Photographs are a great way to get student attention and make connections about challenging themes. In addition, they are useful for teaching about primary and secondary sources. This is a collection of photographs about Understanding People's Perspectives, Exposing Injustice and Confronting Injustice. The current example is slightly dated but still useful. I like this exercise because it sparks discussion and links historical events to current events.
Another inspirational gem, this video continues the pass it forward message. It is great for encouraging students to find the little moments where they can pitch in and help out just because it is the right thing to do. Since I show these messages to my middle school students frequently they can brush it off at times, but I do see evidence of it sinking in when students are able to reflect to me about how they made a small choice that helped someone out.
These kits are available for free. There are a variety of topics, but the one I am most familiar with is "Mighty Times: The Children's March." This kit goes into detail about how the young people of Birmingham, Alabama, braved fire hoses and police dogs in 1963 and brought segregation to its knees. This is used by several teachers at the middle school I teach at to complement our civil rights instruction as well as to spark discussions about how young people can work for positive change.
We showed 2 Kid President videos at an assembly honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Kid President himself has an inspiring story (check out his book!) and offers an engaging message for middle school students. Instead of focusing on specific events, Kid President focuses more on the underlying message and how students can respond in their own lives like Dr. King. It encourages students to focus on their dreams and take action to make change in their lives and communities.
This organization, Teaching for Change, has many resources for teaching about social justice. Their information about the Civil Rights movement has a depth and complexity that goes beyond the "heroes" approach. There are three sections: Teach Selma, Teaching about Freedom Schools and Teaching about 1963. Each links to specific lessons. It is a great place to start for learning how to add depth to a discussion about this topic depending on your specific direction.
Our middle school creates opportunities each year for students to become involved in meaningful efforts to create change in their community. This book explains how and why to do this and can help you learn how to structure projects that otherwise seem overwhelming. I love how the book matches literature to the ideas. We had a student die from cancer at our school. Using his life as inspiration our school did service in his memory and developed a fundraiser to benefit cures for childhood cancer.
There are many, many topics that can be used to address equity and justice. In this article the author explains what to consider when deciding how to start these conversations in the classroom. It can be difficult to know where to start and how to handle complex issues fairly. This is solid advice I have incorporated personally in my lessons. Having an engaging lesson about a Civil Rights issue and connecting it to action is the best way I have seen to invest students in making positive change.