From Provocative to Productive: Teaching Controversial Topics

Get first steps for creating a respectful yet vibrant environment for students to explore diverse ideas on controversial topics, from politics to profanity, religion to racism. Four guidelines and a debate leader checklist provide a foundation for those seeking to steer productive conversations about controversial subjects.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

This case summary provides teachers with everything they need to teach about Brown v. Board of Education (1954). It contains background information in the form of summaries and important vocabulary at three different reading levels, as well a review of relevant legal concepts, diagram of how the case moved through the court system, and summary of the decision. This resource also includes nine classroom-ready activities that teach about the case using interactive methods.

  • Resource Type: ESL Appropriate, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Special Needs/Language Focus
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Scottsboro Boys and To Kill a Mockingbird: Two Trials for the Classroom

In this lesson, students will perform a comparative close reading of select informational texts from the Scottsboro Boys trials alongside sections from To Kill a Mockingbird. Students analyze the two trials and the characters and arguments involved in them to see how fictional “truth” both mirrors and departs from the factual experience that inspired it.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Gradual Emancipation of Slaves After 1780

This short video examines the gradual but limited emancipation that occurred before the Constitutional Convention. In Northern states, fewer slaves and less racist sentiment enabled states such as Pennsylvania to pass gradual emancipation laws while even some Southern states, where racism was more entrenched, made it easier for slaves to be freed. However, as Professor John Kaminiski notes, the great political leaders of the South took no bold actions to free their slaves.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Martin Luther King Jr: History and Legacy

Martin Luther King Jr., arguably the 20th century’s most famous civil rights leader, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. King’s last speech was a testament to his commitment to the labor movement, showing recognition that labor’s fight for economic justice and dignity were intertwined with the civil rights movement. Here are some teaching resources that will deepen your students’ understanding of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources
  • Subject:
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12