Teaching the Teachable Moment through Contextualization
The State Superintendent for Public Instruction, Dr. James Lane, and the Virginia Department of Education stand with the Governor in denouncing the violent actions at our nation’s capital on Wednesday amidst the peaceful transfer of power in our democracy. As the Department of Education, we strive to provide relevant resources to Virginia educators entrusted with supporting children and fostering their critical understanding of the world around them. Therefore, the Department has compiled a list of resources that may be useful to teachers, schools and parents as they support the emotional well-being of students in the wake of this week’s events, and help them come to deeply understand these current events and their historical context.
On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, our nation experienced an event unlike anything in our nation since the War of 1812. This, like many others, is a teachable moment in not only our history and social science classrooms, but in all of our educational spaces. As educators, we have a duty and responsibility to provide opportunities for students to engage in civil discussions while respecting differing opinions and considering multiple perspectives. They must be able to explore various sources to pose questions and understand their concerns they have during this unprecedented event. We must provide the opportunity for our students to ask questions and our educators must have the resources to support those questions to be asked in a safe space. Students and educators must be given support to provide opportunities for inquiry, critical thinking, open dialogue and to apply critical thinking through the use of and evaluation of sources for accuracy, credibility, bias, and propaganda.
As educational leaders, it is imperative that we recognize the vital need to prioritize education for all students at every level that includes civic learning and engagement, civil discourse, critical and creative thinking, communication, and collaboration in all disciplines.
Teaching the Teachable Moment through Contextualization
Educators must strive to identify themes and concepts for students to appreciate policies, institutions, worldviews, and circumstances that have shaped particular moments in time. Contextualization allows teachers to connect a historical event or period for their students.
Therefore, teachers should facilitate opportunities for students to :
- Utilize various information sources to contextualize the issue, event, moment with multiple perspectives;
- Ask questions that promote the tenets of respectful civil discourse, critical and creative thinking, communication, and collaboration;
- Formulate and evaluate an opinion, perspective, or argument using a decision-making process;
- Articulate and communicate claims with evidence; and
- Develop a product that demonstrates their understanding of the connections and civic awareness and engagement.
The importance of social-emotional learning
The Virginia Department of Education’s social emotional learning (SEL) efforts are driven by our commitment to ensure that every student in Virginia attends a school that maximizes their potential and prepares them for the future: academically, socially, and emotionally. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social and emotional learning (SEL) as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
The following resources, compiled by staff at the Virginia Department of Education, can be considered and reviewed as teachers develop learning experiences during teachable moments. Please share with all of your educators as they provide opportunities for interdisciplinary planning, teaching and learning.
Civics and History
- 2020 Virginia Civics Summit – VDOE virtual professional development series
- Commission on Civic Education
Process for Electoral College
- Presidential Election Process
- Election Resource
- Resources on the Capitol Building
- Library of Congress: Electoral College
- Civic Online Reasoning
- Library of Congress Primary Source Analysis Tool
- National Archives Document Source Analysis
- eMediaVA – collection of playlists organized by themes throughout history
- United States House of Representatives
- United States Senate
- Bill of Rights Institute – primary source documents related to American ideas and institutions
- National Archives Museum – founding documents and educator resources
- Everyday Civics – classroom resources including lesson plans, discussion boards, primary documents, Internet links and media partnership resources
- Documents of American History – text of the Constitution of Virginia, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States of America with Amendments and the Virginia Charters
- Virginia General Assembly – Capitol Classroom information and resources are for students of all ages interested in learning more about the Virginia General Assembly and the Virginia State Capitol.
- Center for Civic Education – The mission of the Center for Civic Education is to promote an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries.
- The Center for the Constitution – The Center for the Constitution has been established to provide the nation’s educators and opinion leaders with advanced educational opportunities and high-quality professional development.
- VDOE History and Social Science Webpage – resources and professional development
- Gilder Lehrman – American history through educational programs and resources
- Virginia Bicentennial of the American War of 1812
Social Emotional Resources
VDOE Elementary Social & Emotional Learning and Reading: These webinars and presentations share how to create emotionally and physically safe, supportive, and engaging learning environments that promote all students’ social and emotional development.
- Health Smart Virginia – curriculum and instructional resources for social, emotional, physical and environmental health