Discussing difficult topics in social studies
Occasionally during social studies instruction, the class discussion will cover a difficult topic. Topics can be controversial for many reasons such as political sensitivity, racial or ethnic ties, recent emotional events, regional prejudices and family preferences. Even a topic such as poverty or homelessness can be uncomfortable for teachers and students. Rather than avoid these discussions, plan ahead for them by considering these questions:
- What might make this topic difficult to discuss?
- What guidelines or procedures can I set up to eliminate possible problems?
- How can I make sure that I stay calm and matter-of-fact while we talk?
- Do I need to prepare my families ahead of time when we will be covering this topic?
- How will I share information we discussed with the families afterward?
- What suggestions do my colleagues have?
- Do I need to keep my administrator informed about our discussion and possible problems?