Facing History and Ourselves Lesson Plan: Youth Leaders Share Strategies for Standing Up to Hate | Not in Our Town

Facing History and Ourselves Lesson Plan: Youth Leaders Share Strategies for Standing Up to Hate

Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)

Facing History and Ourselves combats racism, antisemitism, and religious prejudice by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

Many teenagers feel like they have little influence on the world around them. Yet, throughout history, young people have also played an important role in their communities and in social change movements. For example, high school students were a driving force behind the U.S. civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.  

Not in Our School videos help students explore some ways young people are making a difference in their communities today.


The 6-minute video, “Youth Leaders Share Strategies for Standing up to Hate” tells the story of youth leaders who have gathered at the first Not in our Town National meeting in Bloomington, IL.  In the video, they share their reasons for attending the meeting and the different strategies they have used in their schools to confront hate and intolerance. As psychologist Ervin Staub wrote, “Goodness, like evil, begins in small steps.”  Watching this video gives students the opportunity to think about the small steps they can take to make a difference in the lives of those in their school and larger community.

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:

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.

“Youth Leaders Share Strategies for Standing Up to Hate” depicts what a handful of students are doing to address different manifestations of intolerance - from name-calling to hate-group rallies-  in their schools and communities.  Before watching this video, ask students to identify examples of hateful behavior they have witnessed in their community or have heard about in other communities. Then ask students to respond to the following questions:

  • What strategies might students use to address hate and intolerance?
  • What are the risks, if any, to taking these steps?
  • What challenges might students confront as they try to confront hate and intolerance?
  • What would a successful response to hate and intolerance look like? How could “success” be measured?
  • What resources do they need to be successful?
  • What might be the consequences of doing nothing?

For additional ways to prepare students to view these videos, refer to the “Preparing for Not in our Schools” lesson idea.  

To help students comprehend and interpret what they view (and to give you evidence of student learning), here are some ways to structure students’ response to the video:

    • 3-2-1  - After viewing, students can record 3 facts from the video, 2 questions raised by the video, and one feeling they experienced while watching the video.
    • Text-to-text, text-to-self, text-to-world – Here is an example of the kinds of questions you can use with this strategy:
      • Text-to-text: What events or ideas from this video remind you of other things you have seen or heard (books, movies, songs, television show, etc.)?  
      • Text-to-self: What events or ideas from this video remind you of something you have witnessed or experienced?  
      • Text-to-world: What events or ideas from this film remind you of something that happens in your community, nation or world?
    • Levels of questions – Here is an example of the kinds of questions you can use with this strategy:
      • Level one: What were students responding to in this video? What action did they take?
      • Level two: What do you think of their response? In what ways was it effective? What else could they have done to address the problem they saw in their school or community?
      • Level three: What power do you think young people have to change attitudes and actions? What gives young people power? What limits the power of young people to create change?
    • Two-column chart. On the left side of a page, students record information presented in the film. On the right side, students record their reactions to this information – a question, a comment, a feeling, a connection to something they know about or have experienced.  


Journal writing: Often a simple prompt such as “What struck you about this film? What ideas are on your mind?” is enough to spark students’ responses. Here are some additional questions that can be used to prompt reflective writing:
    • A student in the film said, “Sometimes when things go on in the classroom I don’t have the guts to say stop it and say that’s not right.” What does this quotation make you think about?  Do you think most students share this sentiment? Why might it be hard to say “that’s not right?” What gives someone the guts to say “stop it”? Under what conditions do you think students are more likely to speak up when something happens that they think is wrong?
    • In reaction to the arrival of a white-supremacist group in their community, the mayorasked, “Do we wait [to act] until they have a march in our community?” What do you think? What can be done, if anything, to proactively prevent hate and intolerance?  
    • The students in the film distinguished between responding to hate, intolerance or racism in a “negative way” and in a “positive way.”  What do you think they mean by this? What is a “negative” response to intolerance? What is a “positive” response? Imagine a situation of intolerance in a school or community. What would be a positive or constructive way to respond? What would be a negative way to respond? Which response do you think would be most effective in this situation? Why? If a student feels unsafe at school, what should he/she do about it?
    • A student in the film asked, “Does your ignorance control you or do you control it?” What does this question mean? How can ignorance control someone? How can someone control ignorance?
    • At the end of the film, a student says, “I have confidence that we will be able to change so much in the future.” What do you think gives her this confidence? How much confidence do you have that young people today can change the future? Explain your answer.
    • Do individual students have the power to make a difference in their schools and communities? Why or why not? How might a student, any student, begin to make a difference? What steps could he/she take?
    • Psychologist Ervin Staub said, “Goodness, like evil, often begins in small steps. Heroes evolve; they aren’t born.” What do you think this statement means? Do you agree or disagree with this idea?
    • What “small steps” can students and teachers take to make a difference in the lives of others, especially in the lives of their classmates and neighbors?  
    • 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?


Student presentations - Small groups or pairs can discuss the following questions:
  • What were students responding to in this video? What problem were they trying to solve?
  • What did they do? What strategies did they employ? What community or school resources did they draw from?
  • What risks did they take? What challenges did they confront?
  • What do you think of their response?  What did they accomplish?
  • What advice would you offer these students? What could be some next steps these students could take to further address this problem?
  • What more do you want to know about this situation? If you had the opportunity, what would you want to ask the students in this video?

A graphic organizer can be used to help students keep track of their ideas.  Students can refer to these notes during a whole-class discussion about the ideas in the film.

Discussion - After giving students the opportunity to respond to what they have viewed independently or in small groups, facilitate a class conversation. Here are some other effective ways to facilitate a discussion about this film:

    • Wraparounds:  Wraparounds give all students the opportunity to share an idea or question before a discussion begins. After viewing a video, you can ask each student to share one thought or question that is on their mind, or one moment that stood out for them.
    • Fishbowl: Fishbowl is a strategy that helps students practice being active listeners and participants in a discussion. Half the class can debrief the video while the other half observes. Then students can switch roles.
    • Big paper: building a silent conversation: You can ask students to record important quotations from the video, or you can ask them to suggest questions the video raised for them. These questions and quotations can serve as the focus of a silent conversation activity. Or, you can use the prompts above as the focus of a silent conversation activity.
    • Roundabouts:  In a roundabout, students form two concentric circles facing one another. Students discuss a question with the person opposite them until the facilitator announces that the inner circle should move one space to the right (usually after 3-5 minutes). Then students begin a conversation with their new partner. This process can be repeated for several rounds, and you can use the same question for each round or you can switch questions for each round. Often this is followed by a full group conversation about the ideas shared in the brief conversations.

Historical connections and other extensions: After viewing this video, students can explore historical examples of people, including young people, combating hate and intolerance in their communities, including:

  • Youth resistance movements during World War II and the Holocaust. Refer to these readings from Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior: “Rebels without a cause” (pp. 249-250) and “From bystanders to resisters” (pp. 373-375).
  • The role of young adults during the civil rights movement.  Refer to the film Eyes on the Prize and related readings from Facing History’s Eyes on the Prize Study Guide, especially epsiode 3 “Aint’s scared of your jails.”

The lesson idea “Not in our School next steps: projects and assignments” provides additional suggestions for how to extend students’ learning about combating hate and intolerance in their communities.


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