At a Glance
LanguageEnglish — US
- English & Language Arts
- Social Studies
About This Teaching Strategy
Often teachers have the responsibility of helping students reflect on and process painful or traumatic events in local, national, or global news, including acts of violence, natural disasters, or the uncovering of historical atrocities. Cultivating a sense of agency and care can help students process these events. This teaching strategy is designed to help students think about what “tools” they have access to that can help them take care of themselves and others in the wake of traumatic news. It invites them to create a physical toolbox containing “tools” that represent the skills, attitudes, and actions that are necessary to care for themselves and their communities during difficult times. This strategy helps students to reflect and to recognize what they might need to make a difference.
Students’ toolboxes can take a variety of forms, such as an actual box with a new design or decoration added by the student, a hollowed-out old book, or a soft-sided sewn object. The “tools” within can be symbolic objects, collages, images, poems, or favorite quotations. For example, students can include eyeglasses to help them “focus more clearly.”
Steps for Implementation
Ask students what the purpose of a toolbox is. Then, brainstorm examples of tools that are commonly found in toolboxes and think about the purpose of each tool. Explain to students that a “toolbox for care” is a collection of metaphorical “tools” that represent the resources we can use to take care of each other.
Students should construct their toolboxes—they can use decorations or the shape to indicate when it should be used—and then select five objects that represent the different “tools” that can help them take care of themselves and their communities. The “tools” can be symbolic objects, collages, images, poems, or favorite quotations. Students should write a reflection that explains each of their “tools” and how they plan to use them.
Share the following questions with students to help them reflect and select their “tools.”:
- What will I have in my toolbox that will help me do “small acts” of goodness on a daily basis?
- What will I have in my toolbox that will help me turn those small acts into something bigger and more impactful?
- What will I have in my toolbox that will help me choose kindness over indifference, especially during difficult times?
- What will I have in my toolbox that will help me take care of myself?
- What will I have in my toolbox that will help me build connections with other people?
Ask students to share their toolboxes and written reflections with their classmates. Then, reflect together:
- Which “tools” are the most popular? Why might that be the case?
- Which “tools” seem most accessible? To whom? Who might not have access to these “tools”? Why?
- Which “tools” seem out of your reach at the moment, and what could be done to gain access to them?
- Are there any “tools” that you would like to add to your toolbox? If so, what are they and why do you need to add them?
Have your students save their toolboxes, and revisit them when new events arise. Ask your students to consider which “tools” are most relevant to the new situation and whether any new tools should be added.
If students do not have access to physical objects to construct their toolboxes, they can draw an image of a toolbox and their “tools” instead.
Ask each student to choose one object to contribute to a class toolbox. Then, reflect together on which “tools” students included.
How are you planning to use this resource?Tell Us More
You might also be interested in…
Learning to Infer
Connecting the Past to the Present Using Oral History
Unlimited Access to Learning. More Added Every Month.
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