How Do I Talk About This With My Students?

Response to Coup Attempt Student Discussions

I woke up this morning planning to finish creating a unit on book posters and trailers for my students to start tomorrow. As I drove home though, I started listening to an American history professor at Boston College who clearly called what happened in Washington D.C. today a coup attempt.

I know students are watching videos and reading comments about this in their TikTok and Twitter feeds, other social media and on the news, and I know they will have questions. So I am curating a few resources I can share with them to help them process what they are hearing and seeing. I thought you might be able to use these, as well. (I will also update this list as I curate more resources.)

I first need to listen to my students to understand where they are in what they know and need to know. I’m not sure exactly how the conversation will start, but I think these questions suggested by AP and American Literature English teacher Tricia Ebarvia might be a good place.​​

Sara Ahmed, a teacher and Director of Curriculum Integration in Chicago, also shared a resource:

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Teachers: Here is a slide link from the “What’s in Your News?” lesson in #BeingtheChange. I included steps, a model I did with my advisory on 11/4, & a blank slide for you to make a copy and use.

Eighth grade English teacher and co-chair of her school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Planning Group, Christina Torres has curated resources in Google Slides using PearDeck for student analysis:

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not super final, but my quickly put together discussion for tomorrow re: today’s events using @PearDeck https://t.co/pImsRGDsHw

Needing multiple resources about what happened? Robbie Barber, Ed.D., a high school librarian and teacher has curated several articles in Wakelet:

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To deal with Wednesday’s insurrection event, I put together resources for teachers. I’m still making changes every day to help clarify and provide answers: https://t.co/ufRpTvPeXu#sunchat

Kylene Beers, co-author of Reading Nonfiction, also shared ideas for a lesson plan based on poetry by Langston Hughes and videos of statements by Trump and Biden.

I think I may start with her poetry suggestion using “Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes’ and maybe even this poem I wrote during the Oklahoma Writing Project Summer Institute in 2016: Teachers Hear America Crying.

If you’re worried about how your students will handle this tough conversation, you might go over these guidelines with them first. I wrote this article back in 2018: How To Honor All Students During Tough Classroom Discussions.

Teaching in a community that may not be open to discussion of the attempted coup? Depending on how well your students can honor one another during tough classroom discussions, you might consider hosting a student-led discussion over a news article (like the ones I linked above) and/or the Hughes poem using the TQE method outlined in my podcast episode from 2018.

Heed this advice from Melinda D. Anderson, education journalist and author:

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Do not teach this sanitized propaganda!”Trump spoke at a rally where he urged supporters…” ~ Urged or incited? “Trump tweeted a recorded message telling people to ‘go home now’…” ~ He told a violent mob overtaking the Capitol: “Go home. We love you, you’re very special.” https://t.co/r4LAddAGfq

Not sure you’re prepared for this discussion? That’s okay, too:

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Teachers: it is more than OK if you decide you’re not grounded enough to help your students process tomorrow. It’s OK to say “I don’t have the answers.” It’s ok to model taking some time to make sense of things. It’s ok to collaborate with your colleagues.

I know here in Oklahoma, we are (or should be) particularly sensitive about attacks on our federal buildings:

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ATTENTION TEACHERS: In response to the attack on our government and current insurrection our country is under, here are a few talking points for classroom discussion: https://t.co/ghPiigHZJ1. pic.twitter.com/kq2GtqtyyU

Depending on where your students are in their journey to process today’s events, you may even introduce them to students their own age who are taking action and speaking out to make positive changes in our society, including media footage produced by 21-year-old Oklahoma activist who started his own media company, The Black Times.

​You can learn more about this reThink ELA created unit here: A Time for Change Writing Project.

A Time For Change Writing Project

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

  1. With all of the shocking and unbelievable things going on in the world today this is such a critical thing to think about. We cannot just ignore out students when they speak of these things we must find an appropriate way to address tough situations. This post helps immensely. Thank you for sharing!

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