Notice: The Facing History lending library is currently unable to fulfill orders for hard copy materials. We are very sorry for any inconvenience. Please see our Lending Library FAQ or email us at [email protected] if you need recommendations for specific material, or have any questions about how to get the content that you need.

Fostering Civil Discourse: How Do We Talk About Issues That Matter?

Fostering Civil Discourse: How Do We Talk About Issues That Matter?

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing educators to adapt to unprecedented shifts in how they interact with students, all while the United States continues to grapple with ongoing issues around race, policing, voting rights, and more. Students develop knowledge, skills, and informed civic responsibility when they are invited into conversations that are emotionally engaging, intellectually challenging, and relevant to their own lives. Engaging in civil discourse means bringing your mind, heart, and conscience to reflective conversations on topics that matter, in ways that allow you to extend your understanding in dialogue with others. It does not mean prioritizing politeness or comfort over getting to the heart of the matter.

This PDF resource was originally published in 2016 under the title Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide for Classroom Conversations. Read our blog post to learn more about why we decided to update this guide in 2020.

The ideas and tools in this updated version of Fostering Civil Discourse: How Do We Talk About Issues That Matter? are designed to help you prepare your students to engage in civil discourse, whether you are teaching in-person, remotely, or transitioning between the two.

Get More Resources and Strategies for Remote Learning

View our resources for supporting teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related Content

A Guide for Supporting Remote Student Book Clubs

Launch a remote book club that builds connectedness, fosters empathy, and provides opportunities for student-driven learning with the help of these resources.

A look over an educators shoulder at students raising their hands.
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Discussing Race and Racism in the Classroom

This mini-unit is designed to help teachers have conversations about race with their students in a safe, sensitive, and constructive way.

Democracy & Civic Engagement

American Creed: A Living Room Conversation: Mark Meckler and Joan Blades, Tea Party and MoveOn

In this clip from American Creed, Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and Joan Blades, co-founder of, engage in a conversation with the goal of fostering understanding through civil discourse.

Democracy & Civic Engagement

Working Together to Realize Our Shared Ideals

Students use a strategy that promotes active listening and intellectual engagement to discuss film clips featuring baseball manager Joe Maddon and civic entrepreneur Eric Liu.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.