Good Hair: Exploring Identity and Questioning Expectations

Related Links

Download All Files for this Guide (zip file)

Standards for this Guide

Read Good Hair in the Magazine


The halls of every high school house a daily parade of hair and clothing styles that can change and shift at a dizzying pace. What might be an ostensibly superficial spectacle to onlookers actually signals a momentous process of self-exploration and identity experimentation. As educator Chuck Glaeser notes, “Adolescents are in a constant state of flux, where they are attempting to define who they are and who they will become. They also have to learn to filter and synthesize the various messages about identity from a multitude of sources: parents, teachers, coaches, community and religious leaders, the media, and peers, which yield questions such as: Who am I? Am I okay, or should I change? Who should I be? How do I become what people want me to be?”  High school students’ fashion choices are simultaneously public and personal manifestations of their inner struggle with these questions.

In these lessons, students will read and study the essay “Good Hair,” and use it as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of identity, family, gender, race, and appearance.


Standards met through this curriculum

Learning Outcomes/Essential Questions

Students will:

  1. Use textual evidence to analyze narrative literary techniques and structure.
  2. Explore issues of identity, family, gender, race, and appearance, while demonstrating their ELA and history/social studies skills through reader response, narrative writing, and/or discussion.

Essential Questions:

  1. How does our outer appearance (hairstyle, fashion choices, etc.) express who we are?
  2. Why is it important to share and understand the identity and appearance stories of ourselves and others, and how might these stories shape the ways in which we live and relate to one another?
  3. What gives our lives meaning that has nothing to do with our outer appearances, and what do we have in common with others simply as human beings?
  4. What are the obstacles and opportunities that people experience based on their identities and appearances, and how can we best address these obstacles to create more equal opportunities for all?
  5. How do we define success and opportunity in our families and society, and in what ways can we choose to accept and/or reject these definitions?

Depth of Knowledge (DOK)

Levels 1, 2, 3, 4

For more information on DOK, see DOK Slide Wheel


Computers/devices with which students may produce and publish their writing (optional)


Download All Files for this Guide (zip file)

Writing Scoring Guides

ODE Narrative Writing Scoring Guide (English)

ODE Narrative Writing Scoring Guide (Spanish)

ODE Writing Scoring Guide in Student Language (English)

ODE Writing Scoring Guide in Student Language (Spanish)


  1. Review all resources and decide which components you will include and how many lessons to allot for this curriculum. (Note: Almost every component can be used as a stand-alone piece or combined with other components.)
  2. Read and take notes on the “Good Hair” essay.
  3. Review and prepare your chosen handouts.
  4. Decide what formatting and length specifications, and writing process steps, you will require for the narrative writing assessment.
  5. Preview and prepare optional extensions.

Reading Strategies

  1. Model and instruct students to use the AVID® Marking the Text: Social Studies strategy as they read the article.
    1. Before reading, number the paragraphs. (A paragraph begins at any break in the text, even if it is not indented.)
    2. While reading, circle key vocabulary, dates, names, places, events, and important numbers/statistics.
    3. After reading, go back and re-read sections, underlining strong images, descriptions, dialogue, and author’s reflections.
  2. While reading, pause at various places and model the think-aloud strategy to demonstrate comprehension/summarization of the text.
  3. Model and instruct students to use the Learn-Read-Discuss strategy.
    1. Introduce major concepts of this curriculum using the warm-up. Ask students to use the think-pair-share strategy to discuss and process these concepts using the warm-up questions.
    2. Students read article (using teacher’s designated strategies).
    3. Students engage in individual reflection, then small- or large-group discussion, synthesizing information from the warm-up and article.
  4. You may choose to give advanced readers the SOAPS Text Analysis handout for tracking the author’s argument and purpose during their reading. Students’ observations using this strategy can be incorporated into later lesson steps, such as discussion and writing responses.

Instructional Plan

  1. Introduction:
         Tell students that they will complete a warm-up activity to help them better understand the essay they will read (Listen-Read-Discuss strategy). Lead students through the warm-up questions, giving them time to think and record their responses. Use a think-pair-share to review the questions before moving on.
  2. Vocabulary (optional differentiation):
    1. Frontload vocabulary and concepts from the essay prior to reading. Provide definitions or ask students to look up and record definitions. As an alternative, delay adding definitions until after reading, and ask students to use context to determine preliminary definitions as they read.
    2. Ask students to identify and circle vocabulary words in the essay as they read.
    3. After reading, review and clarify vocabulary words, and ask students to write down the sentence from the essay that uses each word.
  3. Dialectical journal:
         Present the dialectical journal and model how students should look for quotations and take notes as they read. After introducing the reading strategies you will use, read the essay with students or ask them to read silently. If reading aloud, pause to review, synthesize information, and model note-taking at various points during the reading process.
         Give students time to review the text and add more quotations and responses to their dialectical journals. Consider using a think-pair-share or mini-discussion as an informal assessment of reading and responses.
  4. Narrative writing assessment:
         Help students break down the narrative writing prompt and discuss the specific requirements you have set for this assessment, along with the timeline and steps of the writing process (pre-writing, drafting, editing, revising, publishing) students will complete. Give students time to brainstorm and share their ideas during the pre-writing stage, and use think-pair-shares, exit slips, and/or other methods as informal assessment.
  5. “Good Hair” post-discussion (optional extension):
         Ask students to prepare all of their notes and previous work on the “Good Hair” essay. Share the discussion rubric and give students additional instructions on discussion expectations and format. Set up instructional time to include discussion preparation, the discussion itself, and de-briefing after the discussion. You may want to have students turn in their notes for a writing portion of the overall discussion grade.


ELL and SPED Supports: Scaffolded assignment options, vocabulary, reading strategies

TAG Extensions: Leadership opportunities during discussion and/or Socratic Seminar, “Mothers to Daughters,” “Being Brown,” “Group Therapy,” “I Am Not My Hair” song and lyrics, additional resources and related reading

SOAPS text analysis handout to use during reading

Assessment/Student Performance Tasks

  1. Dialectical journal/reader response and discussion (Formative)
  2. Narrative writing assessment (Can be used as formative or summative)
  3. Post-discussion (Can be used as formative or summative)

Additional Resources/Related Reading

Good Hair. Directed by Jeff Stilson, performances by Chris Rock, Maya Angelou, and Al Sharpton, Roadside Attractions, 2009.

Weitz, Rose. Rapunzel’s Daughters: What Women’s Hair Tells Us about Women’s Lives. Macmillan, 2004.

Optional Extensions

Mothers to Daughters

“Being Brown”

Group Therapy

"I Am Not My Hair” song and lyrics

Radio interview with Kimberly Melton