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Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension

Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension


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Topics such as race, gender, politics, religion, and sexuality are part of our students' lives, yet when these subjects are brought up at school teachers often struggle with how to respond. How do we create learning conditions where kids can ask the questions they want to ask, muddle through how to say the things they are thinking, and have tough conversations? How can we be proactive and take steps to engaging in the types of conversations where risk is high but the payoff could be even greater?

Being the Change is based on the idea that people can develop skills and habits to serve them in the comprehension of social issues. Sara K. Ahmed identifies and unpacks the skills of social comprehension, providing teachers with tools and activities that help students make sense of themselves and the world as they navigate relevant topics in today's society.

Each chapter includes clear, transferrable lessons and practical strategies that help students learn about a targeted social comprehension concept. From exploring identity and diversity to understanding and addressing biases and microaggressions, Sara demonstrates how to address real issues honestly in the classroom while honoring and empowering students.

Dealing with social issues is uncomfortable and often messy, but you can build habitats of trust where kids and adults can make their thinking visible and cultivate empathy; where expression, identity, and social literacy matter. There is no magic formula for making the world a better place. It happens in the moments we embrace discomfort and have candid conversations.


"I am convinced that every class of kids I work with is filled with change agents who will make this world the one we teach toward. I believe that my students will carry the work of doing right by this world into their own lives.

I'll bet you believe this about your kids, too."

-Sara K. Ahmed

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780325099705
Publisher: Heinemann
Publication date: 03/22/2018
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 75,218
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Sara K. Ahmed is currently a literacy coach at NIST International School in Bangkok, Thailand. She has taught in urban, suburban, public, independent, and international schools, where her classrooms were designed to help students consider their own identities and see the humanity in others. Sara is the author of Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension and coauthor with Harvey "Smokey" Daniels of Upstanders: How to Engage Middle School Hearts and Minds with Inquiry. She has served on the teacher leadership team for Facing History and Ourselves, an international organization devoted to developing critical thinking and empathy for others. You can find her on Twitter @SaraKAhmed.

Table of Contents

Foreword Terrence J. Roberts, PhD xi

A Letter to Readers xii

Acknowledgments xvii

An Introduction to Social Comprehension and Strategies to Prepare You for the Work Ahead xxi

Chapter 1 Exploring Our Identities 1

Lesson: Affirming Our Identities: Identity Webs 5

We introduce the elements of our own identities (such as sister, athlete, bilingual, reader) and look for connections to or wonders about the identities of others.

Lesson: Placing Ourselves in the World: Stories of Our Names 14

Using a mentor text, we write the stories of how we got our names, how our names make us feel, and our experiences with our names.

Lesson: Journeying into Our Family Histories: "Where I'm From" Poems 21

We use the structure of a "Where I'm From" poem to share our family histories, storied objects, and moments.

Synthesis: Making Thinking Visible 29

Chapter 2 Listening with Love 30

Synthesis: Making Thinking Visible 40

Chapter 3 Being Candid 41

Lesson: Seeing Our Own Bias: Drawing Activity 45

We learn about how bias works, and we use an activity to help us see some of our own bias and brainstorm how we can confront it.

Lesson: Understanding Microaggressions: Poem Analysis 55

We analyze examples of microaggressions to understand what they are and how they affect people, and we look for microaggressions in our own lives.

Lesson: Refusing to Let Others' Biases Define Us: Identity Statements 62

We assert who we are with confidence. We recall labels others have tried to put on us, reject those labels, and choose how we define who we are.

Synthesis: Making Thinking Visible 73

Chapter 4 Becoming Better Informed 75

Lesson: Understanding How Our Identity Affects Us: Our News 79

We identify what is happening in our world-personal events, news stories, media-and consider how our identity shapes what we give our attention to.

Lesson: Moving Beyond Our Initial Thinking: Mini-Inquiries 89

We use a mini-inquiry to learn more about a topic and examine how new information changes our perspective.

Synthesis: Making Thinking Visible 98

Chapter 5 Finding Humanity in Ourselves and in Others 99

Lesson: Broadening Our Ideas About Who We Are Responsible To and For: Our Universe of Obligation 105

We consider who we feel responsibility to and why. We also consider how that responsibility can change in certain situations.

Lesson: Understanding Others' Perspectives: Intent Versus Impact 116

We work to understand two sides of a divisive issue by listening to both perspectives.

Synthesis: Making Thinking Visible 125

Chapter 6 Facing Crisis Together 126

Suggested Resource Stacks 135

References and Inspiration 137

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