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 1
In the ClassroomShare this lesson with your peers to use as a learning opportunity or review the included ideas to support students' identity and awareness of others' diversity. Consider sharing a link to this article with parents to help them develop skills for discussing character issues and diversity at home. Use Padlet, reviewed here, to share this article with parents and curate other information from a variety of resources to support and provide education with dealing with character education issues at home.
Grades5 to 12
In the ClassroomInclude this article as part of your professional development activities within your grade level or building as a support for understanding best practices on how to address racial issues, bias, or any difficult conversations that arise in a classroom. One way to really focus on this topic is to discuss one of the ten specific ideas each month. As a staff, share situations where the idea worked well or discuss ways to continue building a supportive environment built upon the topic focus. If you use Microsoft products, create a collaborative document using OneNote, reviewed here, to share ideas and participate in online conversations. Google users may want to consider using Google Keep, reviewed here, as a collaborative tool.
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 2018 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 SuperNoteCard, reviewed here. SuperNoteCard is a virtual notecard taking tool similar to the familiar 3X5 index cards used for notetaking by hand. Use notecards 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 FlipGrid, reviewed here, as a platform for discussing difficult moments and ask students to share ways to handle biased or insensitive comments.
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. Learn how at this archived recording of an OK2Ask professional learning session.
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
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 Teachable Moments, reviewed here. At Teachable Moments find lesson plans based on articles and current topics, ready for download in PDF format. 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 SuperNotecard, 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.
Grades2 to 8
In the ClassroomA stident ecperiencing depression may find it difficult to discuss. Use this site with individual students on a case by case basis or in a health unit on emotions. Also, setting up rotating stations where students can learn about other social/emotional skills in a week is a good idea. To see other offerings from this same site, check out e-learning for kids - Life Skills, reviewed here. The text portions might be challenging for ESL/ELL and younger students. Partner stronger readers to help or navigate as a class on a projector or whiteboard. Put a link for this site on a classroom web page or blog for parents and students to use at home. Share this resource on your class website for parents and students to use at home.
GradesK to 6
This site includes advertising.
In the ClassroomDownload books from Iris the Dragon for use in mental health lessons or to address specific classroom concerns. Use books as a read-aloud and display on your interactive whiteboard or projector during class meetings. Again, use the books to raise student awareness and empathy levels for differences in people inside and outside of class. Print and laminate books for use in guided reading lessons. Share this site on your class website for students (and parents) to read together at home. You may want to use the books in conjunction with the Empathy video series and the activity Ripples of Kindness at Big Ideas Video Series, reviewed here.
GradesK to 1
In the ClassroomUse this at a center, or a way to start difficult conversations about feelings or situations. Share the interactives or videos on your projector or interactive whiteboard. Use the printables for students to create their own adventures for Daniel Tiger. Have your class create an adventure for Daniel Tiger. Put the stories into a class book. Take this idea to a new level, and create your own "neighborhood" in your class. Each student can add their own experiences with podcasts, videos, or writing. Have students create podcasts using a site such as Spreaker (reviewed here).
Grades6 to 12
In the ClassroomUse this site as part of a science or health class on drug and health related topics. Share this site in a collection of links for students to reference when researching such topics. Have students role-play a video or create a talking avatar on how to resist peer pressure to try drugs. Use a tool such as Voki, reviewed here.
Grades7 to 12
In the ClassroomUsing controversial topics that have more than one side is a great way to develop critical thinking and problem solving. Find issues on this site that relate to your curriculum and use them as an entry point for a new unit. Use the teaching resources found under the Teacher's Corner. Use this site to teach how to distinguish facts from opinions, using information to write essays or create speeches, or hold a class debate. Help students develop flexibility in their thinking by having them take part in a difficult conversation and argue a side they do NOT agree with. Focus on critical thinking with your students to develop skills needed for life. Use as a whole class activity or for individual students to find an issue of interest to them. Gifted students often think deeply on such issues at an early age and will find these topics of great interest. Use this site to guide a deliberate discussion or debate.
I also love this site, but I don't see any advertising on there at all. The site is free. Not sure how they stay afloat but I'm glad they do. For me, it is better than Opposing Viewpoints database for its depth, ease of use, and lack of registration/passwords. I use it for student debates on current events, and my wife (an English teacher) uses it for persuasive essays and role play debates.ProCon, , Grades: 0 - 12
I've used this and it's great! Balanced, has good resources. Helps students see both sides of an issue.Frances, CT, Grades: 6 - 8