Teaching Social Justice in High School

Grade Level: 
9, 10, 11, 12
Act of Generosity
Civic Responsibility/Virtue
Civil Rights
Civil Society
Social Justice
This resource guide was designed by a Detroit-area educator with the goal of guiding educators with two themes: building a classroom community and raising awareness of social justice and our role as citizens of a diverse country. The resource includes video, literature guides, discussion starters, activities, and lessons intended to empower youth voice and guide them to a service project of capturing someone's story through an audio recording and sharing it with others.

Resource Guide by Anthony Salciccioli


This resource guide includes video, literature guides, activities, and lessons that may be used in order or selectively. The discussions and lessons are intended to empower youth voice and guide them toward a service project of capturing someone's story through an audio recording and sharing it with others.

The two themes:

  1. building a classroom community even though you may not be together 
  2. raising awareness of social justice and our role as citizens of a diverse country 

Note: the lesson plans at the bottom of this guide teach background and prompt discussion about social justice. They may be taught in any order and throughout the semester.

Part I: Personal Connection in Remote Community

Classrooms are communities. We start on the first day building connections, expectations, and kindness so we can work together effectively for the benefit of all. Building a caring community virtually is the challenge this year. Use the applications (Seesaw, Padlet, Google) you have to promote a face-to-face feel with activities that engage hearts and minds. Begin by tapping into empathy and social responsibility to capture hearts and minds. Find virtual engagement ideas in these Edutopia articles about virtual relationships and classroom meeting activities and in the handout below.

  1. Share daily hellos through video and creative platforms (use Flipgrid, Seesaw, Google Classroom, and Screencastify).
  2. Pose different reflection/discussion prompts and ask for creative responses (poem, song, drawing, video). 
  3. Use questions that prompt empathetic reflection on a shared experience, such as, "What is online school like for you and your friends? What do you think the challenges are for your parents? What is the pandemic like for elderly people or preschoolers?"
  4. Use video to connect briefly and often. You can model authenticity over perfection (it's okay to stumble) and encourage creativity in their response.

A Place in History

All the history we know comes from stories. Each story is set in a time and from a perspective. Your story - what you experience, think, learn, and feel - is a part of history.

In this resource, we present many stories and encourage listening with an openness and generosity to get a full picture of diverse perspectives.

The culmination of this resource is to tell your story or the story of someone in your community - a story of the pandemic or a story of social justice.

Video Introduction

This ten-minute video gives an overview of the project and our place in history. Before viewing, reflect on the following:

  1. What are the positive and negative effects of the pandemic and the related public demonstrations?
  2. When and why did your awareness change? What new civic responsibility are you aware of?
  3. How did events of the current year change you? How did it change the people around you?
  4. Who can you interview to learn more?
  5. What is civic engagement? What is the role of voting?

Your story matters. The stories of others matter.

Part II: Begin with Books

Read one or all of these books. Each has a literature guide to spark discussion and connection to the reading. 

Social Justice

Philanthropy is the practice of "giving our time, talent, or treasure for the common good." We often think of philanthropy as "rich people giving money," but that is only a tiny part of this community-centered tradition deeply embedded in who we are as Americans. Social justice is the promotion of everyone's rights and is based on people giving time and talent for the common good. Our country was formed by social action, and our founding documents assure our right to speak our truth for the good of the country. 

  • The Civil Rights Movement was a pivotal time in U.S. history in which people used their voices and nonviolence to assure social justice for all. 
  • The Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 is a social justice movement of voices in unison for equity and social justice. 

Definitions of Social Justice

This video defines social justice, quotes the First Amendment related to social justice, gives examples of different groups that experience injustice, and analyzes what we control and influence as we work to advance social justice.

Spoken Word Poetry as Medium for Social Justice

This Using Spoken Word for Justice mini-course introduces spoken word poetry as an interactive literary tool particularly suited to promote social justice. This guides participants from introduction and powerful examples to practice and performance. 


Spoken Word Poetry


Looking for ways to take action? This resource from the Albert Einstein Institution lists 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action that anyone can reference for ideas of ways to take voluntary action for the common good.

Reflection Questions: As you scan the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action, reflect on these questions:

  1. Which of these methods do you recognize in historical stories of protest?
  2. Which three methods are things youth can do without permission?
  3. Which methods would you like to learn more about?

198 Methods


Part III: Tap Into Youth Passions

Map Your Heartbreak is a simple activity for individual or group settings to explore what we care about and what next steps we can take (also effective online as a synchronous or asynchronous activity).

The full directions are in the link below. This video gives an example so it may be used at home. This is also a great family activity!

 Map Your Heartbreak 


You may keep your instructions broad, such as, "What is something you are passionate about?" Or you may narrow the discussion to a topic, such as "What are you passionate about related to the pandemic?" Or ".... related to equity?" Or "... related to elderly people in the retirement home next door?"

Match Interest to Community

As you identify what you care about, this video illustrates how to connect Interests to Needs in the Community.

Understanding Roots and Effects

This group activity may be completed at home or in a remote setting. After selecting an area of interest, brainstorm root causes and effects and conduct research to identify experts who can teach you more about the issue.




Website Tour

The Learning to Give website has many resources to teach generosity and community involvement. This self-guided tutorial gives an overview of the website resources. You must have a Learning to Give account to gain access. Sign up free here.


Taking Action

These toolkits provide background information, project ideas, and suggestions for community connections.

Issue Area Toolkits


Part IV: Lesson Plans 

Teach one or more of these lesson plans to build knowledge and empathy and to listen to a variety of historical events and stories.

Stand and Deliver for Justice and Diversity 

 Link to Lesson

Learners explore and share their attitudes about diversity and issues of justice and kindness. The learners brainstorm ways that they can promote the common good by working to eliminate stereotyping, intolerance, discrimination, and prejudice. 

Attributes of a Civil Society 

 Link to Lesson

Learners define justice, kindness, peace, and tolerance and describe the importance of these attributes of a civil society. They look for examples in the media and brainstorm how they can promote these attributes in their school, community, and the world. 

Taking a Stand for the Good of Others 

 Link to Lesson

Students read about Rosa Parks and evaluate how her protest of an unjust and unfair situation was philanthropic in nature. Students analyze violent situations and propose nonviolent solutions. They learn that there are 198 methods of non-violent protests that can be used to fight injustice. 

Valuing Community 

 Link to Lesson

Learners will define community, analyze it according to the five themes of geography, and share ideas to make an impact on their community.


Part V: Culminating Service Project

For this activity, youth create their own oral history recording by interviewing an individual who they consider a generous leader. Youth will glean lessons from the interview and create and preserve a historical record of a story that is worthwhile knowing. Follow the directions in the Oral History Project link.

Oral History Project 


Watch the following StoryCorps video capturing the story of an influential person in the interviewer's life. Or this audio of a granddaughter interviewing her grandfather

Now follow the Oral History project directions to capture a story of someone you respect or a story you want to share of an exceptional person.