Critical Reading and Discussion
After reading a text, ask students to select two perspectives to analyze (both may be represented in the text, or one may appear in the text and the other silenced or missing from the text). Next, instruct students to sketch the silhouettes of two heads. In each silhouette have students write, draw, or create collages to represent the person’s perspective. The completed portraits can then be shared with peers and used as a starting point for a class discussion of how the author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text and perspectives of different characters.
Theme-Based Focus Groups (Jigsaw)
Theme-based focus groups can be used to help students compare and contrast one author's presentation of events with that of another. First, choose a text to read aloud to the class on a particular topic or event. Next, present several theme-related texts representing a variety of perspectives on the same topic or event. After reading the whole-class text, break students into small groups, with each group reading and discussing a different theme-related text ([[|Jigsaw Student Notetaking Forms]]). When groups have finished reading, reorganize students into new groups with others who have read a different related text and have them share their learnings.
Historical Perspectives (Gallery Walk)
A gallery walk can give students the opportunity to explore places and historical events and extend the mainstream narratives presented in history textbooks. To create a gallery walk, choose a topic (person, time period, or event) and select a variety of related artifacts and primary sources. Try to select both images and texts that present perspectives that are missing from the traditional narrative of the topic. For each source, write guiding questions that encourage students analyze, compare, or relate to the information presented by the artifact. Post or display artifacts and the guiding questions in the classroom and allow time for students to explore the resources independently or in small groups.
Social Emotional Learning
When a student is facing a challenging situation (conflict with a friend, frustration at school, etc.) encourage them to create counter narratives. Students can draw a picture or write a story that depicts the situation from a different perspective or presents a new or different outcome. The student-created counter narrative can then be used to guide discussions of alternate approaches to addressing the issue.

Related Strategies