Social justice education continues to be at the forefront of K-12 news nationwide. While there are people who believe that social justice in the classroom is an optional practice, we know that treating social justice in the classroom as a choice is ultimately detrimental, harmful, and isolating to our students who experience the most marginalization in schools, and in society at large. That’s why we put together this list of free social justice lesson plans and classroom resources.
Remember that this is a place to start and there are numerous resources out there for you to start or continue your journey. This year, commit to taking more steps to teach yourself and your students about social justice in the classroom and beyond.
Social Justice Lesson Plans and Classroom Resources
Founded by a group of teachers in 1990, GLSEN offers a variety of classroom resources to help educators create affirming and inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ+ youth. Whether you know it or not, you definitely have LGBTQ+ students in your classroom or school. You’ll find plenty of resources on GLSEN’s website, including free lesson plans to help your students develop respect, empathy, and understanding.
The Zinn Education Project offers classroom resources and workshops for teachers and administrators on how to teach “people’s history.” By last year, a total of 87,000 teachers had enrolled in Zinn Education trainings and learned about topics like climate change, Islamophobia, the labor movement, the New Deal, antiwar movements, and how to write curriculum and articles for publication. Classroom resources include activities, videos, songs, videos, and more.
Did you know body image is a social justice issue? Explore Body Happy Org’s website to deepen your understanding of how the way we feel about our bodies can impact mental health. According to their website, “Body image issues don’t just affect how kids engage in class—they affect whether they will turn up to class in the first place.” Tap the link to view some lesson plans that you can use in your classroom.
Check out: Body Happy Compliment Labels (printable)
Woke Kindergarten is a global portal that supports children, families, and early childhood educators and organizations. They’re committed to abolitionist early education and pro-black, queer, and trans liberation. Visit the website linked above to access read-alouds, poems, workshops, their mutual aid shop, and a word of the day for some of our youngest learners.
Check out: Woke Read-Alouds (videos)
One of the most polarizing topics we’ve seen in education over the last few years is inclusive education and equal rights for our LGBTQ+ students in schools. This website not only provides resources for starting your own “Rainbow Club” at your school, but also a library of definitions, inclusive school checklists, and additional websites to support you in LGBTQ+ inclusion and equity. Also, check out this similar-purpose YouTube channel called “Queer Kid Stuff.”
Check out: How To Start a Rainbow Club (teaching guide)
“Teaching for Change provides teachers and parents with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write, and change the world. By drawing direct connections to real-world issues, Teaching for Change encourages teachers and students to question and re-think the world inside and outside their classrooms; build a more equitable, multicultural society; and become active global citizens.” This link will take you to their educator resources, which include a diverse range of opportunities to learn about and implement more inclusivity in your classroom.
This organization offers school-wide trainings, a partner school network, and professional development for teachers and administrators. From pedagogical theory to subject-specific content, Facing History tailors their programs to the needs of your school community. Here’s how to bring them to your school.
8. YR Media
This Oakland-based organization amplifies the voices of young journalists and artists. Empower your high school students to become reporters too! Watch videos by YR Media journalists and set your young broadcasters out to find stories in their communities.
Check out: Women Empowerment and Pink Hardhats (video)
Plan your next service project with DoSomething.org! Survey your students to learn what they are passionate about, then help them browse a big list of campaigns to conceptualize a project they can launch in your community. The class can then submit a photo or video of their completed campaign and enter to win prizes, including scholarships.
Under the umbrella of social justice is environmental justice. In this resource for educators, you will be provided with information about environmental justice as well as lesson plans and classroom ideas for implementation.
Check out: Diversifying Disney (lesson plan)
No list would be complete without this website. Learning for Justice is a website with a powerful amount of resources, social justice lesson plans, articles, information, and more about all things related to social justice.
Check out: One Survivor Remembers (Holocaust film kit)
This beautiful collection of multimedia includes films, essays, and photography highlighting the universal themes of humanity. Special collections include hot topics like climate change, migration, and endangered cultures. The artwork within all the collections is beautiful, but the bonus is that the web page offers social justice lesson plans for teachers. Help “bring the world to your classroom” and have a look today.
Explore survivor testimonies with this well-organized activity library for educators. Select language preferences and choose from a database of powerful videos and Common Core lessons that help students unpack hatred. Bonus: Check out their completely free professional development webinars.
Check out: Faces of Intolerance (information quest)
Social Justice Podcasts
You can find this St. Louis–based, grassroots, teacher-led podcast on iTunes, and it covers issues on race, gender, sexuality, language, and more. Its presence was short but sweet.
Cult of Pedagogy’s podcast is helpful for the self-proclaimed teacher nerds (like us) who want to hear about teaching strategies, classroom management, education reform, and educational technology—many with a social justice lens.
Another resource for more than social justice, the Truth for Teachers podcast is a top-10 podcast for K–12 educators. In this episode, Angela Watson speaks with Dr. Travis Bristol, a former teacher now researching at UC Berkeley. Bristol is also the principal investigator for the NYC Young Men’s Initiative, which focuses on recruiting and supporting 1,000 male teachers of color.
Social Justice on Social Media
From hashtags to influencers, these links will guide you to leaders in education who are sharing their work in a variety of accessible ways to complement some of the resources above.
Rethinking Schools is a nonprofit magazine and book publisher dedicated to strengthening public education through social justice teaching and education activism. While their books are fab, follow them and the hashtag #SoJustEdu to stay in the loop when you don’t have time for extra reading. Their feed helps teachers remember significant but underpublicized historical events and stay in-the-know about current events like the #Unite4OaklandKids teachers strike.
If you are looking for monthly chats on language, culture, self-care, and equity, be sure to follow this hashtag. Organized by a collective of activists of color, EduColor is here to promote intersectional diversity and provide expert resources that help teachers do their part in deconstructing the oppression that lives within the school system.
#DisruptTexts is a Twitter chat founded by Tricia Ebarvia, Lorena German, Dr. Kim Parker, and Julia Torres. The goal is to challenge the traditional language arts canon and create a more inclusive curriculum. Here’s how to participate in #DisruptTexts.
This Instagram account discusses parenting and educating through a race-critical lens. You’ll love this account for book recommendations, social commentaries, and critical articles.
We’d love to hear what your challenges and successes have been when planning social justice lessons. Come and share your experiences in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out these #OwnVoices books by diverse authors to add to your classroom library.