Responding to Recent Shootings and the Perils of Daily Life | Facing History & Ourselves
KANSAS CITY, MO- APRIL 18: Protesters chant at a rally for Black teen Ralph Yarl in front of U.S. District Court on April 18, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Mini-Lesson
Current Event

Responding to Recent Shootings and the Perils of Daily Life

Use this mini-lesson to help students process the tragic news of recent shootings of young people going about their daily lives.

Published:

At a Glance

Mini-Lesson

Language

English — US

Subject

  • Advisory
  • English & Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Grade

6–12
  • Human & Civil Rights
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement

Overview

About This Mini-Lesson

In less than the span of a week in April 2023, four young people were shot after making minor errors while going about their daily lives: ringing the wrong doorbell, turning up the wrong driveway, opening the wrong car door. This mini-lesson helps students process these events and the feelings of insecurity they may cause, learn about how prejudice is a factor in who is a victim of gun violence, and consider what we can do to help ourselves and others in the face of this news. An optional extension invites students to research different approaches to preventing violence. Each activity can be used on its own or taught in any combination best suited to your students.

This mini-lesson is designed to be adaptable. You can use the activities in sequence or choose a selection best suited to your classroom. It includes:

  • 3 activities
  • 1 extension
  • Student-facing slides

In less than the span of a week in April 2023, four young people were shot after making minor errors while going about their daily lives. In Kansas City, Missouri, 16-year-old Ralph Yarl went to pick up his younger siblings and rang the doorbell at the wrong house. A man came to the door and shot him twice. Despite severe injuries, Ralph survived. The prosecutor in the case has stated that race was a factor in the assault. Ralph is Black and his assailant is white.

Kaylin Gillis, a 20-year-old woman, pulled into the wrong driveway with her friends in rural upstate New York. A man came out of the house and shot repeatedly at the car she was in. Kaylin was struck and died from her injuries.

Near Austin, Texas, high schooler Heather Roth opened the wrong car door after cheerleading practice. She realized her mistake when she saw a strange man in the passenger seat. He followed Heather back to her friend’s car and shot them both. They survived, but Heather’s friend Payton Washington was still in critical condition when this lesson was published.

These disturbing instances of violence raise questions about when and where young people can expect to feel safe and how prejudice can exacerbate insecurity in our society.

Preparing to Teach

Teaching Note

Before teaching this mini-lesson, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

This mini-lesson contains descriptions of events involving gun violence. It is important that you review the materials in this mini-lesson to determine if they are appropriate for your students. We recommend you check in with your students throughout the mini-lesson to gauge their reactions and determine if they are ready to continue.

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Activities

Activities

Read the following information with your students, which can also be found in the Slides for this mini-lesson:

In less than the span of a week in April 2023, four young people were shot after making minor errors while going about their daily lives. In Kansas City, Missouri, 16-year-old Ralph Yarl went to pick up his younger siblings and rang the doorbell at the wrong house. A man came to the door and shot him twice. Despite severe injuries, Ralph survived. The prosecutor in the case has stated that race was a factor in the assault. Ralph is Black and his assailant is white.

Kaylin Gillis, a 20-year-old woman, pulled into the wrong driveway with her friends in rural upstate New York. A man came out of the house and shot repeatedly at the car she was in. Kaylin was struck and died from her injuries.

Near Austin, Texas, high schooler Heather Roth opened the wrong car door after cheerleading practice. She realized her mistake when she saw a strange man in the passenger seat. He followed Heather back to her friend’s car and shot them both. They survived, but Heather’s friend Payton Washington was still in critical condition when this lesson was published.

Then, post the following Head, Heart, Conscience reflection questions on a board where students can see them:

Head:

  • What do these events have in common? 
  • What questions, if any, do you have about what happened?

Heart:

  • What feelings do these events raise for you?
  • Are there particular aspects of these stories that stand out to you? If so, why?
  • What can we do to take care of each other in the face of this news?

Conscience:

  • Who is impacted by these instances of violence? Who should be held accountable and how?
  • Is it realistic to expect safety when you are going about your daily life? Where and when should people have the right to expect safety? 

Pass out sticky notes to each student. Ask them to write down answers to the questions on their sticky notes and then to place their responses under the questions on the board. They can respond to each question or a selection of their choosing. 

Once students have finished writing, read the responses out loud for the class. Then ask them:

  • What common themes do you notice?
  • Are there any responses that stood out to you? Why?

Distribute Ralph Yarl, Prejudice, and Gun Violence. Read both excerpts on the handout out loud. Then, ask your students to read the excerpts through a second time on their own. After they finish reading, ask them to reflect on one of the following prompts in their journals:

  • What is one line from the excerpts that stood out to you and why?
  • Imani Perry writes: “Unquestionably, racism makes our experience as Black Americans more frightening, more dangerous. But…[a]ll of our kids are coming of age in a society in crisis.” How are both of these statements true? How do they relate to your own experience?

When students have finished writing, give them the opportunity to share one phrase from the readings or one phrase from their journal entries with the class using the Wraparound strategy.

Reading the recent news stories about young people getting shot while going about their daily lives can be upsetting and overwhelming. In the face of difficult news, it can often be helpful to ask ourselves: What can I do to help others? What can I do to help myself? 

Place your students in small groups of 3–4, and ask them to brainstorm ideas in response to those two questions. Then, give each group a chance to share their ideas with the class. 

Finally, ask your students to respond to the following prompt in their journals:

What is one idea to help others or yourself that you want to try? What do you hope the impact of this action will be?

Extension

Assign students to research different proposals for reducing gun violence. Some of the solutions students can research include:

  • Campaigns to raise awareness about and prevent identity-based violence
  • Proposed legislation to regulate the purchase and use of guns
  • Proposed legislation to increase access to mental health care

Materials and Downloads

Quick Downloads

Get this mini-lesson’s student materials in PDF or Google Doc format.

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