Our Unique Approach | Facing History & Ourselves
Teacher leading students in a discussion

Our Unique Approach

Our approach combines best-in-class professional learning, evidence-based pedagogy, and engaging curricular resources, to help teachers build dynamic classroom experiences where students can reach their full potential.

Our Pedagogy

Our distinct pedagogy unites intellect, empathy, and ethics to seek truth, and to strengthen our hearts and minds. These classroom videos show how we engage students and help them make connections between history and today. Watch our pedagogy in action.

Facing History educator Jonathan Dee speaks in classroom.
Facing History teacher Denny Conklin facilitates a classroom conversation.
Facing History educator Michelle Livas speaks.

[JONATHAN DEE] The goal for today is for students to be able to analyze how labels, assumptions and stereotypes affect us and affect human behavior. How do we accomplish that? The criteria that I'm hoping students will attend to today, that they're going to analyze the cartoon first and they're going to be able to look at either, I'm going to break up the students into groups. Some will look at labels, assumptions and stereotypes, which are all connected. But they'll be able to analyze not only how does it impact the cartoon, but in a larger scale, how does it impact our daily lives. We've talked a lot about how many different communities to which we belong. We have one classroom, but then kids, they'll make lists for how many different groups that they feel that they belong to. And what does it mean to be a part of that group, why do they want to be a part of that group. And then also thinking about who doesn't nicely fit in. So kind of that "we and they" concept. In front of you guys who have an image. It's a cartoon titled "Street Calculus." So I want you just to look closely at it. There is a lot going on of those thought bubbles. And then in just a minute, we'll talk about your first impressions, OK? So what's going on here? What's happening in the image? What do you notice? What's each person thinking about? Kylie, get us started. [KYLIE] I think they're like as he's walking by the person, he's trying to figure out if talking to him would be like a good idea or not. It's like dangerous. [JONATHAN DEE] All right. And is both, each person's doing that or just one? [KYLIE] No, both of them. [JONATHAN DEE] And Eliza. [ELIZA] That both of them are like analyzing each other to see like what the next person is going to do and kind of analyze their behavior. [JONATHAN DEE] OK. What do you notice? What are some of the things that, we can start with the guy on the left. What is he thinking? What are some risk factors for him or her? Sam. [SAM] They got, the other guy is Black and he's male and he's has a baseball cap on backwards. [JONATHAN DEE] But what makes him less severe or threatening? Someone we haven't heard from. What else is checked off? [ROBERTO] Just the fact that he's white. [JONATHAN DEE] Is it weird that that could be a risk factor? [ROBERTO] Yeah. [JONATHAN DEE] In both of them, when they do this calculating, they both assume, they both come up with, it's an acceptable risk to simply say good evening. And so what I'd like you now, we're going to go a little bit deeper. You got that yellow piece of paper there. I'd like to go through. There's three questions. Number two is broken up. I broke it up to a couple of smaller ones. Take a couple of minutes on your own, reflect. Do you think the situation here is realistic? And then thinking about in your own lives, how aware do you think people are of the lists that they make? What lists might people make for you? What lists do you make about others? And lastly, how might these lists shape the choices that people make? Do you think that the situation, is it realistic what you see here in the image? [STUDENT 1] I say it is realistic, because like in my head, I feel like I do it most of the time. But like I don't really know how I'm doing it. It's kind of just like, you know. [JONATHAN DEE] So that's kind of second question. Are you aware? Do you think people are really aware of this? And you say no. [STUDENT 1] No. [JONATHAN DEE] And we've talked a lot throughout the unit about how natural it is to kind of put people into categories or groups. Someone wrote, it's about feeling safe. And so people may have these lists to kind of, to keep themselves safe, you think? Eliza. [ELIZA] I think people like to be aware of their surroundings and like what's happening around the environment, so it's something they do just to feel comfortable and to like know exactly what's going on. [JONATHAN DEE] So what I'd like us to do, flip onto the back. We're going to look at labels, assumptions and stereotypes. I'm going to break you up. You're going to just within your own little cluster, I've given you definitions. You're going to be responsible for just one of these terms. And within your group, you're going to explain either how labels, assumptions or stereotypes are used to divide us into groups of we and they. We had these definitions for we and they up here since yesterday. We would be the term used by people accepted within a community. You guys were calling it the insiders, the inside group. They, the term used to describe those people not accepted or rejected, the outsiders. [ELIZA] It's hard to change that label. So like once you have that word, that like it defines you now, and you can't really change like what other people think of you. [JONATHAN DEE] Kind of zero in on how would that divide into we and they. Who's doing the labeling? I think a key part of the definition is that they're often inaccurate. How are labels used to divide people into "we and they?" [ELIZA] The inside, you think the one that's normal like I would think is doing the labeling, because they're the ones that I guess everyone's listening to and they're the ones that are kind of calling the shots. [STUDENT 2] So I think that with stereotypes, when people put people into categories, the person who is putting people in the people in the categories is often the we, like Eliza said. But the person who is considered the they, they might end up changing themselves based on what the stereotype of them is. So if someone else believes something about them based on their looks or their gender, then they might start to act upon the way the stereotype has affected them. [JONATHAN DEE] And I put it up here already. Look at that. Think about how powerful that is if you start changing who you are. [STUDENT 3] I think you'd be trying to please like the we, I guess. Like, whoever is making the stereotypes. [JONATHAN DEE] Sure. [STUDENT 3] And I think also, stereotypes kind of connect to assumptions, because you can kind of if you see someone, you can make if they're like very, if they're like the sporty kids or the jocks you can tell, oh, they're not like into school. [JONATHAN DEE] And this is happening. I think that cartoon, someone used the word, it might be exaggerating how much people think about this. But I think that as we're discussing this, this is something that affects everybody, whether negatively or positively. And all the things that I just jotted down your notes, I'm feeling this concept or this idea how much pressure people might put on themselves. I got so many voices in the room. It's always a concern, like, is one person just going to dominate the group. But as I walked around it, there was, seemed to be real equity in who was participating and bouncing ideas off each other. There was a couple students who brought things up today, especially when we were talking about the impact of whether it was labels or assumptions or stereotypes. And they, I felt like I wish that I had more time. I could have addressed some more things that some kids brought up. Like I think it was a comment where a student said, if you look Latino, you may be labeled an immigrant. And then immediately said, that makes you an outsider. And just a little bit, what I know about that student, I feel like that comes from a place where maybe he's felt that, maybe that's happened to him. This lesson. I hope has them thinking about who they are, how they treat each other, how they treat people in their neighborhoods, what it feels like when they've been labeled, stereotyped, and hopefully, help them, lead them to make better choices.

Understanding We and They

In this classroom video, Facing History teacher Jonathan Dee reviews the concept of “we and they” using the lesson, “Identity and Labels” and engages students in a discussion about how to identify stereotypes and their impacts on individuals and society.

[DENNY CONKLIN] Today's lesson, we are looking at the legacy of the eugenics movement. And the big goal for this lesson is to synthesize a lot of what students have already been learning about. We've covered the basic history of racial science. A lot of today is about the reflection on that legacy. We also haven't talked, necessarily, about the upstanders, or the people who might have spoken out against the eugenics movement. So for homework, students had a reading by George Wallace called Confronting A Twisted Science, which was really their first look into somebody who's publicly speaking out against the ideas of the eugenics movement. I don't want students to get the wrong impression, that is, every American is buying into these ideas. I think that also provides a lens of what it means to be an upstander how that can be a frame for choosing to participate. The two questions on the board, the first is asking us to think about our most recent topic, which was the Supreme Court case of Buck versus bell. So somebody remind me, what was the Supreme Court case of Buck Versus Bell? [STUDENT 1] It's a famous Supreme Court case where the Supreme Court ruled that sterilization was constitutional, and that states could have laws forcing sterilization. [DENNY CONKLIN] Forced sterilization, forced sterilization of who? Everyone? Some people? Feebleminded people? Unwanted people? So this is an important part. So how did the Supreme Court justify that, being legal? [STUDENT 2] They said that the total cost of supporting a feeble-minded person or a criminal was large, and that it was a burden on every member of society to support them. And also, they believed sort of that this was a hereditary thing, so that every single member of their family from there on out would be problematic. And so, just like the economics of it. So these economic arguments about how much it was going to cost society and taxpayers to fund and support people who were deemed feeble-minded. We're thinking about the eugenics movement now. What choices did people make during the eugenics movement? So I hope that you thought about a broad range of people. It could be a regular, ordinary American, scientists, political figure. There's a lot of different people that could have made a lot of various choices. And what do you think the impact of these choices was? Nick? [NICK] With the average Americans, I guess, quote, unquote, "average Americans," I feel like it was less like, the choices that they made and like, the actions that they took, and more like what they didn't do, because a lot of people just ignored what was happening and just took it for whatever they were told. And they really just-- even though they might have thought at the time that they weren't really doing much, it's a lot like the bystander effect, where since nobody was doing anything, nobody thought it was wrong. And so they just continued this way and actually, in a way, helped with the eugenics movement. [DENNY CONKLIN] I like what you said, Nick, because you talk about this idea that their inaction was actually action. I like that you used the term bystander effect to, because it gets to kind of the range of human behaviors, and the things that people-- the roles that sometimes people can take. To the whole list of people-- I mean, we could go on for this for a really long time. When you take a look at this list, and you step back and think about all these people and the choices that we make, what overall conclusions can you make, then, about who is responsible for eugenics, or just what was happening during the time period? [STUDENT 3] I feel like a lot of people are responsible. Like there are people like the scientists and politicians, who sort of, I guess, gave a spark to the movement, who like started it. But like that average American, like the neglect they gave towards the movement, that also made it catch on. So it's not one person. [DENNY CONKLIN] We can't pin this on one person. Antonia, add on to that? [ANTONIA] I just like, don't feel like it was the average American's fault, because if scientists are giving you all these like, statistics and facts and stuff and they're scientists, why would you not believe them? Like, you don't have any reason to doubt them. [DENNY CONKLIN] And that gets back to some ideas of power dynamics. Tim? [TIM] The average American like, kind of is pretty responsible, just because they-- I don't know. This is like, a pretty racist time period. And like, these ideals that the scientists were giving them supported what they wanted to believe. [DENNY CONKLIN] In your homework reading last night, Confronting A Twisted Science, you got to see the Vice President of the United States speaking out against the eugenics movement. Going along with his idea of the average American, somebody tell me your thoughts on, what would it take for somebody to speak up against the eugenics movement? What would be at stake? What would you need to do if you were going to speak out against the eugenics movement? [NICK] By doing that, they're going to have to really sacrifice their own social comfortability. Because once they do that, there's sure to be people from their like, neighbors to their friends who, if they find out that they're against the eugenics movement, they might actually lose interest in that friend, or even gain negative thoughts about them. [DENNY CONKLIN] Antonia, did you want to add on to what Nick said? [ANTONIA] I was just going to say like, you would also need a lot of facts and like, something to back it up. Because like, if you just said like, I don't support it, they'd be like, why? Because with all the evidence they had for it, even though it was tainted, they still had something. [DENNY CONKLIN] I thought the lesson went really well. I was very happy, especially with the discussion that we had around the different individuals that had a role in the eugenics movement and an analysis of the choices that they made. I really wanted to let the students drive that part of the discussion. I thought it was also really nice that we had an opportunity to talk about the range of human behavior, so that the ideas of bystanders came up, and upstanders came up, and that didn't necessarily have to come from me, but it was part of some of the vocabulary, some of the language that they had used already. One of the great things about the judgment memory legacy piece of the Facing History journey is that we don't just end with the history, but we try to look and bring it up to the present. And we've talked a little bit about how it connects to modern issues of genetic engineering, so they've gotten that current events connection. So it's like a teacher's dream for students to want to be more inquisitive, want to learn more, present some great opportunities in the classroom.

Connecting Past & Present

In this classroom video, history teacher Denny Conklin facilitates a conversation with students about the legacy of the eugenics movement in the United States and how its legacies still affect us today.

All right, can you please make a line on either side of the aisle?


So I need you to face a person. It doesn't matter who it is, because you're going to move around.

In today's lesson, I'm going to use a strategy that I call the line dance. And in some professional development materials it's called concentric circles. But the idea is that students are lined up or they're in a circular formation where they're speaking to just one person at a time.

Look at your person across the way and say, hey, how's it going?




We're going to do a line dance. What this means is for three minutes, you're going to discuss three questions.

And then when the allotted time is up, they will move and move on to a new partner for another brief discussion period.

So we're going to go this way. So somebody over there is going to come around to the other end. And you're going to shift so you're talking to a different person. And we're going to do question number 2 line dance. And then we're going to talk for three minutes, and you're going to talk about a different question.

Whether it's a line or a circle, it offers them a chance to share their opinions and ideas with at least two or three other people.

All right, the first question, if you guys can look up here, how does Adichie describe herself at the beginning of her talk? What words and phrases might she put on a chart? If she did that chart for herself, what might she say about herself? And let's-- hang on one second, because she's just going to grab her paper. 3, 2, 1, go!

Some people would be like, oh, my god, I'm really something. But she's basically being humble about her situation because she's like, oh, I made friends.

In terms of a discussion strategy, what I like is that students are one on one and there is a bit of eye contact, but not too much, and it's brief.

She's open-minded.

Yeah, she doesn't really-- I mean, she cares about herself.

While three minutes can feel like a very long time when you're uncomfortable, it's also not excruciatingly painful. And so if they can collaborate and come to some kind of a connection conversation, it's terrific. And if they're a student that isn't that comfortable speaking, they can make their way through it, and they know that, oh, cool, I can move in a minute and talk about something else.

--only portrayed as a border-crosser, this and that. And then she goes to Mexico, and now she sees these hardworking people that are fun like me. I'm just kidding. [GIGGLES]

And then as the teacher, they kind of forget about me after a while. So they're not thinking that I'm just there, looking at them and evaluating. I'm just kind of walking around. And they do usually forget that I'm there.

All right, we're going to do question two. So let's have you guys go that way. And you guys move down one. So now Amy's across from Mauricio, right? So, Daniel, who's your partner?


Yes, good. So make sure you are across from a new person, right? Let's do number 2. And the question is, later in the story, we learn how other people view her, Adichie. How do these views differ from how she describes herself? OK, go.

Just like how she thought of that other village, but-- yeah, that.

I feel like it kind of gives students opportunities to develop speaking skills without speaking in front of the entire class. So you and I just had a goofy conversation, but you're the only one that heard it. My teacher didn't even hear me.

OK, for her, her childhood and how she grew up is normal for her because she grew up with it. It's like if we grew up like, for example, here, around this neighborhood, and the way that we grew up, we view it as normal for us. It's our norm. And for other people, they view it differently. So they're like, oh, you're from there. So they make assumptions about where you're from. So that's basically how--

All right, can you guys please go back to your seats?



When I use a strategy like this, I think I enjoy class way more than when I'm speaking because I actually get to see the students and hear them talk and be themselves. So it gives me some opportunities to get to know them better. I can circulate around the room. And I can hear who is maybe a stronger speaker than I realized, or who might be struggling actually, also.

And that's really important, to identify someone who you might overhear in the corner saying, I didn't understand that article, can you help me, where they may not come to me and ask that question. So I find it useful and helpful and beneficial in multiple ways.

Elevating Student Voices

In this classroom video, social studies teacher Michelle Livas uses the Concentric Circles teaching strategy to help deepen students' understanding of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's TED Talk "The Danger of a Single Story"  while helping nurture their voices.

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The Classroom Experience

Students are the center of every Facing History classroom. Our curriculum, designed for use in middle and high schools, is challenging and meaningful. The classroom experience promotes trust, collaboration, and participation.

“When you come to Facing History…it opens not only your eyes, but your heart, it expands your mind, so that you’re not just thinking about yourself, but about the people around you.

Educator Competencies

Our high-quality professional learning supports educators and schools in leading inclusive classrooms by integrating civics, social-emotional learning, and equitable teaching methods into their practice.

We partner with educators to improve student outcomes, school climates, and community engagement—with lasting impact.

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    96% of participating educators reported our online courses built their capacity to help students consider their rights and responsibilities as members of a democratic society.
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    94% of participating educators reported that our online courses built their capacity to help students ground reading, writing, and speaking in evidence from both literary and informational texts.

Aligning to Standards

Facing History & Ourselves’ curriculum aligns with leading national standards in social studies and English Language Arts, including frameworks from the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), the Common Core, and the National Council of Teachers of English.

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