Nine Ways to Help Students Discuss Guns and Violence

Laura Tavares understands that teachers face tough choices deciding what it’s safe to discuss in their classrooms.

[S]chool climates are more hostile and polarized than before, making teachers’ tasks of nurturing civil dialogue, finding reliable sources of information, maintaining professional neutrality, and creating an inclusive environment more difficult. It’s not surprising that many teachers say it’s just too hard and too risky to engage students in discussion of contentious current issues. Yet this essential civic task of schools is more important than ever, at a time when studies reveal declining support for democracy itself.

In this article, she shares nine approaches that Facing History and Ourselves has developed to foster productive discussion about challenging issues:

  1. Foster civil discourse and reflection

  2. Establish classroom norms

  3. Embrace silence

  4. Encourage informed dialogue

  5. Let students drive the conversation

  6. Expect the unexpected

  7. Encourage student agency

  8. Connect curriculum and current events

  9. Listen to young people

Read the article for detailed insights into each approach plus links to lesson plans and further resources