Resources to Address the January 6th Insurrection- One Year Later

Where were you on January 6, 2021? Many educators watched events unfold in Washington D.C. as the U.S. Capitol was assaulted. Educators from around the nation worked well into the night to prepare to address the questions and concerns of their students the following day.

Many of the questions asked in classrooms around the nation on January 7, 2021 remain unanswered as we enter into the 2022 midterm election year. There will inevitably be news reports and punditry as many teachers return to school after winter break that will bring the events of the insurrection back on the front page and front of mind for students. 

Here are some strategies and resources to address January 6th, one year later for your consideration.

Start with Reflection

Your students may be wrestling with a range of emotions. The tools below can be used to engage students in thoughtful reflection to frame the discussion. After using the tool that works for you, collect student responses, and display them in a chart or word cloud. Discuss the patterns, trends, and outliers to build empathy and awareness of self and others in the class. Engage students in a proactive conversation on the essential question: Where do we go from here?

  • The Question Formulation Technique from the Right Question Institute can engage students in creating, editing, and making a plan to seek out the answers to questions they have about the events of January 6th, 2021. You could use a quote, image, or headline for your Q-Focus to start this process.
  • Use one of the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero to engage students:
    • Compass Point Reflection has students identify something that is worrisome, exciting, a “need to know,” and a suggestion for moving forward.
    • Color, Symbol, Image asks students to share and discuss color, a symbol, and an image that represents how they are feeling.
    • 3-2-1 Bridge can be used to have students identify 3 thoughts they have about January 6th, 2 questions they have, and 1 idea they have for moving forward.
    • Claim, Support, Question prompts students to make a claim about January 6th, support it with evidence, and a question they still have.

Revisit Norms for Discussion

One of the essential questions tackled in any classroom is, “How shall we live together?” Revisit your classroom norms for discussion. What does productive dialogue look like, feel like, and sound like? Here are a few tools to help to recalibrate or establish these norms as you return to the classroom.

  • Class Contracting from Facing History and Ourselves helps students discuss expectations and norms of how class members will treat one another face to face or online.
  • This one-page explainer of Dialogue vs. Debate from the U.S. Institute of Peace provides students with a vision of productive dialogue.
  • Teaching Tolerance shares the importance of creating a Classroom Culture to foster respect for oneself and others and uses What is your FRAME? to encourage students to reflect on their own background and enlarge their perspectives.

Have a Structure for Your Conversation

Great classroom discussions, like great lesson plans, rarely “happen.” They take time and intention. Here are strategies to consider employing to help students share their reflections and address the essential question, “Where do we go from here?”

  • Socratic Seminar is a protocol designed to help students dive into a common text or process a common experience to promote understanding of multiple perspectives, deepen inquiry, and create an understanding of the lived experiences of others. Support the seminar with an article you have curated about January 6th or with ideas students created in one of the reflection activities above. This guide from Facing History and Ourselves provides an overview of the strategy in traditional classrooms and there is also a remote learning edition from the Remote Learning Toolkit.
  • Big Paper Talk allows students to reflect on a common text or experience and silently share their thoughts before engaging in a larger conversation. There is both a face-to-face and remote learning edition from Facing History and Ourselves.
  • Hexagonal Thinking is a tool that can be used in the traditional or remote classroom. Students use hexagons (physical or digital) to personally reflect on a prompt and then bring the hexagons to the larger group to make a hexagonal map, illustrating connections between participants’ ideas. Students work together to connect all of the ideas, deliberate how the hexagons should be shifted, the question to understand, and create new hexagons if needed to make connections. You can find out more about this strategy from the Cult of Pedagogy blog or Vision in Practice.
  • Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn from Facing History and Ourselves has students journal, share, and listen, then discuss ideas in small groups before moving to whole class group sharing and discussion. This protocol concludes with a reflective journal entry. Students focus on listening to understand rather than to respond.

Words Matter

Classrooms often work to simulate the “real world” for students. However, much of the debate around current events happening outside of the classroom can be hyperbolic, misinformed, and often hurtful. Explicitly teaching and modeling “how we should live together” in the classroom is an important step to building “a more perfect union” outside of the classroom.

  • When speaking of the people involved, use formal language. Use terms like former President Trump and President Biden rather than terms like “Trump” and “Uncle Joe.” Avoid the language of othering. As iCivics Chief Education Officer Emma Humphries explained in an opinion piece for The Hechinger Report, “Vocabulary can be divisive, so give some thought to class norms for talking about the parties and candidates. For example, say the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, not the Republicans or the Democrats.”
  • Give students tools like these sentence starters from Teach Thought and these transition statements from Illinois Civics Instructional Coach Candace Fikis to support civil discussion. This is especially useful for ELL students.
  • Do not allow dehumanizing language. To quote activist and writer James Baldwin, “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” The Teaching Tolerance, Let’s Talk resource has specific advice on how to handle inappropriate language.

Model Media Literacy

There are still unanswered questions and much speculation about the events of January 6, 2021.  You and your students do not have to sort fact from fiction alone.

Seek out Professional Learning Networks to Support YOU 

YOU need ongoing support to help process current events and crowdsource timely and relevant resources to use in your classroom. Here are some free professional learning networks:

  • iCivics has created a page, “Teaching About January 6, 2021: Resources for Classroom Conversations Surrounding the Capitol Siege”
  • Generation Citizen has a comprehensive archive of resources and strategies from multiple civic learning organizations titled, “Teacher Resource Guide- Insurrection on the Capitol.”
  • Facing History and Ourselves has curated a number of resources to help classrooms with Teaching about the January 6th Insurrection and Its’ Impact on Democracy.
  • The Illinois Civics Hub has ongoing blogs, newsletters, and resources to support teachers. The Hub also shares resources via Twitter (@IL_CivicsHub, #CivicsInTheMiddle) and a Facebook group.
  • The Social Studies Chat Network (#sschat) has weekly Twitter chats on Monday from 6-7:00 CT to support educators. Find out more and peruse their archives of previous discussions to respond to challenging events.
  • PBS NewsHour Extra has special webinars to support teachers in difficult times.

More Resources to Help Students Process Current Events