At a Glance
LanguageEnglish — US
- English & Language Arts
- Culture & Identity
About This Section
Facing History learning experiences are classroom activities and instructional strategies designed to help students progress toward the Facing History learning objectives.
Taking into account Facing History’s unique pedagogical approach and commitment to fostering real-world literacy skills, these learning experiences center students’ identities and lived experiences and create space for them to explore complex ideas about human behavior, both individually and in collaboration with others.
Our 19 learning experiences are available in Google Doc format in the Materials & Downloads section.
This section on learning experiences includes:
- 19 learning experiences, each with activities to introduce, explore, and extend students’ learning in a given area
- Tips for pairing learning experiences with passages from your selected text
Preparing to Teach
A Note to Teachers
Before using these learning experiences, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.
Facing History learning experiences are classroom-ready activities that you can incorporate into your lesson plans. They are designed to be modular and adaptable, so you can use them over and over again with a wide range of texts to help students explore characterization, point of view, perspective taking, setting, and thematic development through a Facing History lens.
Each learning experience is divided into three sections—Introduce, Explore, and Extend—which increase in complexity and depth of analysis, but they don’t need to be used in sequence. The entry point for each learning experience depends on students’ familiarity with the concept and the level of complexity they are ready to tackle. Educators might choose to incorporate just one section of a learning experience into a lesson plan, teach all three over the course of one or two class periods, mix and match, or repeat one multiple times during a unit to help students track character or thematic development.
- Introduce: The first activity in each learning experience introduces a concept and helps students develop the schema they will need for deeper exploration. It may involve vocabulary work, schema building, and opportunities for personal reflection and pair–shares.
- Explore: The second activity engages students in a deeper exploration of the concept and helps them apply it to the core text of the unit. It includes opportunities for close reading, literary analysis, collaboration with peers, and rich questions for small-group and whole-class discussion about the text and how it connects to the real world.
- Extend: The third activity invites students to produce a reflective, expository, analytical, or creative piece of writing (or other form of expression) in order to explore connections between the text, key concepts from the learning experience, and/or their own lives.
See the Related Materials section below for overviews of the learning experiences in this collection, organized by learning objectives and outcomes or by literary elements and ELA skills development.
Because ELA educators teach a wide range of texts, we have designed the Facing History learning experiences to be modular and adaptable. When developing a Facing History literature unit, we recommend the following criteria for selecting passages and scenes for close reading, literary analysis, group activities, and class discussions.
- Identify Passages with Facing History Themes and Concepts
Look for passages that explore the complexity of identity, membership and belonging in groups, universe of obligation, the moral universe of setting, moral decision-making, issues of fairness and justice, and examples of civic agency and participation. Such passages might include (but are not limited to) the following scenarios:
- A character has a realization about who they are, how others perceive them, or their perceptions of others.
- A character grapples with the costs and benefits of group membership, the desire to belong to a group, and/or the benefits and harms of conformity.
- A character is confronted with a choice or must make a decision about a right or wrong action.
- A range of factors complicate a characters’ decision-making process and influences their choice to take on the role of perpetrator, bystander, ally, or upstander.
- The “moral universe” of the setting impacts a character’s identity, sense of belonging, agency, and choices.
- Characters’ points of view invite students to practice perspective-taking in order to cultivate empathy and respect for others.
- The passage offers opportunities for students to make historical and contemporary connections to the text.
- The passage offers opportunities for students to make personal connections to the text and consider how it can help them understand others in their community and world and foster a sense of personal agency.
- Integrate the Head, Heart, and Conscience
Choose passages that engage the mind, heart, and conscience. These kinds of passages invite students to consider what they know and how they know it, how they feel, and their ideas about right and wrong, fairness and injustice. This integration of head, heart, and conscience is always important to learning, and it’s particularly important when students are grappling with the complex questions about identity, choices, and belonging in the world that literature—and life—can raise.
- Take into Account Complexity and Craft
Choose passages with significant complexity to encourage rereading and meaning making. These kinds of passages invite reflection and discussion about human behavior and the world we inhabit. Furthermore, they provide opportunities for students to examine craft and the choices authors make to develop their characters and the world of the text.
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Materials and Downloads
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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.
Exploring ELA Text Selection with Julia Torres
Working for Justice, Equity and Civic Agency in Our Schools: A Conversation with Clint Smith
Centering Student Voices to Build Community and Agency