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Teacher: How to 'Talk Terror' With Middle Schoolers

Teacher: How to 'Talk Terror' With Middle Schoolers

When it comes to terrorism, teachers may find it a difficult subject to discuss in the classroom. One eighth grade teacher from California shares the methods she uses in the classroom. 

The U.S. History teacher, Sarah Cooper, says that her middle school students in her history classes "cannot avoid the news", according to her post on 

"I do not want them to avoid the news," she wrote. "Each day, we start class by discussing a current event. Each Thursday night, they find an article to share."

The week of the Charlie Hebdo murders, Cooper wrote, "we followed the story Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in class. The shootings brought together so many historical and current themes: immigration, freedom of speech, terrorism, religion."

"The students knew about the events from their parents and especially from the 'Je Suis Charlie' iconography lighting up Instagram and Tumblr," Cooper wrote. "They kept raising questions: Why would someone do this? What is a jihadist? How important are political cartoons in Europe?"

One student mentioned that he is heartened by knowing his generation will tackle these issues as they grow up. Me too. And talking in community helps.

So does formal follow-up. As history teachers, we can brainstorm any number of assessments to do with students in response to difficult events:

  • Write an op-ed that gives an anti-terrorism plan.
  • Analyze a page of Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony on nuclear negotiations.
  • Study acts of violence in history, such as the 1886 Haymarket Square Riot, and pretend it is your responsibility to bring together both sides as a mediator.
  • Create a Prezi showing how First Amendment cases over the years have solidified freedom of the press.


"I would like these eighth graders to appreciate our own country’s strengths, to remember, as Jon Stewart observed after Charlie Hebdo, 'that for the most part the legislators and journalists and institutions that we jab and ridicule are not in any way the enemy. For, however frustrating or outraged the back-and-forth can become, it’s still back-and-forth conversation of those on, let’s call it, ‘Team Civilization,'" Cooper wrote. "Team Civilization. It’s a start, anyway."

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor 

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