Teaching Resources | Facing History & Ourselves
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Teaching Resources

Find compelling classroom resources, learn new teaching methods, meet standards, and make a difference in the lives of your students.

Engaging Students with Facing History

Our collection of educator resources includes a wide range of flexible materials. You will find resources that support teaching a complex moment in history or addressing today's breaking news.

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    Facing History students are 94% more likely than other students to report that their class motivated them to learn.
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    93% of Facing History students agreed that it is important to work for positive social change.

US History Curriculum Collection

Draw from this flexible curriculum collection to integrate themes of democracy and freedom as you plan any middle or high school US history course. 

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ELA Resources for Teachers

Explore our wide range of curricular resources and professional development for secondary English Language Arts classrooms.

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Current Events in the Classroom

Our current events resources help teachers lead effective and engaging discussions on today's news.

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“I can trust the materials to be easy to access, implement, and provide a way to engage students on sensitive topics.”

Facing History Educator

Teaching Strategies

Our student-centered teaching strategies improve literacy skills, nurture critical thinking, and create a respectful classroom climate. You can implement these strategies with any academic content.

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See Our Teaching Strategies in Action

Our classroom videos feature teaching strategies to help you use the Facing History approach in your classroom.

A hand writes on a wall.
Students engage in classroom discussion.
Student writes at desk.

Today we're doing the silent Big Paper. We have five stations, a big paper on each. And so the students are going to be going through with each of those stations marking up the papers, annotating the readings as much as they want as well as commenting, and having conversations, checking off, or contradicting, challenging, supporting other students' claims as we go through all five stations. At the end of the station, they will end up picking highlights from everything that has gone around annotations and showing that to the class as a whole.

And we have the students use that as a drawing board. And that really, I think, brings out student comments and creativity in a way that if we're just sitting and we go over it in class doesn't necessarily engage a lot of students because some of them won't want to raise their hands. Some of them won't want to talk.

But in that sort of private sphere of looking over that paper while it is attached to the poster and being in stations, reading it, and then being able to sort of write on it, it also gives them a connection to the history itself. They are dealing with primary sources, but it almost feels personal in a way.

What we're going to do is we're going to split up, and we've done Big Paper before. Big Paper are these stations. We've done this activity. I'm going to split you up into groups, or you're going to split yourselves up into groups based off numbering.

This time around, what I would like you to do is we're adding steps to it. Last time we went around to each station, and you annotated the reading itself. And then you left comments. You tagged onto other people's comments.

So this time, what I would like for you all to do is stay silent the entire time. In doing that, I'm hoping that it's going to force you all-- this is the reasoning behind you all being silent, I'm not just asking you to be silent because I'm mean-spirited. I'm hoping that you all will-- any sort of comment, any sort of thought that you all get, will write it on there instead of saying it out loud.

There are three guiding questions that I want you all to think about as you're going through all of this. How do the sources show the resiliency of newly freed enslaved peoples? What are the perspectives of the newly acquired freedom of former enslaved peoples that these sources give us? And what do people need in order to sustain and protect their freedom?

It will be up here if you need it. We'll go over it again. Think about these quickly before we start. Have them in mind and then we'll talk again. You'll have some time to re-collect your thoughts.

I'll give you five minutes on the first one. I'll tell you to shuffle. Remember that I asked you to add this new rule of staying quiet, right, Leo? Five minutes.

I do like how I'm seeing people already having that silent conversation on the paper.

So we're going to start off with our first station.

So our document was called the Freedmen's Bureau Outlines the Duties of Freed People. And it really just outlines how to be a successful free citizen in America. It talks about how you should-- seek education and how you should just because you're free doesn't mean you shouldn't work. You should work really hard.

It also talks about, which I thought was interesting, in the way that you have to prove that you deserve your freedom, have good behavior and then maybe other white people in the South will recognize, oh, they can handle freedom, and they deserve to be free people.

Yeah, it's almost kind of tragic in a sense. They're saying we have to act-- we have to be better, twice as good if we're going to be treated the same. Any of the comments that stick out?

Yeah. We said one of the most shocking things we saw was in the first sentence. It said you have been declared forever free. But just like someone commented, that there was still the Black Codes, the Jim Crow laws, and systematic racism throughout the history of the U.S.

Oh, man.

So, I have to say, maybe it didn't stand up to time.

Yeah, absolutely. We know from hindsight, you can imagine these people have such excitement about this. And important-wise? You've already summed up everything but if--

We saw the quote that says no people can be truly great or free without education, which is kind of surprising but also makes sense because you can't really get anywhere in this country without an education. You need an education to get a good job and make money.

As well as run a democracy. Everyone needs to participate in a democracy. It's run by the people. That's the whole point. And in order to do that, we need an education.

The process with Big Paper today in class I think worked really well with the kids. We added that extra layer of basically the silent conversation, which we're adding more and more rules as we go in. It worked really well in order to get them acquainted with the sources themselves and reacquainted with the idea that the people that we're talking about have voices.

And I think they could really wrestle with it because you have the actual source in the middle of this huge paper, and I'm telling them, it's yours. There's a little bit of the personableness that you get with a journal on these big papers where they can mark it up, they can annotate it on their own, as well as write all over it, which I think gives people ownership, and it worked really well.

Big Paper: Building a Silent Conversation

In fishbowl, there's an inner circle and an outer circle. So the inner circle are the few students who are brave enough to share out their thinking. The outer circle gives students who might be more leery, a little bit of time to think and process what is being said in the inner circle. And they have the opportunity to tap in to get their voice heard, and they tap in for somebody who has already shared so that we have that equity of voice in the classroom.

Any time that my students are engaging in fishbowl activity, they feel empowered. And so they know that I take a step back and that they take a step forward, but they know that I'm there for that facilitation and really it's a language acquisition process. There are many times in fishbowl and seminar that in preparing for that and analyzing the sources where students are trying to find their words and even within seminar trying to articulate themselves, and they have these ideas and they have these fresh perspectives, but what they don't necessarily have is the academic language and vocabulary that goes with it. And so I'm excited to hear their processes and to hear them struggle through understanding exceptionally difficult histories, but they do such a great job with it always. And so I'm excited to hear their fresh takes on it and apply a new level of precision of language to it as well.


- Start thinking about if you would like to start in the fishbowl. We're going to start with the first two set of questions. So if you want to go back up to those two questions to see if you are prepared to speak to something, we're going to have about five to six chairs in the center fishbowl and then the rest of us are going to be on the outside.

So take about a minute think about are you in a place where you're ready to share out? And remember with fishbowl you can tap someone out so you're not in there the whole time. If you are ready to talk in the middle, take your chair into the middle, otherwise take your clipboard any resources you need. Turn your chair into the center. Try to be as smooth as possible about it.

A lot of you were talking about great things. So starting with those first two questions. Daniel, right here. Can I get you to read them out loud again for us? And then anybody in the center can start.

- How does the majority opinion explain its ruling in the case which justification does the majority provide for maintaining segregation?

- One of the things that our group talked about was like even though you want there was equal rights within political terms or whatever, but there's not like equal rights within social life. And it's like you can't force one race to be the same as another.

- With the idea of equality, the majority rule didn't really fit with this idea of equality because it was only supporting them. And it wasn't really supporting like Plessy, et al. and that idea of power being taken advantage of.

- Johnny, nice job. Let's go.

- The first section of Justice Henry Brown delivered a majority opinion. It says, laws permitting and even requiring the separation. And I think that line relates to the second question of what justification does the majority provide for maintaining segregation. And it's saying that they're not really targeting the inferior race. It was clearly what's going on.

- It doesn't target a specific race, but then people still use that law anyways in order to target races. So I guess my question is, what is, I guess, the danger of being colorblind and not having specific laws?

- Well, if you're colorblind, you don't see color. You don't see my experiences either. So--

- Basically what you're saying is the Constitution is, I guess, in a way racist, I guess, and only includes a certain amount of, I guess, the white people, I guess. And it says what the court decided our Constitution is colorblind and neither nor tolerates classes among citizens.

- I don't necessarily think that the Constitution is racist, but I think it did set it up so that people could later influence it to be racist. They never really have specific laws in the original Constitution that dictate certain laws that differ based on race, but I did think it was important to look at based on when the original Constitution was actually written. It was written during the time where slavery was still a huge thing, and it was written during the time where the only people that could really make choices and have power were white men.

- All right. Really strong everyone. Thank you so much.


Facilitating that, it started to feel more just like a conversation, which is something that we're looking to help students acquire are those conversational skills in addition to the academic more literacy-rooted skills. Communication is obviously integral in that, but it's not always explicitly taught. Building those relationships is so essential in students. Trusting enough to be vulnerable in conversation that requires honesty, and it requires you almost doing something that feels uncomfortable in order to grow. And so if they don't have that foundation of trust, it becomes a lot more difficult to engage students.

Some students don't want to tap into the fishbowl because they don't feel that they are good enough or that their thought is articulate enough. So part of that rapport building is also necessary for that encouragement for the student that I can go to and say, hey, that idea I just went around the room nobody had it, but you did. And because they value their relationship with me and because they value their own voice ultimately, that encouragement helps them to engage.

Fostering Active Engagement through Fishbowl Discussion

[JENNA FORTON] Journaling is everything in my classroom. We talk about, at Ravenswood, that writing is learning. And so these processes of learning are shown and practiced through writing, the act of writing. So journaling is an integral part of the classroom because it's an integral part of learning. So I have students use their notebooks as a space where they can engage. And so even if they are not feeling the confidence to share out vocally or they don't want to share out vocally or they're not ready, or they want to listen, they have an opportunity to engage within the classroom no matter where they are at because everybody can journal something. And so journaling can be used at any moment for engaging during class. And the strategy specifically of quick writing is that idea of not picking up your pen or pencil off the paper. And so using singular words, using a poem, using a drawing in order to express where you are at in your thinking even if that point is I don't know what I'm thinking, it's always a place for students to go. Jack, first question please. [JACK] What does equality mean to you? [JENNA FORTON] Second question. Carlos, go ahead. [CARLOS] Does it mean equal treatment under the law, equal opportunities, equal education, or something else? [JENNA FORTON] So based on what you know of equality, what does it mean? Go. You're going to have about 10 minutes to work on this, and then I'll check in. Now one more layer to your thinking. Eyes up here. So going back to the document for the dispute, how did you decide on the case? Did equality play a role in your decision? Even go back into the 14th Amendment itself. Look for the verbiage, look for the wording, try to identify a piece of evidence that you can connect to this idea of equality. Turn and talk. [SIDE CONVERSATIONS] [STUDENT 1] Not eagle-- legal-extralegal thing. [STUDENT 2] Yeah. [STUDENT 1] Yeah. And it's also important to distinguish equity and equality because equity is like advantages are given if you aren't-- if you're disadvantaged. But equality is the same treatment and none of that special treatment is given to even help other people. It's just the same. [STUDENT 3] Yeah. And, for example, even if equality is a thing, there's still going to be some people who are still going to struggling. Like, for example, that poster's a good example because it really does show if people are given equality, not-- people may be given the same treatment but not everyone is going to be feeding off that. [STUDENT 2] Some people need more help than others. [STUDENT 3] Yeah, and if we give equity, that means we get to help more people that are in need. [STUDENT 2] It's like the intersections of identity where people-- we see that woman are treated correctly sometimes and Black people-- Black men are treated equally sometimes, but what happens when you cross in the middle? [STUDENT 3] People decide to ignore it because there's no answer for that. [STUDENT 2] Yeah, we still don't have enough experience with that group to be able to help them. Therefore there's no equity. [STUDENT 1] No, it's not that there's no experience. I think it's more that there's just no way-- there hasn't been a way crafted to view them in their struggle. [JENNA FORTON] It is something that is so integral in our classroom that students almost just-- well, let's go. I appreciated that many of them, as I was giving things for them to consider in their journaling, I was happy to see that as I was walking around they were like asking themselves different questions. I was happy to see that when I would lean down and want to talk to a student about what they were writing about that they had something they wanted to verbally engage with me already. So I just think, again, that element of it was 100% participation in journaling, and I just am always surprised by that. You would just hear that it's such a difficult thing to get kids 100% engaged, and then you see through journaling that it's possible and kind of debunks that.

Supporting Student Learning Through Journaling

Collections, Units, & Toolkits

Our collections, units, and toolkits provide you with a range of options to introduce students to themes that are relevant to their lives.

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Lessons & Mini-Lessons

Our lessons and mini-lessons include primary sources and news sources to support their head, heart, and conscience.

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Now I have a much broader scope of primary sources and stories to pull from. The strategies that Facing History includes with all of the source material is invaluable.
— Facing History Educator Reflecting on Our Reconstruction Unit
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Digital Lending & Print Books

Supplementary books, such as novels and memoirs, are important resources that are key to many Facing History units. Our collection of class set titles, in partnership with Overdrive Education, ensures that students can have access to the literature you plan to teach with. 

Our collection is supported by a modular curriculum with both core and supplemental materials. Printed copies of many of our curricular resources are available to purchase from most online booksellers.

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