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Facing History and Ourselves


Building classroom community
Lessons for the First Days of School

This new one-week unit is designed to help support your teaching in the opening days of a US History course and to develop students' social-emotional skills in order to engage in an open and supportive classroom community. These first class periods are important to establish classroom norms and an inclusive environment where students honor and value differing perspectives, question assumptions, and actively listen to others.

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Essential Question

How can we work together to create an open, supportive, and reflective learning community?

Lesson 1

Getting to Know Each Other
50 minutes

Students examine the use of names in this start-of-school lesson as they think about the relationship between their individual identities and their communities.

Lesson 2

Exploring Individual Identity
30 minutes

Students reflect on the social and cultural factors that shape their answers to the question, "Who am I?" as they engage in an identity chart activity.

Lesson 3

Complicating the Concept of Community
50 minutes

Students reflect on the concept of community and then make connections to their own classroom experiences.

Lesson 4

Creating a Classroom Contract
50 minutes

Students brainstorm expectations for how to work together during the school year and develop a contract that establishes a reflective, inclusive environment where all feel known and heard.

Lesson 5

Unlocking the Secrets of a Time Capsule
50 minutes

Using a time capsule activity, students analyze primary and secondary sources to construct a historical argument about the story of the United States.

Through lessons designed to build student self-awareness, academic mindset, and civic reasoning skills, students will:

Explore the factors

that influence their identities, including the ways they describe themselves and the categories others use to identify them

Consider what it means

to be an individual, but also a member of a community

Envision how

they and their classmates can form a learning community that values all of its members


Unit Lessons

Download a .zip file that includes all lesson plans with their associated handouts, readings, and PowerPoints