People's Assembly | Facing History & Ourselves
Facing History & Ourselves
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People's Assembly

Students participate in a people's assembly centered on the question, how might we challenge all types of racism in the UK so that everyone can thrive?


This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

assessment copy


English — UK


One 50-min class period
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement


About This Assessment

In this assessment, which lasts one fifty-minute lesson, students have the opportunity to participate in a People’s Assembly and share their responses to the question: 

How might we challenge all types of racism in the UK so that everyone can thrive? 

A People’s Assembly is a powerful process as it gives those participating the control, the responsibility and the opportunity to be active, respectful listeners. It can be a transformative experience: the prioritisation of active listening and inclusivity means that it gives people the chance to be listened to in a way that may not be the norm. This short dialogic process can help students gain confidence in themselves and can assist with community building: it encourages students to value everyone’s contributions and to work together to collectively decide on what they will share with others. 

This assessment is designed to fit into one 50-minute class period and includes:

  • 4 activities

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  • Inform students that they will be participating in an activity called a People’s Assembly to discuss the question: How might we challenge all types of racism in the UK so that everyone can thrive?
  • To help students gather their thoughts, project the question and give students time to reflect on it individually in their journals.
  • Explain to students that they will now be participating in an activity known as a People’s Assembly, where they will have a structured discussion in groups. Explain to them that the assembly has three values at its core: 1
    • Inclusivity: Everyone’s voice is valued and everyone has the right to be heard. No one person dominates the discussion. The loudest voice is not always right: a People’s Assembly is about sharing ideas and learning from each other. Everyone feels respected, and able to participate safely without fear of judgement or ridicule.
    • Active Listening: Everyone genuinely listens to what others are saying, and participants are not thinking in advance about what they are going to say. 
    • Trust: Everyone has belief in the assembly process, in the hand signals, in the facilitation, the note-taking and in the sharing of ideas. Participants acknowledge that the process will not be perfect, but it will only work if everyone trusts in the process and works together.
  • Before beginning the People’s Assembly, ask the students to think about something or someone they are grateful for, or a time they were helped by others (they do not need to share this, just to think about it). This encourages them to be aware of their interconnectedness with others and gets them thinking about the power of individual actions. You may want to give them your own example, before you invite them to think of their own. 
  • Next, tell students that they will be discussing the question they reflected on in their journals: How might we challenge all types of racism in the UK so that everyone can thrive?
  • Divide the students into groups of six to eight, outlining the roles and naming one facilitator and one note-taker for each group (or the students can self-select).
  • Explain the hand signals and write them on the board. Request that students use them to communicate respectfully, ensuring that everyone gets a chance to speak. 
    • Clarification: If they do not understand something a peer has said, they make a ‘C’ symbol with their hand, which means clarification.
    • Point: If they want to add to what someone has said or they do not agree with what has been said, they point a finger upwards. This means they have a point to make.
    • Round Up: If they want to encourage the person speaking to finish what they are saying, they make a circle with their hands. This means round up. 
  • Explain that the clarification sign gets priority: if someone uses the sign then the facilitator should allow them to speak as soon as it is polite, so that their confusion can be addressed and they can properly participate. Point signs, however, do not interrupt proceedings: the facilitator can invite a person making a point sign to speak when the time is right. Finally, the facilitator should use the round up sign when it is appropriate, to ensure that everyone has a chance to share their views.
  • Project the essential question on the board and give the students fifteen minutes to discuss it in their groups. Circulate to get a sense of their understanding of the question and the process, and to support the facilitators as needed. 
  • After fifteen minutes, give the groups five minutes to decide on two key points from their discussion that their note-taker will share with the rest of the class once the time is up. 
  • When the time is up, invite each note-taker to the front of the classroom and ask them to share their group’s two key points. 

After each note-taker has shared their group’s two main points, facilitate a class discussion that draws from the following questions:

  • What new, different or deeper understanding of the question – How might we challenge all types of racism in the UK so that everyone can thrive? – do you have after participating in the People’s Assembly?
  • What, in your opinion, are key steps we can take to challenge racism so that everyone can thrive?
  • What are the main obstacles in challenging racism? 
  • What was it like participating in a People’s Assembly? 
  • How did using the hand signals feel?
  • How easy or difficult was it to be an active listener? 
  • How easy or difficult was it to trust in the process? 
  • What, if anything, made this process feel inclusive? What, if anything, made this process feel exclusive? What could you do or the group do to make the process more inclusive for everyone?

Finally, ask students to reflect on the following question in a journal response:

  • How have the discussions today challenged you to consider your role in creating a fair and just society in which everyone can thrive?

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Facing History & Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

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