Since I spent nineteen years as a community organizer prior to becoming a public school teacher, I feel pretty strongly that one of the key purposes of schools is to help prepare students to participate actively in a democratic society, and to help them reflect on how they can make their society better.
There are many resources out there that teachers can draw on for ideas on how to do that effectively in the classroom without doing it in a dogmatic way and, instead, doing it in a way that helps students connect current and historical issues of justice and injustice with their own personal stories, and the stories of their families.
Here are the resources that I’ve found most useful to me, though the sites in this “The Best…” list are not ranked in any particular order.
With these links, as with all the sites I share in this blog, you have to pick-and-choose from the resources they contain to determine what makes most sense in your situation.
Here are my picks for The Best Teacher Resource Sites For Social Justice Issues:
Facing History is officially called “Facing History and Ourselves: Helping Classrooms and Communities Worldwide Link the Past To Moral Choices Today.” It’s a mouthful, but does accurately portray their work. It’s quite an impressive international organization, and people whom I respect have worked closely with them and speak highly of their work. Their website has a lot of useful resources.
Rethinking Schools has been helping spread the word about bringing social justice into the classroom for years through its exceptional magazine and their excellent books. Their archives of past issues are available for free on the Web.
Teaching Tolerance is probably familiar to a lot of readers from their widely distributed magazine. They offer some incredibly useful and well-done materials for free, including some excellent DVD’s and videos on the Civil Rights Movement.
EdChange has a number of good useful hand-outs, plus sends out a regular email newsletter. Some of the materials are a little too ideological for me, but, nevertheless, they have some good resources. I also have to give its director, Paul Gorski, an incredible amount of credit for developing research-based critiques on the work of Ruby Payne. Ms. Payne’s perspective (popular, unfortunately, among many school districts) on how schools should work with low-income families is not only, I think, destructive, but it’s also an inaccurate “blaming the victim” analysis.
Even though I’m not a math teacher and, in fact, hate math, but other math teachers whom I respect have spoken highly about the lessons available at Radical Math.
Oxfam Educational Resources offers excellent online and classroom materials on international development issues.
Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People’s History is a collaboration between Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change! As their announcement states:
The new site features over 75 free, downloadable teaching activities for middle- and high- school students to bring a people’s history to the classroom. These are the best U.S. history-teaching articles from the Rethinking Schools archives. The site also lists hundreds of recommended books, films, and websites. The teaching activities and resources are organized by theme, time period, and grade level.
Though teachers would have to modify the materials to make them accessible to English Language Learners, the site is truly extraordinarily. It’s development is timed with last night’s debut on the History Channel of The People Speak presentation. It was narrated by Howard Zinn and based on his best-selling books, A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States.
YES Magazine has a number of useful classroom materials on environmental and social justice issues.
Lucinda Leugers, a professor at Urbana University, compiled (with help from the Rethinking Schools listserv) an extensive list of books related to social justice that can be used in the classroom. She’s given me permission to upload it here.
Teaching Tolerance, the organization justifiably well-known for developing very good social-justice oriented teaching resources, has unveiled: “Perspectives for a Diverse America… a literacy-based curriculum that marries anti-bias social justice content with the rigor of the Common Core State Standards.”
It’s a very ambitious site, and I think most teachers will find the highlight to be 300 great texts, often from larger works, all set-up to print out and copy for students. Those are a gold mine!
I hate to say it, but I generally found the site’s set-up to be fairly convoluted and confusing to navigate, though others may very well feel differently. But, whether you agree with me or not on that, I’m sure you’re going to agree that the texts are a wonderful resource.
You do have to register in order to access the site, but it takes a minute to do so.
This Teacher Taught His Class A Powerful Lesson About Privilege is from BuzzFeed.
6 Videos To Use In Your Social Justice Lessons is from Teach Thought.
Here is how it describes itself:
Split This Rock explores and celebrates the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world.
Split This Rock is dedicated to revitalizing poetry as a living, breathing art form with profound relevance in our daily lives and struggles. Our programs integrate poetry of provocation and witness into movements for social justice and support the poets of all ages who write and perform this vital work.
It looks like a great site, and I think teachers will particularly like that it’s searchable by theme and through other categories.
Teaching Democracy: A Hands-On Exercise (Tara Kini) is from Larry Cuban’s blog.
“He Named Me Malala”: Understanding student activism through film – Lesson Plan is from the PBS News Hour and offers a lot of good ideas and resources.
Feel free to offer feedback on this list.
If you found this post useful, you might want to check out my other “The Best…” lists.
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