Middle School Units

According to developmental science, middle school students’ growth in social-cognitive abilities allow them to see the nuance in many issues. They realize fair does not always mean equal and can understand the perspectives of others alongside their own. Despite their understandings of fairness and justice, they can often conflate an individual’s personal rights with a person’s right to fairness and justice. Also, consequences of harm can be dependent on the relationship the middle schooler has with the victim. Last, they often view rules as arbitrary, not quite understanding how rules help organize society and social systems.

With this in mind, Educating for Democracy’s middle school resources challenge students to grapple with issues of fairness and justice. Inquiry units link historical processes to current events and engage students in dialogue about the rights of others, the role of the bystander, and the need for rules to create justice in society. The historical content relies on primary sources such as photographs, letters and high-quality peer-reviewed secondary sources. Counter-narratives are provided to deepen students' understanding of important historical events. Discussion questions require students to consider the positions of multiple actors and craft what they deem is the fairest solution to complex issues. The culminating activity requires students to engage their choice of civic action to have their voice heard.

Middle School Students

Materials Include: 

  • Sequential lesson plans with sample language and timing
  • Keywords
  • Scaffolded and annotated primary and secondary sources
  • Discussion questions
  • Writing prompts
  • Culminating civic engagement activity
  • Relevant learning standards and a culminating activity

Materials can be used to supplement other classroom lessons or resources or used independently.

Note: These lessons are intentionally not scripted. Use your professional judgement when making decisions for your class and students.


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