Teaching Guides

Teaching for Black Lives

Teaching Guide. Edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, Wayne Au. 2018. Rethinking Schools. 368 pages.
Essays, teaching activities, role plays, poems, and artwork, designed to illuminate the movement for Black students’ lives, the school-to-prison-pipeline, Black history, gentrification, intersectional Black identities, and more.

Themes: African American, Racism & Racial Identity

Teaching for Black Lives (Book) Zinn Education ProjectTeaching for Black Lives grows directly out of the movement for Black lives.

This teaching guide is a compilation of essays, teaching activities, role plays, poems, and artwork, designed to illuminate the movement for Black students’ lives, the school-to-prison-pipeline, Black history, gentrification, intersectional Black identities, and more.


1: Making Black Lives Matter in Our Schools

2: Enslavement, Civil Rights, and Black Liberation

3: Gentrification, Displacement, and Anti-Blackness

4: Discipline, the Schools-to-Prison Pipeline, and Mass Incarceration

5: Teaching Blackness, Loving Blackness, and Exploring Identity

The book is designed to show how educators “can and should make their classrooms and schools sites of resistance to white supremacy and anti-Blackness, as well as sites for knowing the hope and beauty in Blackness.”


Again, the folks at Rethinking Schools have stepped out to produce a timely volume that should become a central staple in how we understand race and the radical imaginary in K–12 classrooms. — David Stovall, Professor of African American Studies and Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago

In this edited volume, we learn that Black Lives Matter is not just a rallying cry in the movement against police abuse and violence, but it is also a critical framework for understanding the persistent attacks on public education. As public schools face withering attacks on the national, state, and local level, this important collection edited by Watson, Hagopian, and Au will educate, inspire, and rally those in the struggle for education justice. From students, to educators, to a public that cares about public education, this book is a must-read to know the issues at stake and the strategies necessary to win. — Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

Teaching for Black Lives is a moral lifeline for all educators looking to rehumanize our schools and society through education, love, and action. — Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, educator and national co-organizer of Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action

ISBN: 9780942961041 | Rethinking Schools

Teaching for Black Lives Study Guide

Cierra Kaler-Jones and Jesse Hagopian wrote a guide for teachers who are reading Teaching for Black Lives in study or discussion groups. They suggest discussion questions for each section of the book. For example, here are questions for the Introduction:

The book begins with the quote, “Black students’ minds and bodies are under attack.” What does that mean? What examples are in the book and what examples have you seen in the country or in your own school of Black students under attack?

How does the erasure of Black history and the failure to center Black brilliance in the curriculum contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline?

What does it mean to teach for Black lives? What is the pedagogy to teach for Black lives? What are the threads between curriculum and pedagogy that we need to build out for overall curriculum that teaches for Black lives?

Download the Teaching for Black Lives Study Guide for free.

Teacher Quotes

The Teaching for Black Lives book is part of my Civil Rights unit. Using Zinn Education Project and Rethinking Schools activities, students were excited to see themselves in the history. Then, they could make critical connections between the past and the present.

—Whitney Blankenship
Social Studies Teacher, Providence, Rhode Island

Police violence and racial profiling loom large for my students, and often our solutions are legislative or civic. But Renée Watson’s guidance in “Happening Yesterday, Happened Tomorrow: Teaching the Ongoing Murders of Black Men” allowed me to bring hope and heart to a grueling and gruesome topic.

It was empowering to create art and think about the history of protest via artistic expression. My students were inspired to create not only poems but also posters and murals they displayed around our school. Watson’s lesson took a big, messy, horrifying topic and made it digestible for middle schoolers. They were able to acknowledge the pain and injustice of racial profiling, and then use their feelings of frustration, disgust, and guilt to make something meaningful and immediate.

Too often we are asking our students to wait and this allowed them to talk back immediately.

—Liz Iverson
Middle School Language Arts/English Teacher, Chicago, Illinois

We used Teaching for Black Lives as a main text during our first Black Lives Matter at School week-long event.

It’s important for preservice teachers to know that this Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action exists and to know why it’s needed. Yet, they must also honor and teach Black stories throughout the year.

—Jessica Stone
Teacher Educator, Bellingham, Washington

Presentations About the Book


Co-editors Dyan Watson and Jesse Hagopian, along with contributors Renee Watson and Adam Sanchez, spoke about Teaching for Black Lives at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on October 4, 2018. Watch the full program below.

Rethinking Schools

On Aug 22, 2020, Teaching for Black Lives co-editors Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne Au discussed teaching and organizing for racial and economic justice in our schools during the rebellion.