How Do I Use This Site? | Not in Our Town

How Do I Use This Site?

This lesson idea is part of a collection of resources Facing History and Ourselves has developed to support classroom use of Not in Our School’s materials. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism, antisemitism, and religious prejudice by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

To prepare students to explore the Not in Our School website, we suggest implementing one or more of the following activities that can help to:

  • Familiarize students with vocabulary used on the website
  • Engage students with themes the website explores
  • Provide background information about Not in Our School, hate crimes and bullying
  • establish norms for a safe classroom community that respects different points of view

This lesson idea is part of a collection of resources Facing History and Ourselves has developed to support classroom use of Not in Our School's materials. Other resources in this collection include:

  • Using Not in Our School Videos
  • Youth Leaders Share Strategies for Standing Up to Hate
  • Spread the Peace
  • Not in Our School Next Steps: projects and assignment

Suggested activities: One or more of these ideas, in addition to your own, can be used to create a lesson plan relevant for your students.

Promoting a safe, open, respectful classroom community:  The purpose of the Not in Our School program is to help students think about what is happening in their own school community and to take steps to create more tolerant, inclusive communities.  Conversations about what happens in schools in general, and in the students’ own school in particular, can bring up sensitive topics such as inclusion, exclusion, cliques, racism, sexuality, homophobia, gossip, etc. Thus, before approaching this material, we encourage you to review norms for a respectful classroom community with your students.  What conditions need to be met for students to feel safe expressing their ideas?  Some teachers introduce the concept of “ouch moments” – comments or reactions, usually unintentional, that cause someone in the room to hurt or feel uncomfortable.  What should students do if he/she experiences an “ouch moment”?  Some options include, labeling the moment as an “ouch moment” (with or without the need to explain) or writing the comment on an exit card or in a journal so that it can be addressed at a later time. For more ideas on how to help establish a respectful learning community, refer to the contracting teaching strategy on Facing History’s website.

Introducing and developing vocabulary:  Hate crimes, bullying, bystander, upstander, homophobia, tolerance, bigotry, inclusion and exclusion are some terms students can define before exploring the Not in Our School website.  Word walls or word clouds can help students present their definitions. (Websites such as or can help students create word clouds.) Below are some specific ideas for helping students develop a deeper understanding of upstander, bullying and hate crime:

  • Defining upstander:  Facing History defines an upstander as someone who takes a stand against injustice. Ask students to brainstorm examples of people who have acted as upstanders. Examples could come from their own lives, current events, history, literature, movies, etc.  Then students can present their upstander examples as a think-pair-share or wraparound. When they finish sharing, invite students to add to Facing History’s definition of upstander.
  • Defining bullying: Many of the resources on the Not in Our School website concern “bullying” – a term that people use in different ways to describe acts of hate, intimidation, and harassment among young people. (Consider what acts of bullying are often called when the perpetrators are adults. Hate crime? Physical assault? Libel?) Before students explore the examples provided on the website, you might ask students to clarify their own definition of bullying.  At what point does a joke, a comment or an action become inappropriate, offensive and/or hurtful?  While some examples of bullying or intolerance appear obvious, other actions may be more subtle. We might not even agree about what actions should be labeled as “bullying.” Here are two ways to help students clarify their definition of bullying:


1.) The barometer teaching strategy can be used to help students discuss their definitions of bullying.  Label one end of the continuum “appropriate behavior” (or “should be okay in our school”) and the other end “inappropriate behavior” (or “not in our school”).  Then ask students to share examples of behaviors they see around their school. Students then stand on the place along the continuum that represents the degree to which they think the behavior should be allowed.
2.) To check students’ assumptions and clarify their thinking, ask them to brainstorm a range of actions from “not serious” to “gravely serious.” Encourage them to include examples of behaviors that take place online or through cell phones as well (in other words, possibly examples of cyberbullying). On the wall, create a continuum with one side labeled “not serious action” and the other side labeled “gravely serious action.” Then have students post the situations where they think they belong on this line. (You could have students write their scenarios on post-it notes to make this step easier.) After all students have posted a scenario or two, have students stand near the line to review this work.  Do they agree with where scenarios are placed? Are there any posts they would like to move?  This exercise  can help students clarify their definition of bullying.
  • Defining hate crime: The Not in Our School website also includes resources documenting how students have responded to hate crimes in their communities.  Before exploring these resources, have students define the term “hate crime.” The FBI website includes the legal definition of hate crime and other information you may want to review with students prior to having them look at responses to these crimes.

Journal and discussion prompts: To prepare students for the themes and situations they will explore on the website, you can use the following prompts as the focus for journal writing or small group discussions.  (Note: The think-pair-share teaching strategy combines time for individual writing, small group conversation, and whole class discussion.)

  • What does the phrase “Not in our School” mean to you?  What behaviors and attitudes don’t belong in school? Do you think others would agree with you? Why or why not?
  • Identify a recent example of hate, intolerance, bullying or prejudice you witnessed or experienced in your school or community.  Identify a recent example of friendship, tolerance, or kindness you witnessed or experienced in your school or community. Which example was easier for you to come up with? What do you notice more – acts of kindness or acts of meanness? Why?
  • A 14 year-old girl from New Jersey said, “Being bullied over the internet is worse…They say sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That quote is a lie and I don’t believe in it. Sticks and stones may cause nasty cuts and scars, but those cuts and scars will heal. Insults hurt and sometimes take forever to heal.”#  Respond to this girl’s comments. Do you agree or disagree with her? Do you think verbal bullying, including cyberbullying, is as harmful as physical bullying? Why or why not?
  • What risks are involved in standing up to bullying, prejudice and hate?  What can help people overcome those risks?  Under what conditions, if any, might it be unwise to stand up to perpetrators of violence and intolerance?
  • Why do people sometimes engage in bullying or mean behavior?  Why do people engage in acts of kindness?
  • What does it mean to “do the right thing” when you see students being bullied? What makes it hard to always do the right thing?  Have you ever been in a situation where you were not sure about what was the “right” thing to do? Describe this situation.  What made it difficult for you to determine what was the best or “right” course of action?
  • Psychologist Ervin Staub wrote, “Goodness, like evil, often begins in small steps. Heroes evolve: they aren’t born.”  What encourages people to take these “small steps?” Where do people learn how to act as “heroes” or “upstanders?”

Anticipation guide: Anticipation guides ask students to express an opinion about ideas before they encounter then in a text of unit of study.  Often teachers ask students to return to their anticipation guides after exploring new material, noting how their opinions may have shifted or strengthened as a result of new information. Here are examples of statements you can use to encourage students to think about the ideas addressed in Not in our School’s videos:

  • Students are the most powerful influence on their school’s tone and climate.  They decide what kind of behavior is acceptable and unacceptable.
  • Stepping in when you see someone treated unfairly is easy.
  • The adults in the school are the ones who are responsible for creating a safe learning environment for all students.
  • It is unrealistic to think that schools can be places where all students are treated fairly and kindly.
  • Some students are excluded or teased because they deserve it.
  • If students feel unsafe at school, they should go to a teacher or school administrator for help.
  • If someone is verbally or physically attacking another student – someone you do not know – the best thing to do is stay out of it.
  • If someone is verbally or physically attacking a friend, the best thing to do is intervene to stop it.
  • Bystanders have the power to stop injustice.
  • If bullies knew their behavior was unacceptable, they would stop acting that way.
  • The best way to stop teasing, harassment and bullying is to have a stronger system of enforcement and punishment.


At the bottom of this page, you may download an example of a sample anticipation guide you could use before having students explore resources on the Not in Our School website.  (Note: Many teachers use the Four Corners strategy to structure a conversation about controversial statements.)

Web resources on school climate, bullying and hate crimes:
Before having students explore the Not in Our School website you might want to have students explore some of the following resources to learn more about school climate, bullying and hate crimes. Students can report back to the class about what they found. Or, you can use information from these websites to create a short lecture.

You could also ask your students to use online search engines to location information from credible sources on bullying and/or hate crimes. In addition to the general search function, Google provides searches that present information in different ways. You can find these functions on the bottom left navigation list and/or by clicking the heading “More search tools.”  

  • “Wonder wall” breaks down a topic into sub-topics via a concept may display. Click here for an example of a Wonder Wall search for the term “bullying.”  Students could be assigned different spokes of the wheel to explore in greater depth.
  • “Timeline” presents information organized by year.  This function allows students to trace the history of bullying or hate crimes, as reported by the media.
  • “Nearby” provides information relevant to your particular area. This function allows students to focus on bullying or hate crime incidents in their region.

Review the strategy “Evaluating internet resources” for ideas on how to help students assess the validity of their sources.