Classroom resources to teach about civil rights and social justice

"Deepening Our Knowledge to Build the Movement"

These classroom resources from the AFT website, Share My Lesson, will complement the 2015 AFT Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Conference program. To access these materials, you will need to create an account on Share My Lesson. It takes just 30 seconds to join, and registration and access are free. We hope you will use these resources with your students or share them with your colleagues. We also encourage you to upload your own resources to the site. If you have any questions about the resources or about contributing to Share My Lesson, please contact us at

Activism and Peaceful Protests

The Press and the Civil Rights Movement
Learn about civil rights leaders who understood the value of having a media spotlight on their cause and effectively used the First Amendment and the press to expose the injustices of racial segregation.

Using Photographs to Teach Social Justice
This activity will help students explore issues of racism, stereotypes and bias, and also come to understand how photographs can expose racism.

Media Constructions of Social Justice
This kit explores how people have perceived social justice movements over the past 180 years and how the U.S. media have constructed that public perception.

Fighting for a Cause
Use this unit to teach your students about historical figures, including César Chávez, who fought for causes they believed would make a difference.

Change Through Strategic Nonviolent Action
In this lesson, nonviolence is introduced to students as a concept with a deep history that reverberates in the present. Students will analyze major figures who practiced nonviolent action.

Evaluating Nonviolence
This lesson plan examines the use of nonviolent resistance during the civil rights movement.

John Lewis: Nonviolent Activism
At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to describe a nonviolent campaign for social, political or cultural change.

Un-Civil Rights: Unspoken History
This history project requires students to do research on key social groups such as the Black Panthers, Brown Berets, Young Lords, Native American Movement and their leaders to gain a broader understanding of the fight for equality.

Social Justice Poetry
This lesson provides an opportunity for middle school students to explore poetry and songs about injustice, reflect on what social justice issues are important to them, and then write their own poems about social justice using a variety of formats and finding creative ways to share their poetry with others.


Migrant Workers Social Justice
In this video/service project, students bring awareness and assistance to migrant farmworkers by launching a donation drive to collect supplies to protect migrant workers as well as conducting research and interviews on health and safety issues in order to educate their school and community.

Immigration Community Outreach: Building an Inclusive Community
This one-week immigration community outreach project and lesson plan meets three objectives: (1) to educate students on the experiences of the immigrant population; (2) to celebrate and welcome immigrant students; and (3) to empower all students to implement a social justice project.

Immigration Status Privilege Walk
In this lesson plan, students are randomly assigned an immigration status—citizen, lawful permanent resident, undocumented, or DACA recipient—and will discuss what the terms mean and the different benefits and barriers affecting each immigration status. Extensions and adaptations provided for learners at multiple levels.

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the DREAM Act, reflect on different perspectives about it and identify their own opinion to defend in writing.

Teaching Tolerance and Respect

Becki Cohn-Vargas, director of Not In Our School, writes about the reality of racial profiling and the dangers of stereotyping in this blog for Share My Lesson.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Toolkit
SEL focuses on the development of a core set of social and emotional skills that help children more effectively handle life challenges and develop skills they need to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, and establish positive relationships.

Stand Up/Sit Similarities/Differences Exercise
This whole class interactive activity has students respond to a series of “yes/no” statements dealing with respect and violence. It is meant to show students that they are more similar than different and inspire respectful nonviolent interaction in the classroom.

How Do We Want Our Class To Be?
Promote a welcoming environment by completing this activity with students and partnering with them to create rules and norms that highlight how we can communicate clearly with one another, solve problems and treat one another with respect.

What Does My Community Look Like?
In this lesson, students take a literal and figurative snapshot of their community with regard to tolerance/inclusion of those with intellectual disabilities. They compare their own perceptions to what someone with an intellectual disability might experience. This lesson would work well in a unit that explores social justice or service learning.

Racial Profiling
This lesson was designed to help students to define and identify instances of racial profiling and understand why racial profiling matters.

In this lesson, students learn to define, identify and evaluate racial stereotypes.

Selma to Ferguson—Addressing Implicit Bias: Webinar
Download the PowerPoint and handout from the Not in Our School webinar featured during the Share My Lesson Ideas and Innovations Virtual Conference. You may also take this webinar on demand for professional development credit.

Helping Student Express Their Feelings

Feeling Angry: Peacemaker Skills
This first-grade lesson helps students improve their ability to identify and understand feelings of anger, as well as to identify constructive ways to cope with these feelings.

Communication: Peacemaker Skills
This third-grade lesson helps students improve their ability to communicate and appreciate communication as a tool of peacemaking.

Managing Emotional Reactions to Traumatic Events
Parents and teachers can help youngsters manage their feelings by both modeling healthy coping strategies and closely monitoring their own emotional state and those of the children in their care. 

A National Tragedy: Helping Students Cope
Whenever a national tragedy occurs, children, like many people, may be confused or frightened. Most likely they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. This guide will help.

Circles of Control
We all worry, but we do not always have control over what happens to us. In this resource, students categorize various fears according to the level of control they have over them.

The U.S. Justice System

Role of the Courts
In this podcast from 60-Second Civics, students learn about the role of the courts in civil rights cases, such as the  Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Justice and Injustice
This is a lesson that introduces students to the concepts of justice and injustice.

The Legal System: A Review
This handout helps students review key elements of the legal system.

Police Brutality and Excessive Force
Use these resources to discuss police brutality and the use of excessive force.

Mass Incarceration in the United States
This resource includes a playlist of short videos as well as a guide that provides background, discussion questions and journals/articles to help students discuss the odds of a person going to prison in the United States.

The Rule of Law
Learn about the rule of law and how it is intended to protect citizens.

The Supreme Court and U.S. Judiciary
This resource contains activities that have students look at the federal court structure and the Supreme Court.

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins
Learn about how Bishop-Jenkin advocates the strategy and suggests that people look at crimes as being “victim-centered.”