National Writing Project

Rethinking Research: Reading and Writing about the Roots of Gentrification

Publication: English Journal
Date: 2015

Summary: Linda Christensen explains a unit on gentrification, wherein students at a predominantly African-American high school in Portland, OR explored the roots and drivers of the gentrification rapidly transforming their neighborhood through primary source research, role-play, neighborhood exploration, and historical fiction writing.


We started the unit with a 'mixer.' This strategy stimulates student interest and builds background knowledge prior to leaping into a new unit. The mixer included 18 roles that introduced students to the historical and contemporary figures who peopled this history. Armed with key information about the individuals they were assigned to portray, students learned about practices such as redlining and eminent domain—policies that promoted segregation and dispossession—but they also learned about how those terms affected the people whose lives they represented during the mixer. As students assumed the roles and walked about meeting other historical characters, they began collecting knowledge about three periods of this history: Vanport flood and redlining, Urban Renewal and the bulldozing of Albina homes and businesses, and contemporary gentrification."

About the Author

LINDA CHRISTENSEN taught high school language arts for nearly 40 years, and is currently an instructor at Lewis and Clark College and the director of the Oregon Writing Project.

Copyright © 2015 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Used with permission.

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