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Social Justice

Our work group is focused on Social Justice teaching for elementary students. We want students to develop background knowledge, a common language, and discursive skills regarding social justice. The students and teachers engage in learning experiences that require reflection, perspective-taking, self advocacy and agency.

Digging Deep: Dialogue around what we mean when we use the term Social Justice

SJ icons v3Cindy Kratzer led us into a powerful discussion about paradigms, principles, and practice by first giving us some touchstone articles to read, debrief, and kick start our thinking. As we shared our ideas and debated nuances in terminology and conceptualization, we developed the following ways to organize the principles of Social Justice in a manner that made sense to how we envisioned our work with children.

This discussion fueled us to consider in what ways young children could access this type of inquiry for a variety of contexts, topics, literature and hopefully, their lived experiences too. We began by brainstorming different types of "lenses" students would be familiar with that could possibly illustrate the type of analysis we would be asking them to partake in. After much lively discussion, Chris was able to develop the following tool that has proven quite useful.


Social Justice Resource Compilation: Literature for Teachers and Students 

Our team researched and created this list to aid in the building of Social Justice learning experiences in the classroom. These recommended books will encourage children and adults to question, challenge, and re-think the world beyond the headlines. It provides a listing of books to make our very diverse classes welcoming to all students. These resources fill in what the textbooks leave out so that our students can see themselves and their issues in the curriculum. 


Building What We're Learning into our Classroom Practice: Small Steps and Big Steps

When we wrote this grant, we had so many plans and dreams for what we would be able to do.  We were in teaching positions that spanned all ages and were all working within a particular context.  Some of the goals were simpler to accomplish, while some of our goals would need to shift due to the nature of being part of a dynamic school system. Our positions changed and our context changed as well; we had to evolve and adjust, all the while reflecting upon and discovering what truly grounded us to the philosophical underpinnings of a project called Creating Collegial Relationships for Social Justice. 

On this site we choose to focus on what has blossomed from this incredible opportunity we were given: to design, guide and shape our own professional development for two years.  In terms of achievement, we have been able to nourish and develop our passions for peer coaching and social justice, while still realizing that our ideals will keep us on this learning path for a long time to come.  Although it did not end up “looking” the way we expected it to, our work has woven itself into Lab School culture and has increased teachers’ interest and sense of possibility for their own professional development.  Over the past two years, at the Lab School and at other schools, we have each taken on roles that involve leadership, school-wide responsibilities, professional development design and facilitation, curriculum and resource development, and most importantly, collegial support.  These were welcome yet unexpected outcomes of our participation in TIIP2 but we imagine that these were the expected outcomes of those who dreamt up the Teacher Initiated Inquiry Project.

Small Steps: Coaching and Co-Planning with Social Justice in Mind

Gen with studentsWhen Gen and I first met to discuss how we would implement our iteration of the coaching cycle our TIIP2 team developed, it was clear that the relationships that we had purposefully cultivated as a result of our work on CCRSJ had transformed my perception of what it meant to coach a colleague. Although I had never engaged in peer coaching before this experience with CCRSJ, I have encountered various instructional coaches—literacy coaches, math coaches, science experts, etc.--throughout my career. Those interactions were mostly positive, yet there was definitely an expert/novice dynamic to the encounters in that the coach usually took on the role of a consultant and or facilitator. My experiences with our TIIP2 team felt different. There was an intimacy and openness that was borne of trust, respect, and camaraderie. I think this came about because our team chose to make sure that we each took the opportunity to coach and be coached, so that we became familiar with both sides of the relationship.  Each stage of the coaching cycle became characterized by collaboration as well as consultation and constructive feedback. Having another brain during pre-observation planning and second pair of eyes during instruction helps improve practice.  For this coaching cycle, I was the coach and Gen would present a couple of lessons that I would observe.

Click here to read more about Gen's Timeline and Multiple Perspectives lessons.

Big Steps: Documentation of a Project Based Inquiry Unit for 1st and 2nd Graders

Timeline of Power and Change PhotosCarla-Anne and I were co-teaching in our 1st and 2nd Grade classroom.  I have taught these grades for over fifteen years so was very familiar with traditional "People Who Make a Difference" units.  Working with Carla-Anne and my CCRSJ colleagues I was encouraged to try new methods to teach children about how individual action has changed our world.  I had been researching and studying the use of Primary Sources in the classroom, after studying at the Library of Congress and creating trainings for other teachers about Teaching with Primary Sources. Part of using primary sources in the classroom is to teach students to "think like historians" and to develop the habits of a historian. The habits of a historian include contextualizing, reading sources closely, using background knowledge, sourcing information, corroborating, and reading the silences. My conversations with my CCRSJ colleagues helped me see that using primary sources with students is a great way help them confront social justice issues. Throughout planning this new unit, we experimented with provoking thought and discussion about social justice issues, our big idea concepts of power and change, and finding primary sources that would promote critical thinking.


Additional Resources Connected to our Inquiry Unit

  • Read on to see how our unit progressed and click on the links below to the unit plan, sample lesson plans, and some of the social justice resources we developed.

Sample lesson plans using social justice lenses:

Social Justice Resources:

Social Justice Booklist, Books that address Anti-bias education, Civil Rights, Immigration, different lenses to explore American History, Classism, Racism and much more.  This booklist is a source for books to build Social Justice in the classroom.  These recommended books will encourage children and adults to question, challenge, and re-think the world beyond the headlines.  It provides a listing of books we will need to make our very diverse classes welcoming to all our students. These resources fill in what the textbooks leave out so that our students can see themselves and their issues in the curriculum.

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