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Creating Upstanders for the Present While Exploring Our History

Every February classrooms across the nation observe Black History Month. While teachers have have a plethora of resources for reflecting on the past, many are wondering how to empower their students to take on issues of social justice in the present. Sara Ahmed is the co-author of the amazing book, Upstanders: How to Engage Middle School Hearts and Minds with Inquiry. The pages of this text are brimming with lesson plans, graphic organizers and student work that help teachers dig into difficult conversations and engage in a cycle of inquiry with their students.

To build a culture of upstanders, Sara recommends first helping students examine their own identity. Crediting Facing History, she offers the idea of identity maps and shares her own. Sara combines this activity with an intriguing picture book or read aloud to parallel her student identity maps with figures from our past. This lesson, great for primary through high school, allows students to explore who they are and make deeper connections to individuals in the historical events they are studying.

In the video below Sara describes this idea as well as others for building student agency and inquiry. These are great ideas for supercharging your classroom not only throughout February but all year long!

Note: In respect for Sara's identity, I must note that throughout the video below, I mispronounce her name. Apologies Sara! It is actually pronounced Sahr-uh. :)

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