We’re here to support your #CharlottesvilleCurriculum

We’re here to support your #CharlottesvilleCurriculum

Valued educators,

Please be advised that we are covering this weekend's events in Charlottesville on Newsela. As you lead your students, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. To assist in classroom conversations about Charlottesville, we have made all PRO teacher resources for this article available to everyone for free. Please find them below.

  2. If you would prefer the article to be hidden, you can use our Hide function in the top-right corner of the article.

  3. Be ready to talk to your students about the news. Your students have probably been exposed to this tragic news already, especially if they're in middle or high school. We've put together some resources to help you talk to students about difficult breaking news topics, including this blog post.

  4. Help your students cope. Emotional responses to scary events are normal, and everyone finds their own ways of coping. We've curated a collection of articles that demonstrate the many ways people and communities heal and rebuild in times of tragedy.

We know that the articles we publish about events like this may be too upsetting for some students. As we mentioned after the Manchester attack and too many other times before, Newsela levels articles on these tragedies so that, should you choose to discuss these events in class, your students have access to the information they need in a language they understand.

Every classroom is a unique mix of perspectives and experiences, and you know best what is right for yours. The work you do grooming future leaders who are informed, thoughtful and kind motivates us in our own work. We thank you.

Add these resources to your #CharlottesvilleCurriculum

Paired Text: Making Connections (45 minutes)

Teacher Note:

This activity begins with a KWL chart to activate prior knowledge about the KKK. Next, students will focus annotations on the thoughts, words and actions of the KKK throughout history, and compare them to the thoughts, words and actions of the white supremacists in Charlottesville. Lastly, students will answer questions comparing the two articles and action plan as a class.

While the news of the violent outbreak in Charlottesville is startling, it is also draws an eerie parallel to historical hate crimes led by the Ku Klux Klan responding to the presence of marginalized communities. In this activity students will build upon their content knowledge on the origins of the KKK to further contextualize the organization’s role in the current events in Virginia and better understand the tactics this hate group employs. Students will consider why this hate group continues to exist and analyze the elements of the current climate in America that have caused a strong resurgence.


  1. Begin with a KWL chart to activate prior knowledge about the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Then, read the article about the history of the KKK.

  2. In GREEN, highlight the thoughts, words, and actions of members of the KKK.

  3. Then, read this article about Charlottesville.

  4. In GREEN, highlight the thoughts, words, and action of the white supremacists.

  5. Give students time (in groups or independently) to use evidence from both articles to answer the following three questions independently:

    1. What prompted the rise of the KKK and why is there a strong resurgence today?

    2. What tactics does the KKK use (or have they used in the past)? How were those displayed in Charlottesville?

    3. How have the two presidents mentioned in both articles responded to the KKK? How do their responses differ or align?

  6. Revisit the KWL chart from the beginning of class: what did students learn as a class? What surprised, shocked, and upset them to learn?

  7. Take action: as a class, brainstorm words and actions your community can take to promote peace and tolerance, and create a safe space for all.

Extension: Understanding “Hate” and the KKK (Lesson plan adapted from Teaching Tolerance)

Lesson Objectives

  • understand the definition of “hate” and be able to use alternate words

  • apply that understanding to the concept of hate crimes perpetrated by the KKK

Essential Questions

  • What is the nature of hate?

  • Which groups have been systematically targeted by the KKK?

  • What actions can we take as a class in response to groups that promote hate and are violent toward groups of people?

1. Say to students: The word “hate” is a strong one. But we often use it in a casual way. Think about the times you have used it to describe your reaction to something.

  1. Now, make a list of the things you “hate.” (Examples might include things like broccoli, homework, rainy days or getting up early.) Does your list include any people? What’s the difference between hating a thing and hating a person?

  2. As a class, discuss the definition of the word “hate.” (The word refers to a feeling of strong dislike — a feeling that demands action.) What can happen when somebody acts on their feelings of hate? Discuss how those actions might impact your classroom, your school and your community.

  3. Partner with another student or a small group of students. Take turns rephrasing your “I hate …” sentences so that they include more specific information. For instance: Instead of saying “I hate broccoli,” consider saying, “Broccoli doesn’t taste good to me” or “I like carrots better than broccoli.” If your list includes people, consider saying, “I wish my sister shared her toys” rather than “I hate my sister.” Why do you think these sentences are better choices? Share some examples of your new sentences with the rest of the class.

  4. As a class, agree that you will keep checking your use of the word “hate.” Every time you hear it or read it, stop and think about it. If possible, discuss it with a classmate or friend. How would you rephrase the sentence?

2. Reread the article about the history of the KKK. Either as individuals, in small groups, or as a class, brainstorm actions the class can take in response to the KKK and other groups or people who promote hate and commit acts of violence against others. From the brainstorm, agree upon 3 that your class is committed to. Consider setting action steps, a timeline to check in about how the commitment is going, and what holding yourselves accountable looks like.

Research: Project (60 - 90 minutes)

Teacher Note:

This activity begins with a pre-reading reflection on a quote, then pairs this article about the violence in Charlottesville with an article about the peace-promoting coloring book use in Ferguson, and ends with a collaborative art project.

Intentional acts of violence and hate that hurt innocent people are frightening and upsetting. As information becomes available, adults can support children in understanding the events that occurred in Charlottesville and working through and coping with their emotions. Art has the power to bring a community together, lift spirits, and inspire action. Use this text set to showcase some powerful examples of communities using art during challenging times and support your students in taking action after Charlottesville.


  1. Ask students, “What have you heard and what do you already know about the events in Charlottesville?” or ask students, “How are you feeling in response to the protests in Charlottesville? How might these feelings be congruent or different from your peers’ feelings, based on your identity?”

The unique identity of each educator and student will inform each person’s response to the events in Charlottesville. It’s important to acknowledge the diverse lived experiences of our students, especially students of color and students whose identities have been targeted by groups involved in the demonstration. These students may experience challenges pertaining their identities more often. It is therefore critical to create a space that honors the experiences and responses of all students. Not all students cope and can be comforted in the same way.

Give students an opportunity to think, write, draw, or talk (it is the beginning of the school year; you know your class and your students best).

  1. Display on the board and read aloud the following quote by Mark Heyer, the father of Heather Heyer who died during the violent protests in Charlottesville.

“[Heather] was a strong woman who had passionate opinions about the equality of everyone, and she tried to stand up for that. If I understood her, she would want to do it peacefully and with a fierceness of heart that comes with her conviction. It was important to her to speak up when injustices were happening.”

Give students an opportunity to think, write, draw, or talk (again, it is the beginning of the school year; you know your class and your students best). Ask, “what is Mr. Heyer’s message?” and “what message does Mr. Heyer have about taking action?

During Reading:

  1. Read the article about the events in Charlottesville.

  2. While reading, annotate in YELLOW the actions and feelings in response to the event.

  3. Next, read the article about the peace-promoting coloring book in response to events in Ferguson.

  4. While reading, annotate in YELLOW the actions and feelings in response to the event

After Reading

This activity can be done individually, in small groups, or as a whole class. Gauge your students’ reactions and emotional responses, and make that informed decision about what type of class work this is.

Task: Create a piece of art that could be included in a Charlottesville Peace-promoting Coloring Book. Think about the purpose of the art created in response to Ferguson and use that, along with evidence from the article about the events in Charlottesville, to inspire your art. What message does your art send to your community

Extension options:

  1. For more mature classrooms (perhaps in a high school setting), consider giving students the option of creating a protest sign that would promote both peace and a powerful message.

  2. Choose another form of art from the MLK: Art, Conflict, & Community Text Set to use as inspiration for an original creation. For example, have students a song, rap, or poem to express their message

Silent Dialogue Discussion

**Teaching Note**

It's important to realize that students will often hear about events of global importance, like the events in Charlottesville. Sometimes, what they hear or overhear from other media sources, their friends, or even siblings can make them more frightened or lead to misunderstandings. Students need access to the right kinds of information, which plays a key role in determining their thoughts on an event. To find out what students already know about this event; you can have students write for five minutes and possibly have them share with a partner. (They might also just share the information with you.)

**Teacher Instructions**

  • Assign the article

  • Add an annotation to the first sentence that says: “Share what you notice while reading this article by annotating and asking questions.  If you want to talk about it, come see me during reading time.”

**Silent Dialogue**

This approach works well for internal and external thinkers. Make sure that you have given students time to first ask you questions and to write or share with a partner.  Then, follow these steps.

  1. Create a chart that will be visible for the class to collect their thoughts on the events.

  2. Students read the article noticing parts that made them ask questions or that evoked a strong emotional reaction.  

  3. Students should highlight these parts and write their noticings.

  4. After reading, partner students up.  Students will switch computers with a peer.  Their peer will read over each annotation.

  5. Students will select the annotation from their peer that they agreed with, were moved by or had further questions about.

  6. Students will then write their peer’s annotation on a large sticky note or piece of paper to add to the chart.

  7. Use the final chart to facilitate a class discussion.

Topic Research: Drawing Strength from the Past

**Teaching Note**

Especially for students who feel targeted by the demonstrations, this article can make the world  feel scary or depressing. In this activity, students will read about other individuals and groups who have resisted racism and oppression.

**Teacher directions**

- Assign this article with the following instructions: As you read, pay close attention to text to self-connections. Highlight portions of the text that make you feel strong emotion and add annotations to describe what they’re feeling.

- After reading this article, share this link to this text set on Resilience. Have students choose one or more texts to read. After reading texts from the text set, have students return to the Charlottesville article to respond to the write prompt. Change the write prompt to the following: “How would you like to see your school or community respond to the tragedy? Name 2-3 actions you would like our school community to take.”

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