Teaching Activities (Free)

Climate Illustration - Schafer | Zinn Education Project

The (Young) People’s Climate Conference: Teaching Global Warming to 3rd Graders

Teaching Activity. By Rowan Shafer. Rethinking Schools. A teacher adapts the “Climate Change Mixer” designed for older students as a springboard for a unit on global warming and climate justice. She asks, "How could I bring up an issue so big and abstract, so gloom and doom, with 3rd graders? How could I not?"
Time Periods: 21st Century
Themes: Climate Justice, Environment, Democracy & Citizenship, Laws & Citizen Rights, Native American, Organizing, World History/Global Studies
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The 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. Students “become” several of the social groups who participated in the 1934 Longshore Workers Strike—some of whom had to answer the question, “Which side are you on?”
Time Periods: 20th Century, Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944
Themes: Labor, Organizing, Social Class
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Apalachicola River | Zinn Education Project

The Color Line

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. A lesson on the countless colonial laws enacted to create division and inequality based on race. This helps students understand the origins of racism in the United States and who benefits.
Time Periods: Colonization: 1492 - 1764, 18th Century, Revolution & Constitution: 1765 - 1799
Themes: African American, Laws & Citizen Rights, Native American, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance
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Eduardo Relero Apple Store in Madrid | Zinn Education Project

Congo, Coltan, and Cell Phones: A People’s History

Teaching Activity. By Alison Kysia. 28 pages. In this lesson, students learn about the colonial history of Congo, debate responsibility for crimes against humanity, and investigate the connection, past and present, between the exploitation of natural resources and violence.
Time Periods: 19th Century, 20th Century
Themes: Imperialism, US Foreign Policy, World History/Global Studies
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Daughter of Earth: Reading, Writing, and Social Class

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 7 pages. Students read a poignant excerpt from Agnes Smedley's novel, Daughter of Earth, and use it to think and write about how schooling—their own included—teaches lessons about social class.
Time Periods: 20th Century, Turn of the Century: 1900 - 1909
Themes: Education, Social Class, Women's History
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The Draft Riot Mystery

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. Students are invited to solve a mystery, using historical clues, about the real story of the Draft Riots.
Time Periods: 19th Century, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Democracy & Citizenship, Immigration, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance, Social Class, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements
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The Election of 1860 Featured Image

The Election of 1860 Role Play

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. A role play based on the election of 1860 allows students to explore the political debates of the time and the real reasons for the Civil War.
Time Periods: 19th Century, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Slavery and Resistance, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements
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The Fugitive's Song | Zinn Education Project

Frederick Douglass Fights for Freedom

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. A lesson to introduce students to the numerous and varied ways African Americans resisted their enslavement, using the autobiographical Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
Time Periods: 19th Century, Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849
Themes: African American, Slavery and Resistance
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Factory workers | Zinn Education Project

Free to Think, Talk, Listen, or Sing

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. 6 pages Students work with a chapter from Milton Meltzer’s classic book, Bread and Roses, to see the impact of late 19th century factory work on workers’ home lives.
Themes: Labor, Social Class
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Hidden in Plain Sight: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Radical Vision (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Hidden in Plain Sight: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Radical Vision

Teaching Activity. By Craig Gordon, Urban Dreams, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project. 2003, updated in 2017. Lesson to introduce students to the speeches and work of Dr. King beyond "I have a dream."
Time Periods: 20th Century, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: Civil Rights Movements, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements
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collage of six Black abolitionists in the United States.

‘If There Is No Struggle…’: Teaching a People’s History of the Abolition Movement

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 16 pages. Rethinking Schools. In this role play, students become members of the American Anti-Slavery Society, facing many of the real challenges to ending slavery.
Time Periods: 19th Century, Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Laws & Citizen Rights, Organizing, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance
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It’s a Mystery—White Workers Against Black Workers

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. 8 pages. In this “mystery” activity, students receive clues and discuss some of the factors that contributed to the intensification of racism in the 1920s in the United States.
Themes: African American, Labor, Racism & Racial Identity
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Just an Environment or a Just Environment?

Teaching Activity. By Hyung Kyu Nam. 2003. Explores the multiple causes of racial segregation and environmental racism, and helps students understand how institutional racism is perpetuated in the post-Civil Rights era.
Time Periods: 20th Century
Themes: Racism & Racial Identity
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Labor Songs

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. 7 pages. Students explore the power of songs to build solidarity and increase understanding. This is the final activity from Bigelow and Diamond’s labor history book, The Power in Our Hands, and draws on the other lessons.
Themes: Art & Music, Labor, Organizing, Social Class
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Modern Times

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. This lesson uses Charlie Chaplin’s hilarious classic film, Modern Times, to help students think about the impact of “scientific management” on the workplace.
Themes: Economics, Labor, Social Class
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Paper Airplane Simulation

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. In this simulation, students make paper airplanes to learn about the origins and effects of “scientific management”—owners’ attempt to capture workers’ skills and knowledge, and then to exploit that knowledge to reorganize work and cut costs by deskilling workers.
Themes: Economics, Labor
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Paradise Lost: Introducing Students to Climate Change Through Story (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Paradise Lost: Introducing Students to Climate Change Through Story

Teaching Activity. By Brady Bennon. Rethinking Schools. A high school humanities teacher introduces students to the human cost of climate change, building empathy for climate change refugees like those in the island nation of Kiribati.
Time Periods: 21st Century, 2001 - Present
Themes: Climate Justice, Environment, Pacific Islander
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Rethinking What We Know About the Vietnam War (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Rethinking What We Know About the Vietnam War

Teaching Activity. Zinn Education Project. 21 pages. Two lessons to introduce key facts about the Vietnam War and the Pentagon Papers, documents that provide essential history that is often ignored by textbooks.
Time Periods: 20th Century, Cold War: 1945 - 1960, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974, Post-Civil Rights Era: 1975 - 2000
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, Imperialism, US Foreign Policy, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements, World History/Global Studies
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Sharecroppers Challenge U.S. Apartheid: The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

Teaching Activity. By Julian Hipkins III, Deborah Menkart, Sara Evers, and Jenice View. Role play on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) that introduces students to a vital example of small “d” democracy in action. For grades 7+.
Time Periods: 20th Century, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Organizing
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