Black Lives Matter: Three Ways to Discuss Racism With Students


For every event of such blatant racism caught on video, there are a thousand more incidents of racism lying beneath the surface.

As educators, how do we help address and discuss such a difficult topic with our students?

Activity #1: Picture Discussion Protocol

This is an activity allows students to uncover the underlying causes of inequity.

The setup: Project a picture at the front of your classroom, or if meeting with online learners- on a shared screen in Zoom. I like this picture:

The Discussion: Ask students to answer these three questions in this order:

What do you see? What do you infer? How might this picture represent our society? First they reflect silently in a journal; next with a partner, and lastly as a class.

Activity #2: Walk the Line

This activity allows students to address issues of institutionalised racism by seeing it visibly represented by the class.

The Setup: Create a taped line that says ‘start.’ Create a taped line 10 meters away that says ‘finish.’

The Activity: Read a series of statements and have students take one step forward if it represents their situation.

Sample statements: (List of statements here)

1. All those whose parents spoke English as a first language, take one step forward.

2. All those who have vacationed in a foreign country, take one step forward.

3. All those whose parent or parents have completed college take one step forward.

4. All those who commonly see people of their race or ethnicity on television or movies in roles you consider degrading, take one step back.

The Discussion: Use these following questions for reflection.

What do you think the ‘finish line’ represents? Where did you end up in this activity? How has this activity changed the way you think about race?

Activity #3: Underlying Bias Gallery Walk Activity

This is an activity that helps students uncover underlying biases and impressions they have of people based on race, clothes, culture, or background.

The setup: Find, print out and place 10 pictures of different people around the classroom. Tell students they are going to complete an activity on ‘trust.’

The Activity: Give students two minutes to silently move to the picture of the person they deem to be ‘most trustworthy.’ It’s very important that students do not talk until after the two minutes is up.

The Discussion: After every student has taken their place, ask the following questions:

What about this person seems ‘trustworthy?’ What do you think this person has in common with you? Does this person remind you of someone you know? Why does this person look ‘distrust-worthy?’ What biases did this activity uncover for you?

After having time to discuss, share the short narratives of each person around the room.

Going Deeper

There are a lot of powerful discussions happening around the topic of racism right now.

If you are looking for a place to start, my friend and educational Danny Bauer has put out a few great ‘podcast episodes addressing the topic in schools here: Antiracist Podcast Episodes

On Twitter, I suggest joining a Twitter chat to hear how other educators are addressing the topic. Here is one I really like.

Thanks for all you do for kids and for continuing to speak out against racism!

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Kyle Wagner
School Transformation and Project- Based Learning Coach

I coach school leaders on how to lead change and improve student learning through simple, innovative srategies and teaming structures.

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