The Power of Belonging | Facing History & Ourselves
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The Power of Belonging

Students discuss the first half of Bethany Morrow’s short story “As You Were” and create character maps as a way of exploring the character of Ebony’s identity and sense of belonging in her school community.


One 50-min class period


  • English & Language Arts




English — US



About This Lesson

Bethany Morrow’s short story “As You Were,” originally published in the collection Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance, invites students to consider the ways in which their aspects of their identity and membership in certain groups can impact their power, agency, and voice. 

The first half of the story introduces readers to the main characters and establishes the strong bond they share as members of a successful high school marching band as it prepares for homecoming. The second half of the story reveals the fragility of this bond and challenges readers to consider the privileges that their identities may or may not afford them, and the very real risks and rewards that can come with having the courage to speak up in the face of injustice. 

In this lesson, students will draw evidence from the first half of the story, which they read for homework, to create character maps in order to consider Ebony’s relationship to other characters in the story, as well as her sense of belonging and agency as the leader of her marching band’s trombone section.

How do I empower myself to take action on behalf of myself and others?

  • What is the relationship between agency and belonging? 
  • How is your identity, sense of belonging, and agency shaped by the people and circumstances you encounter in your life?
  • Engage with real and imagined stories that help them understand their own coming-of-age experiences and how others experience the world.
  • Practice perspective-taking in order to develop empathy and recognize the limits of any one person’s point of view.

This lesson is designed to fit into one 50-minute class period and includes:

  • 1 short story, available in English and Spanish
  • 2 handouts, available in English and Spanish
  • Suggested homework

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this lesson, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

This lesson’s homework assignment calls for students to read the second half of the short story “As You Were” by Bethany Morrow. Students will also complete the Analyzing Actions and Outcomes handout for one character: Ebony, Josiah, or the police officer. You can assign students one of the characters or have them count off. If you are not able to assign this task for homework, you will need to add time to this text set so students can finish reading the story and complete the handout assignment in class.

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Lesson Plans


Project the following questions and have students turn and talk to discuss them with a partner. Then ask a few volunteers to share their ideas with the class: 

  • What does it mean to belong? 
  • How do we develop a sense of belonging?

Let students know that they will be using evidence from the text, and their own understanding of the world, to analyze Ebony’s thoughts, feelings, motivations, and sense of belonging in the first part of the story. Move students into groups of four and start by asking them to share a heart or emoji annotation from their homework and explain their reasoning. Then have them spend a few minutes discussing places in the story where they felt confused and examples of evidence they found that helps them understand Ebony’s sense of belonging and agency. 

Pass out the Map the Internal World of a Character handout and have groups discuss the questions, adding evidence in the corresponding sections of the graphic organizer on the second page of the handout.

Instruct two students from each group to move to a new group. They should bring their Map the Internal World of a Character handouts and copies of their stories with them. Each pair should share ideas from the second page of the handout with their new partners. Then have groups discuss the following questions:

  • What ideas do you notice appearing on all of your character maps? 
  • What new ideas do you notice on the other pair’s maps that you find interesting?

If time allows, repeat this process, with two students from each group moving to form new groups of four. Then discuss the following questions as a whole class: 

  • What do you think belonging to the marching band means to Ebony? How do you know? 
  • How would you describe Ebony’s agency at this point in the story? What factors contribute to her agency? What makes you say that?

Students should finish reading “As You Were” and complete the Analyzing Actions and Outcomes handout for Ebony, Josiah, or the police officer for the second half of the story. Assign students a character to focus on for the handout and let them know that they will be sharing their ideas in the next class period.

Materials and Downloads

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