Getting to Know the 10 Questions | Facing History & Ourselves
High school students participate in class.

Getting to Know the 10 Questions

Students begin thinking about civic engagement in terms of their own passions and identities as they are introduced to the 10 Questions Framework.


At a Glance

lesson copy


English — US


  • Civics & Citizenship
  • History
  • Social Studies




One 50-min class period
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement


About This Lesson

Conventional approaches to teaching civics and democratic participation often begin with topics such as the branches of government or the lawmaking process. This approach is distant from the lives and experiences of young people, and it can fail to engage students. That’s why the 10 Questions Framework begins with a student-centered question: “What do you care about, and why does it matter to you?” This is designed to spark students' interest and help them think about civic engagement in terms of their own identities and passions. This lesson asks students to respond to that question, and then it introduces them to the framework as a whole.

What is the 10 Questions Framework for Young Changemakers?

  • Students will identify the main ideas of the 10 Questions Framework.
  • Students will connect the 10 Questions Framework to their experience.

This lesson is designed to fit into one 50-min class period and includes:

  • 3 activities
  • 3 teaching strategies
  • 1 extension activity

What Can the 10 Questions Tell Us About Civic Agency in a Digital Age?

Ordinary people can participate in the political process and drive social change in ways well beyond voting—they can raise funds, mobilize others to get involved, protest, deliberate, and work on public issues. Digital technology has had a dramatic impact on these traditional forms of political engagement, and young people stand to benefit greatly from these changes in civic action and the social changes such innovation might inspire. But the digital environment comes with risks: privacy breaches, anonymous trolls, polarization, “fake news,” and cyberbullying are all too common in the digital public sphere. How can educators help young people develop into equitable, effective, and self-protective civic actors in a digital age?

The 10 Questions Framework provides an effective approach to meeting these recent changes in political engagement. The framework is designed to engage young people with the ethical concerns of citizenship, focusing on equity, effectiveness, and self-protection to ease the burdens of participation.

Equitable participation. Young people engage in important civic work online and off, no matter who they are. But citizenship also entails identifying, curating, and elevating the voices of those who lack the opportunity to participate. The 10 Questions Framework looks to connect students with the norms of accuracy, authenticity, equity, and openness to diversity essential to democratic action. You can’t have quality participation without equality.

Effective participation. Participation is effective when individual participants can point to something that has changed on account of their efforts—a representative’s vote, a new policy, media attention to an issue, or even the shifted perspective of a friend. In this way, individual activities can help to shape the attitudes of entire communities. The 10 Questions Framework engages students by asking how their actions can be effective and what counts as effective in the first place.

Self-protective participation. Security online goes beyond privacy settings. The publicity and permanence of digital communication requires civic actors to think about the digital afterlife of their choices. How can young people preserve their psychological well-being in the face of unpredictable consequences of digital participation, the dangers that come with public exposure, and collisions between their speech online and their lives offline? By helping students analyze the risks and rewards of political participation, the 10 Questions Framework offers them opportunities to learn how to be safe and sustainable political actors in their own lives.

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before you teach this lesson, please review the following guidance to tailor this lesson to your students’ contexts and needs.

Before beginning the first lesson, it is strongly recommended that teachers familiarize themselves with the 10 Questions Framework for Young Changemakers. The 10 Questions website introduces relevant examples of the structured implementation of the framework, moving from understanding to inquiry to action. It is important for teachers to understand how the 10 Questions Framework supports young people in the development of equitable, effective, and self-protective civic agency.

Harvard’s Democratic Knowledge Project has created a 10 Questions Framework Infographic that explains the framework. Consider projecting, printing, or otherwise sharing the infographic with your students as you teach about the framework.

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Lesson Plans


  • Ask students to take five minutes to write in their journals about an issue in the world that matters to them. Ask:
    • Why is the issue important to you personally?
    • Why would you like to see change on this particular issue?
  • Once students have finished journaling, ask them to share their thoughts with a partner in a Think, Pair, Share format.

Transition into a whole-class discussion by asking some volunteers to share their issue. As students share, ask the class to brainstorm some ways they might involve themselves (big or small) in the process of bringing about change on that issue. Record students’ ideas on the board.

Tell your students that this series of questions is designed to help people effectively and safely “choose to participate.” Share the 10 Questions Framework Poster with students, which displays the following questions:

  1. Why does it matter to me?
  2. How much should I share?
  3. How do I make it about more than myself?
  4. Where do we start?
  5. How can we make it easy and engaging for others to join in?
  6. How do we get wisdom from crowds?
  7. How do we handle the downside of crowds?
  8. Are we pursuing voice or influence or both?
  9. How do we get from voice to change?
  10. How can we find allies?

Next, explain to students that at the beginning of the class, they already began to answer Questions 1 (Why does it matter to me?) and 4 (Where do we start?) about an issue that is important to them. Let students pick one additional question (other than 1 or 4) from the framework to reflect on further. Then ask them to spend five minutes journaling in response to the following prompts:

  • Paraphrase the question in your own words.
  • Why might the question help young people who are planning to take action on an issue of importance to them?
  • What questions do you have about it?

Ask students to pair up and share their responses in a Think, Pair, Share.

Extension Activities

Consider introducing students to the concept of “levers of power” as a way of thinking about the concrete actions they can take when they “choose to participate.” Legal scholar Martha Minow developed the framework to map out the organizations, institutions, and technologies that can enable us to strengthen the impact of our voices and our actions.

  • First, you might spend a moment exploring with students the metaphor of the “lever” in the title. In a literal sense, a lever is a tool that allows one to pick up or move something much heavier than could be lifted without it. In other words, a lever allows someone to use a small amount of force to have a big impact.
  • Share with students the graphic organizer Analyzing Levers of Power, or share the list below, which outlines the individuals, organizations, and technology platforms that can have this sort of amplifying effect on a societal level:
    • Government (National, State, Local)
    • Nonprofit Organizations/Charities
    • Industry/Commercial Organizations
    • Professional Media
    • Social Media/Internet
    • Schools and Education
    • Influential Individuals (Authors, Lecturers, etc.)
  • Ask students to come up with examples of individuals or groups that belong to each category in order to make sure that everyone understands them.

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