21 tools for helping your kids understand the events in Ukraine. (Plus some bonus advice from a mom.)
Current events have always been something that we as social studies teachers are acutely aware of. There are so many ways that we’re able to use them to connect past with present. But the last few weeks have been difficult. Ukrainian people are suffering. And it doesn’t seem like that will be ending anytime soon.
What’s the best way to integrate the events in Ukraine into our classrooms?
We all love Mister Rogers. Something he said once seems to fit here:
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”
The more we talk, the manageable things become. Browse through this short list of resources that can help. And while the list is separated by grade level, don’t be afraid to cross-pollinate between the two.
- The Conversation: How to talk to children about the invasion of Ukraine, and why those conversations are important
- Teacher Vision: Veteran Teachers on How to Talk with Your Students About the War in Ukraine
- Edutopia: Helping Your Students Cope With a Violent World and strategies for helping children make sense of a violent world
- Education Week: 5 Tips for How to Talk With Students About the Russia-Ukraine War
- District Administrator: 7 age-appropriate ideas for helping students grasp the war in Ukraine – model lesson plans for teaching about Russia’s invasion.
- Anti-Defamation League: Why is there a Refugee Crisis in Ukraine?
- American Psychological Association: Resilience in a time of war, tips for parents and teachers of elementary school children.
- Resources to Respond to Tragedy and Violence is an Illinois Civics blog with SEL-aligned practices to engage student voices in sharing their questions, concerns, and lived experiences with events in Ukraine.
- American Psychological Association: Resilience in a Time of War: Tips for parents and teachers of middle school students.
- Why the Russia-Ukraine Crisis is Relevant to Teachers from EdWeek provides insights from educational thought leaders about what classrooms can do to help students process events.
- The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap has resources for K-12 around the theme of “People in The World.” with driving questions for both civics and history classrooms.
- iCivics has curriculum units for both middle and high school students: Foreign Policy: War and Peace and Everything In-Between. They’ve also just launched a new game, Convene the Council, where students take on the role of US President and respond to world events with the support of their National Security Council.
- The Choices Program at Brown University has developed this lesson delving into the background of Unrest in Ukraine and a current lesson plan on The Ukraine Crisis.
- The New York Times provides lesson plans and resources for teaching about Ukraine.
- Misinformation in social and news media is an issue. Explore some of these resources: WeAreTeachers published Getting Ukraine-Russia News From TikTok to help teachers talk to students about what they’re hearing on social media and address their concerns. The News Literacy Project has created a resource, Combating misinformation about the war in Ukraine. The National Council for the Social Studies published an article on World War II rumors, how they spread, and how the Office of War Information fought to combat them. A great way to connect past and present. You could also use the Stanford History Education Group: Civic Online Reasoning site.
- C-SPAN Classroom: Educators can access video clips of reactions to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine from various sources.
- AllSides: Dedicated to presenting current events from multiple perspectives, this resource provides the latest news on the Ukraine from news sources that lean right, centrist, and left.
Need something basic and practical?
Deborah Farmer Kris, PBS correspondent and mom, has a few suggestions that helped her have conversations with her kids. Worked for her. I’m betting it’ll work for you:
A map: I pulled out the globe and asked my son to put his finger on Ukraine, Russia and the Black Sea. We touched other countries and talked a bit about the formation and breakup of the Soviet Union (just simple history/geography).
We talked about some of the reasons wars start and how this was a “war of choice,” because Russia’s leader wants “more.” This is simply wrong, like it would be wrong for someone to break into his room and say “All of this is mine.”
I explained sanctions in simple terms and named some of the other countries imposing sanctions. I also showed him a picture of Russians protesting because I don’t want him to conflate the actions of a tyrant with an entire country of people.
We talked about refugees. I reminded him about the donation drive we did to collect items for Afghan refugees last fall. I showed him a picture of Ukrainians in a train station, trying to leave. “Let’s be on the lookout for ways to help,” I told him.
Finally, I told him that we’d keep talking about it and that he can ask me questions anytime.
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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Speaking and Consulting page.