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Resources for Distance, Virtual, & Online Learning

Teaching After the Attack on the Capitol

The following is a collection of resources, learning and discussion prompts, and encouragement for educators as you help students understand what happened on January 6th, 2021.

  • January 6th and its Effects on Education: PDK International

    Kappan magazine's upcoming issue — focusing on the theme Whose truth do we teach? — includes a number of articles on the challenges involved in leading classroom debates, teaching students about propaganda, and negotiating conflicts over curricular content. In the coming weeks, we’ll provide members with discussion questions to facilitate ongoing dialogue about these topics.

    In addition, partners and friends of PDK International have produced the following content for understanding and emotionally processing the events of January 6, 2021.

    Resources compiled and shared by PDK International

  • Teaching Strategies & Thoughts from other Educators

    Tricia Ebarvia, 1/6/2021:
    "After Parkland, I knew I had to make space for students to process. I asked students to write: 1) What I know, 2) What I think I know, & 3) What I want to know. Through the confusion and grief, this allowed us to reflect from a place of humility and curiosity. I will be doing this tomorrow."

    Jess Lifshitz. (5th grade):
    "Keeping students and their thinking at the center of our work as we work to understand the world unfolding around us. We can take an inquiry stance to help teach a process students can use to responsibly understand the world." Asking Questions As News Unfolds

    Alex Shevrin Venet (@AlexSVenet), 1/6/2021:
    "Teachers: it is more than OK if you decide you're not grounded enough to help your students process tomorrow. It's OK to say "I don't have the answers." It's ok to model taking some time to make sense of things. It’s ok to just process feelings. It's ok to collaborate with your colleagues.

    Don't ignore what's happening, of course. But if you cannot plan an effective lesson, it's ok to admit that and ask for help.

    When we jump to intellectualize things really fast we're sending a message. Slow down. It's ok to just process feelings.

    I'm sorry, it's so hard. Don't feel like you have to fix it all in one day. You are enough."

    Woke Kindergarten, 1/6/2021:
    "Spot the Difference:
    Tonight’s #WokeKindergarten 60 Second Text is called Spot the Difference, & it’s meant to be used as a facilitative anchor for kids to interrogate the implications of white supremacy in this country by contrasting the ways BLM protestors & Tr*mp supporters are treated by p*lice."

    Sarah Ahmed:
    "Teachers: Here is a slide link from the "What's in Your News?" lesson in #BeingtheChange. I included steps, a model I did with my advisory on 11/4, & a blank slide for you to make a copy and use. I hope it can be of help to you."

     Katrice Quitter:
     "Kids' news gives us immediate, relevant opportunities for practicing the skills of social comprehension. More importantly, examining it with kids helps them to make sense of their world."

    What happens the day(s) after the world hands us a curriculum?


  • Don't Overthink Your Lesson Plan

    Ursula Wolfe-Rocca"

    "Not that anyone asked me (on here), but my advice to teachers regarding tomorrow: don't overthink your lesson plan; just make sure your lesson plan is about this moment and makes space for your students' questions & concerns.

         By "overthink" I mean tomorrow is probably not the day to plan a text/video/activity-heavy lesson to try to make sense of this moment; but you should think about the Qs your students might have, how you'll create space for them to ask & discuss them, & how you'll respond.

        If it were me, I would plan a very simple opening writing task: What do you know about what happened yesterday? What questions do you have? Following that, we'd discuss & process & keep a running list of questions for further inquiry. Nothing fancy here.

         Hayley Brenden sent out a nice example of making space in a way — in my experience of teaching kids in the midst of chaotically unfolding events — that makes a lot of good sense.

    Hayley’s text:

    Text of what I sent: Hey everyone, Thank you for a wonderful first day back to class. While we were in class today, some events began in the US Capital that I want to ensure you have space to process and discuss.  We will be using tomorrow's class time (Thursday's class) to do this, and to connect today's events to other events in history.  So, please watch the two short videos and follow the directions for the history terms in preparation for FRIDAY's class, not tomorrow's class.  I think it's really important that we have space to look at facts and process our reactions to today's events.  If you have any questions, please send me schoology messages - due to these events, I'll be checking them several times for the rest of the night.

    (the videos were already on the agenda for Thursday– they aren’t specific to today’s events)

    I think it is really important that we teachers think (& read) hard about how we want to frame what's happening honestly & clearly. I just don't think tomorrow is the day to info-dump on kids. They get the floor.

    When I ask students to write what they know, it sometimes inevitably morphs into "what I thought I knew," & it is super important to have a shame-free plan/approach for addressing misinformation."

  • Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event

     As pro-Trump extremists stormed into the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, middle school teacher Shawn Griffith traded messages with her peers about how they would help their students process the unprecedented event.

         “We are all like ‘Oh my gosh. What are we going to do tomorrow?’” said Griffith, who teaches 8th-grade English in Fairfax County, Va., about 20 miles from Capitol Hill who spoke after school had concluded for the day.

           Protests turned to violence in the nation’s capital as rioters interrupted a joint session of Congress held to certify the presidential election.

          The resulting news footage would likely trouble some children as much as it troubled the adults around them, educators said. And even students who don’t fully understand the events may feel a sense of instability as the adults in their lives react to current events.

          How should teachers address those emotions so that students can continue learning, especially in a school environment already disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis?

    The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has created a free online course for pre-K through 12th grade educators called “Managing Emotions in Times of Uncertainty & Stress.”

         Experts on social-emotional learning say it’s crucial for educators to help students identify their own feelings, to understand the effects adults have on students’ emotional stability, and to recognize teachable moments on tough news days.

           “There are kids who are [going to be] legitimately coming in with different perspectives that are associated with different feelings,” said Marc Brackett, a psychologist and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. “What’s important is not to tell people that they shouldn’t be angry or they can’t be fearful. There’s no judgment about the emotion ... What you can try to unpack is the reasons for their feelings and the best way to manage those feelings.”

    Investigate students’ emotions, without assumptions

            Some school districts addressed the news Wednesday evening. Denver, for example, said it would make counseling services available to teachers and students.

           It’s key for educators not to assume they know how their students are feeling and responding to events. Rather than interpreting behavior, like a student who seems distracted or agitated, teachers should “investigate feelings,” Brackett said. One student may look angry when they are actually scared, and a student may seem defiant and disengaged when they are actually overwhelmed.

  • Tomorrow is Not Simply Another Day at School: Kylene Beers

    Tomorrow is Not Simply Another Day at School

    Tomorrow is not simply another day at school. 

    Tomorrow is a day when kids will be confused, scared, angry, and some excited because their parents are proud of what happened today.

    Tomorrow is not simply another day at school. Tomorrow is a day when kids need the opportunity to ask questions, to write about their anger, to understand the electoral process as we move from popular vote to electoral vote to Congressional acceptance of the electoral college. They need facts and school is the place for critical thinking and respectful discussions.

    Tomorrow is not simply another day at school. Teachers will walk into classrooms or will turn on their Zoom screens and try to hold in check their own fury, disappointment, and confusion as they help fourteen-year-olds try to process what has happened today. They will have heard that Vice-President Pence said that our Capitol was under unprecedented attack while the President announced that the election was stolen. 

    Older students should listen to Trump’s video statement and Biden’s video statement and discuss which one calms a nation and which one incites a nation. I want them to read and discuss Langston Hughes “Let America Be America Again” and I would make “sedition” the word of the day. I would turn to the Three Big Questions Bob Probst and I presented in our book Reading Nonfiction:

    1. What surprised you?
    2. What did the author think you already knew?” (In this case, the author could be the news reporters or members of Congress.)
    3. What changed, challenged, or confirmed your thinking?

    Keeping listening. I hope at some point you hear our white students wondering what would have happened if those rioters had been Black. 

    Younger students will wonder “Can this happen here?” or “Why did these people do this?” I would want them to talk about how we should share our differences. I want them to know that there are far more good people than bad people, that far more people share their disappointments with words rather than violence. I would want them to draw pictures that explain how they felt and let them talk and talk. 

    For any age students, use the fiction signposts and turn them inward. Let students share their own Tough Questions; their own Aha Moments; their own Memory Moments; their own Words of Wisdom. If you aren’t sure what the Signposts are, see Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading.

    Tomorrow is not simply another day at school. Don’t expect it to be. Don’t expect that you will know the answers to all their questions because kids always ask the hardest questions. So, dear teachers, do what you do so well. Listen. Say, “Tell me more.” Remind all that they are growing into adults who will be better than the adults they saw on television today and can practice now learning to listen respectfully to one another. Ask them what they want to write – letters to the editor; letters to their Congressperson; a poem; create a video cast; a pod cast. Ask them what they want to read. 

    I would tell them over and over again that good people have not disappeared. We are still here. We are listening to them – our nation’s kids – because they will remember this day and they are the ones that can make sure this never happens again.

    Tomorrow is not simply another day at school. You have had far too many of these days, dear teachers. Somewhere in you, you always find the heart, the courage, the compassion to set aside that lesson on sequencing or multiplying or the explanation of a cell and instead embrace their questions, their concerns, and their fears, and as you give them facts, you give them what we all need most: hope.

    For what you will do tomorrow, thank you.

  • Days After Pedagogy: Beyond the Stoplight 

    We welcome this guest post from Dr. Alyssa Hadley-Dunn, Associate Professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University and founder of Teaching on the Days After: Dialogue & Resources for Educating Toward Justice

         For educators, I am going to share some resources/ideas for use in your classrooms tomorrow. A reminder about everything that I share here: There is no one easy answer. Not everything works for every student or every teacher or in every classroom. I am not an expert in your classroom or your students (or an expert in anything, actually!). This is not a conversation that needs to or should be relegated to only Social Studies and English Language Arts classrooms.

         Black teachers: I hope that you have time and space to care for yourselves, as you support your students. I hope that you have white colleagues who are talking about this, too, so you do not have to be the only one. I hope that you can find co-conspirators in your schools (or here).

        White teachers of white students: You HAVE to talk about what is happening. This is on us, every time and all the time. We cannot pretend to be surprised anymore. We have to do what we said we were going to do all summer when we were reading those anti-racist books and completing those anti-racism checklists. Our white students are not ‘too young’ to learn about this.

           White teachers of students of color, especially Black students: Please make sure you know what you are doing before you do it. Please make sure you know how to support your Black students and other students of color if you try to have these conversations. Make sure you to do not do more harm by entering into these conversations without careful thought and planning. Ideas/resources/links in comments on Facebook will be updated throughout the evening on our educator’s group: Teaching on Days After: Dialogue & Resources for Educating Toward Justice..


         USING ZOOM: Breakout rooms can work to your advantage here. Especially if you are teaching students of color, create multiple breakout rooms for students based on what they want to and feel capable of talking about: (1) For students who do not want to discuss it right now and want to work independently on ‘regular’ class content; (2) For students who want to process with a partner; (3) For students who have many questions and want to process with you.

          NAMING THE TRUTH: Think about the language that the media is using, especially when this first started happening. What does this language mean? What does it reveal and what does it obscure? (Hint: Racism.) For example: “protestors” versus “terrorists,” “protest” versus “attack” or “coup.”

           ANALYZING IMAGES: There are many images being shared, including some of the Confederate flag in the Capitol building, of someone stealing a Podium, people hanging from the Capitol walls. What do these images tell us? What do they (attempt to) obscure? (Hint: Racism.)

           WRITING: If you have students who might better process their thoughts through writing and/or you want to use writing as an intro activity, here are some potential prompts: What do you think happened yesterday? What do you know? What questions do you have? How would you like to process this as a community? If you are doing this virtually, you could have students work in individual or shared Google docs or other apps.

          COMPARING A POLICE RESPONSE: There are many Tweets and stories that are being shared that compare images of response to BLM protests and today’s terrorist action. You could use these images to ask students to compare what they think is happening and why it is happening. (Hint: Racism, white supremacy, white rage)

  • September 1, 1939, by W. H. Auden


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