TeachersFirst's Resources Related to Difficult Conversations
As teachers, we frequently tackle uncomfortable subjects in the classroom, but polarizing public conversations or events in the news can sometimes make these subjects downright difficult to discuss with students. The resources in this collection will give you ideas on how to start and facilitate tough conversations about topics like inequality, injustice, and politics sensitively while still accomplishing learning goals. You’ll also find lessons and activities to encourage respectful conversation, inclusivity, empathy, and understanding.
GradesK to 5
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In the ClassroomEngage students by introducing your Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen tasks with the Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse official trailer at the bottom of the page. Discover activities for learners aged 5-16 years. Fuel your student's interest with these entertaining, curriculum-aligned, Spider-Man activities! Use one of the writing prompts for a creative warm-up activity. Play interactive games on computers as a part of daily station rotations. Free downloadable activities include occupational therapy, fine motor skills, writing prompts, reading comprehension passages, interactive games, and math activities.
In the ClassroomUse the materials provided by iCivics as part of your ongoing professional learning on discussing controversial topics in the classroom. Each teaching guide includes tips and information on choosing subjects, teaching strategies, and more. As you learn how to facilitate productive dialogue and gather additional resources, use Wakelet, reviewed here to curate and share resources. Find many additional resources on the TeachersFirst Special Topics Page - Resources Related to Difficult Conversations, located here.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomProject Ready's modules are designed for use by individuals or small groups. Although this content is directed at library services, the information is invaluable for anyone who works with youth. Follow the curriculum for your personal growth or as a grade or content-level peer group. Completing all of the modules requires an extended time period; in fact, it might be helpful to use for professional development over two years instead of one school year. If you and your peers don't have time to complete all of the curricula, consider choosing individual modules based on your desired professional development goals and school needs to study as a group or for your own personal development.
Grades3 to 12
In the ClassroomDiscover the many ready-to-go, short, focused activities found on this site during any lessons on social issues and current events. Each lesson features discussion questions, after class discussions ask students to share their thoughts using an online blogging tool such as edublogs, reviewed here. Have students include information and links that reinforce their ideas. For older students, use Perusal, reviewed here, as a collaborative tool for sharing and discussing issues and ideas in online articles.
Grades10 to 12
In the ClassroomThis lesson plan includes many excellent activities and resources that work well as a stand-alone lesson or to incorporate into your current history units as a supplement to provide a new perspective that highlights bias, gender, and civil rights issues. Discussing LBGTQ issues may lead to difficult conversations in the classroom; use this lesson to provide factual information within current history lessons. This site includes a variety of ideas and descriptions of teaching strategies that work well with any lesson. Be sure to bookmark this page to use as a reference for strategies to incorporate within many of your current units. One strategy mentioned is the use of exit cards as a reflective response or class discussion. Learn more about incorporating exit tickets as an authentic learning activity by viewing the archive of the July 2021 OK2Ask webinar, Measuring Authentic Learning Activities with Exit Slips, reviewed here. Consider sharing this lesson with your school's guidance counselor to use when counseling students who are dealing with identity or gender issues.
Grades9 to 12
In the ClassroomInclude this article with your other resources to discuss racism, bias, or when addressing difficult conversations in the classroom. Use a curation tool like Padlet, reviewed here, to share and discuss articles, videos, and online information. As students research and learn more from other authors, help them organize information using Webnote, reviewed here. Webnote is a virtual sticky note (think notecard) taking tool similar to the the physical sticky notes and can be used in place of 3X5 cards used for notetaking by hand. Use Webnote to keep a list of authors and articles, jot down big ideas, and compare suggestions for making positive changes.
Grades9 to 12
In the ClassroomThe Whiteness Project provides a unique and interesting resource for introducing and discussing difficult topics in the classroom, including racism, prejudice, bias, and empathy. Share this site with students and provide them time to listen to some of the conversations and the provided statistics. Encourage students to choose one statistic as a starting point for additional research. For example, one piece of data shared is the number of adults who have two or more races in their background. This provides a starting point for researching race in your community, state, or in the country. As students complete research, ask them to share their findings in a multimedia presentation using a tool like Sway, reviewed here, to add graphs, charts, images, and video that support their findings.
Grades9 to 12
In the ClassroomInclude this podcast as a resource for lessons on racism, bias, or when facing difficult conversations in the classroom. Be sure to sign up to listen to the newest podcasts on your favorite resource and scroll through the archives to find relevant recordings beginning in 2016. As students listen to podcasts, use Google Slides, reviewed here, to create a reflective document for students to share important information from the podcast along with any questions or information for further research. Use the podcasts as a model for students to create their own podcasts on any topic. Search ReadWriteThink, reviewed here, to find many tools to help students develop interesting podcasts including rubrics, podcast tutorials, and a lesson plan for teaching with podcasts. When students are ready to record and share their podcasts, Buzzsprout, reviewed here, is a free podcasting tool that provides options for scheduling broadcasts, adding chapters, and much more.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomAll classrooms face difficult conversations at some point; bookmark this article to use as inspiration on how to address those moments and help students understand and develop empathy for others. Even if you don't have time for an extended lesson, encourage students to think beyond the moment by creating a Padlet, reviewed here, that curates and shares resources based upon your conversation. For example, one topic discussed in the article is "bonding" teasing and "annoying" teasing. Ask students to share examples of teasing in a Padlet that has columns for each form discussed. Use Flip, reviewed here, as a platform for discussing difficult moments and ask students to share ways to handle biased or insensitive comments.
Grades5 to 12
In the ClassroomShare the resource guides with parents and students on your class website to use when facing any of the covered topics. Use Padlet, reviewed here, or Wakelet, reviewed here, to curate and share helpful guides for parents and students within one collection. As you and your class discuss problems that face teens, ask students to use Canva Edu, reviewed here, to share what they learn. For example, have students create posters to display in the classroom that include the dangers of drug abuse and include tips for helping someone that displays signs of drug abuse. Ask other students to design and share infographics that include facts and figures discussing cyberbullying, along with suggestions on how to respond to bullies.
Grades6 to 12
In the ClassroomAs an introduction to the lesson, one of the activities is to ask students to brainstorm a list of teens' news resources and a list of news resources used by parents or older people. Use Microsoft Whiteboard, reviewed here, or Google Jamboard, reviewed here, to create and analyze your lists. Use the whiteboard tools to create lists, Venn Diagrams, and add notes to extend student reflections on different news sources. Turn the Know-Heard-Learned Chart included in the lesson into an editable worksheet to use as a collaborative document to record student understanding of any events' timeline.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomShare this article with parents to use as a guide when talking to their child about any difficult topic. Consider creating a collection of articles using Wakelet, reviewed here, and share with parents to use at home. Be sure to keep the suggestions in mind for use in the classroom when addressing difficult subjects or as you address controversies that arise throughout the school year.
Grades5 to 7
In the ClassroomBe sure to follow suggestions for age appropriateness and have appropriate parental permission when using this site in the classroom. Share this site with school counselors and teachers of sex education. Use Amaze as a resource for discussions involving relationships, personal safety, and other teen and preteen issues. When appropriate, share a link to videos on your class webpage. Amaze is an excellent site to share with parents as they face difficult issues that arise during the teen years. Have students create personal blogs for their private reflection about these videos and discussions.
Grades4 to 12
tag(s): bullying (48), character education (74), difficult conversations (55), mental health (31), mentoring (5), school violence (10), social and emotional learning (72), social skills (22), sports (76)
In the ClassroomShare this program with your school's athletic coaches, physical education teachers, school counselors, and parents who coach athletic teams. Use the program locator to find nearby communities involved with the program. Invite a local coach to speak to young men in your school regarding healthy relationship skills. Extend technology use and student learning by having them create a newspaper featuring sports role models using a site such as Printing Press, reviewed here.
Grades4 to 12
In the ClassroomHave this lesson handy when a controversial or contentious subject emerges. You just never know when that will happen, but you can run with it if you prepare using these NewseumEd guidelines. Share them with students, so they will understand what they need to do to participate successfully in a discussion or debate. Are there no issues at hand? Try finding one using Code Switch, reviewed here. At Code Switch find award-winning journalists from a variety of races to share their perspectives on current issues. Try giving students a choice! Show them several subjects and use Dotstorming, reviewed here, to comment and vote on topics for the discussion. Use the opportunity to hone students information literacy skills by reviewing how to evaluate and cite sources. Once they have researched their topic, and are ready to discuss, use a tool such as Thinkalong, reviewed here, to practice their discussion and argument strategies. With older students, a next step might be to take the debate public using Virtual Debate, reviewed here, which has online examples and resources for conducting virtual debates.
Grades8 to 12
In the ClassroomBe sure to include this site on your class webpage for students to access both in and outside of class as a resource for hearing how peers handle difficult teenage issues. Share a link with parents as a resource for them to use with their teen. Remind parents to PREVIEW! Be sure to share with your school's counselor as an excellent tool for use when working with students. Listen to episodes together with your class, and then have cooperative learning groups create podcasts discussing specific issues found in your school or classroom. Use a tool such as podOmatic, reviewed here. Before beginning the podcast, have students create a storyboard using a tool like Notepad, reviewed here. They will also need to develop a script and practice. Try using Typewrite, reviewed here, for students to write the script collaboratively. This tool allows groups to write together. All the tools mentioned in this review will augment classroom technology use.
Grades7 to 12
In the ClassroomUse Go Ask Alice! as a resource for teen health classes. Share the link with parents as a valuable resource for answering difficult questions related to teen health. Share with your school's counselors for use as a tool when discussing health issues with students.
GradesK to 6
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