January 6, 2021

January 7, 2021: Letter from Chancellor Carranza

Dear Colleagues, 

Like so many other days in the past ten months, yesterday we experienced an alarming and frightening moment that was unprecedented in our lifetimes. And like many of you, I was shocked and sickened to witness the armed insurrection that led to the breach of the U.S Capitol, forcing evacuation of elected representatives doing their job representing us in Congress, and the desecration of the halls of government. It is one of the darkest days in the history of our nation. It fills me with sadness and anger. 

I was equally disturbed by what I saw as the response of law enforcement, who apparently allowed the entry and later the peaceful dispersing of these violent rioters. The lives of countless Black Americans have been lost for profoundly less threatening actions than what we saw perpetrated today. 

My heart breaks to know that our young people have witnessed this violent assault on people, property, the rule of law, and on our democracy itself—met by a response that illustrates our nation’s troubled past and present.

Today, tomorrow, and beyond, you will have the opportunity, and responsibility, to acknowledge and discuss these events. Staff and students will be looking to you for reassurance, guidance, and leadership. And as you must continue to be anchors for your school communities, we will remain here for you.

Below you can find resources for you, including ways to facilitate discussion in class about these events. You will also find important resources to support mental health and wellness during this trying time.

You are essential to the functioning of a healthy democracy: educating and supporting our children, preparing them to contribute to their communities and country. We stand together with you, for our students, today and every day.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any other needs, concerns, or questions.

Resources to Support Instruction and Discussion

The Social Studies and Civics Department has compiled a resource list to support teachers in holding conversations with their students following the insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. Our students are participants in our democracy, and it is important that they have an opportunity to reflect on how this affects them.

Civics for All believes that civic education, particularly the teaching of the foundations of American government and the democratic process, is essential for empowering engaged, active community members and informed voters.

This guide is being compiled as events unfold and will be updated to include additional resources. Included are teacher facing resources, student facing resources with focus questions and questions for discussion, and links to relevant lessons from the NYCDOE Passport to Social Studies and Civics for All curricula. Social Studies teachers are also encouraged to use primary source analysis strategies with images and text from Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 to encourage students to begin and lead classroom conversations. The events of January 6th may generate feelings of fear or anger in students. It is important to create a space, whether in the physical classroom or using your remote learning platform, for students to express discomfort and feelings of anger or distress that may emerge from discussing this event. Facing History and Ourselves has resources on maintaining a student centered approach through the virtual classroom, they can be accessed in this pdf and this pre-recorded webinar.

Teacher Facing Resources

Mikva Challenge Attack on the US Capitol Lesson Ideas Lesson plan ideas that provide students an opportunity to share their reactions, thoughts, and feelings about the events of January 6th in Washington, DC and make connections to recent current and historical events in the United States.

NYCDOE Current Events and Civics Education This resource provides guidance on the connection between instructional practices, current issues and events, and the civics classroom.

Associated Press Timeline of Events A detailed chronological recount of the events in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. The timeline is organized with the most recent events at the top.

Constitution Center A List of Electoral College Count Resources A list of statutes about the January 6th joint meeting of Congress, sections of the Constitution related to the Electoral College, and extensive resources from the National Constitution Center about the Electoral College.

Facing History Fostering Civil Discourse A resource designed to help teachers prepare students to engage in civil discourse, whether in-person, remotely, or both.

Facing History Responding to the 2020 US Presidential Election Resources intended to guide student reflection on the election of 2020.

Facing History Responding to the Insurrection at the US Capitol This Teaching Idea is designed to help guide an initial classroom reflection on the insurrection at the US Capitol that occurred on January 6, 2021.

Hechinger Report OPINION: Our schools must figure out a way to teach this presidential election Op-Ed by Emma Humphries, chief education officer of iCivics, which includes suggested practices for fostering critical thinking and developing informed and thoughtful citizens through discussions of controversial issues.

iCivics Peaceful Transfer of Power A lesson plan and infographic designed to show students how precedent, tradition, and legitimacy have helped create the democratic norm of the peaceful transfer of power and why it is important to a democratic form of government.

iCivics Your Roadmap for Teaching Controversial Issues Teacher Guides and a series of brief informational videos (3-4 minutes) to help prepare for teaching controversial issues in the classroom.

KQED Learn Are Conspiracy Theories Harmless Fun, A Serious Problem, or Something in Between? A video and Google Classroom lesson plan on identifying misinformation.

National Constitution Center Interactive Constitution An interactive resource for looking at the text, history, and meaning of the U.S. Constitution from leading scholars of diverse legal and philosophical perspectives. Teachers can provide this as a resource if the class needs to access sections of the U.S. Constitution to discuss events in Washington as they apply to Constitutional rules and framing.

New York Times Teaching Resources for the Storming of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump Extremists Lesson plan ideas, activities and Times materials for exploring the causes and consequences of this assault on democracy in the United States 

New York Times Watch out for this misinformation when Congress meets to certify the election. Six false voter fraud claims that have been fact checked.

PBS Kids Helping Kids Navigate Scary News Stories An article for teachers and families that includes suggestions on how to support lower elementary students in processing disturbing events in the news.

PBS NewsHour Extra Classroom Resource: Three Ways to Teach the Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol An article with a student facing news report about the events in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 and descriptions of three activities that can be used in the classroom to teach the insurrection.

Teaching Tolerance When Bad Things Are Happening An article for teachers on how to discuss crises with students as they unfold.

UC Berkeley, California History-Social Science Project Discord and Crisis: The 2020 Election Resources from the webinar series on the 2020 Election by UC Berkeley. Includes materials on Struggles Over Suffrage and Threats to the Electoral Process.

UC Berkeley California History-Social Science Project, January 6, 2021 Materials Materials drafted by UCBCHSSP to support teachers and students making sense of the events in Washington, D.C.

Student Facing Resources (with supporting focus and discussion questions)

Facing History Explainer: Political Polarization in the United States A one page resource designed to support students in understanding the evolution and impact of polarization on our communities, families, and classrooms.

Focus Question

  • What is political polarization, and is the United States becoming more polarized?

Discussion Questions

  • What does political polarization look, sound, and feel like where you live?
  • What causes polarization?
  • What evidence does the infographic provide about political polarization that you believe to be the most important? Why?
  • What happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington D.C.?
  • What questions do you have about what happened? Where can we look for answers to those questions?
  • How did the events in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 represent political polarization in the United States?
  • What should we do as a country in response to these events?
  • How should students respond? Why?

Facing History Explainer: Free and Fair Elections A student facing resource that describes the standards that governments need to meet before, during, and after an election to ensure that the election is "free and fair."

Focus Question

  • What does it mean for a nation to have a free and fair election?

Discussion Questions

  • What is the government’s role in holding free and fair elections?
  • Why is the concept of one person, one vote central to free and fair elections?
  • Why is it important to make sure that people are not intimidated during an election?
  • What happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.?
  • What questions do you have about what happened? Where can we look for answers to those questions?
  • Even though the election occurred in November, how did the events in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 present a direct challenge to the concept of free and fair elections?
  • How do the events in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 create a challenge to a peaceful transfer of power? Why is that a threat to free and fair elections?
  • What should the media do to help ensure that future elections are free and fair?
  • What can we do to ensure that future elections are free and fair?

Holocaust Encyclopedia Beer Hall Putsch (Munich Putsch) An informational essay from the Holocaust Encyclopedia that provides background on the riot that led to the coalescence of the National Socialist Party in Germany. Includes discussion questions to help students understand the significance of the event and draw connections to contemporary events. While it is important that facile comparisons or historical analogy is avoided, the events in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 can be connected to events in 1923 and lessons from the past can be drawn so we do not forget the horrors of history.

Focus Question

  • Why should Americans in 2021 know about the events of the Beer Hall Putsch?

Discussion Questions

  • What happened in Munich, Germany on November 8–9, 1923 that contributed to the rise of fascism in Germany?
  • If the overthrow of the government was unsuccessful, why was the Putsch a success for Hitler and the Nazi party?
  • What pressures and motivations affected the decisions of political and military leaders on all sides during the Putsch crisis?
  • Consider the usual penalties for treason for attempted overthrow of a government. What is the penalty in your country? Why was Hitler’s sentence relatively light in comparison?
  • What happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.?
  • What questions do you have about what happened? Where can we look for answers to those questions?
  • What are the similarities that you see between the events in Munich, Germany on November 8–9, 1923 and what happened January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.? What are the differences? Why is it important to think about the similarities and differences between these two events?
  • Consider the events in Washington, D.C.on January 6, 2021 and what you know about the rise of fascism in Germany. What lessons can we apply from the past to avoid these types of horrors?
  • How should the government respond to what happened in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021?
  • How should the American people respond?

ITV Trump Supporters Storm US Capitol Building As Protest Turns To Riots Seven minute video from the British television station ITV. Provides a summary of the events with narration from a reporter who was a witness to the riots at the U.S. Capitol. In addition to video of these events, the broadcaster interviews participants and includes clips of speeches from elected officials. Please note that the video does mention the shooting of one of the rioters.

Focus Question

  • What happened in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021? Why did it happen?

Discussion Questions

  • What are you thinking about about the events in Washington, D.C.?
  • What happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.?
  • What questions do you have about what happened? Where can we look for answers to those questions?
  • How has the way that President Trump responded to the results of the November presidential election influenced what happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021?
  • How did President-elect Joe Biden respond to these events?
  • How should we respond to these events to ensure a more democratic path forward?

Mother Jones Among the Thugs: Stunning Photographs of the Capitol Under Siege A photograph essay of the rally and the siege of the United States Capitol.

Focus Question

How can images from the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol help us to better understand the events on January 6, 2021?

Discussion Questions

  • What do you see in these images?
  • What connections can you make between these images and other visual representations of events in history?
  • How do these images make you feel? Why?
  • What happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington D.C.?
  • What questions do you have about what happened? Where can we look for answers to those questions?
  • What is the message Mark Murrmann, the person who curated these images, wanted to deliver with these photographs?
  • What questions do you have about the photographs?
  • How should we respond to these images?

News Literacy Project Practice Good Information Hygiene: Sanitize Before You Share This resource was created to help students respond to the misinformation swirling around the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the four-step process provides guidance for students on the importance of consuming and sharing online content with care including information that is shared about the events in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021.

Focus Question

  • How can we practice good information hygiene to ensure that the information we share is accurate?

Discussion Questions

  • What does accurate mean to you? What does credible mean to you?
  • What are the four steps to sharing credible and accurate information?
  • Why is it important that we share credible and accurate information?
  • What happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.?
  • What questions do you have about what happened? Where can we look for answers to those questions?
  • How did misinformation lead to these events?
  • Why is it important that we make sure the information we share about January 6, 2021 is credible and accurate?

New York Times Watch Out For This Misinformation When Congress Meets To Certify The Election

Washington Post Why January 6 Is A Key Date for Trump’s Election Dates

These two articles review the certification process scheduled to take place in the United States Congress on January 6, 2021 as well as misconceptions and misinformation about the certification process.

Focus Question

  • How does the United States Congress certify a presidential election?

Discussion Questions

  • What is Congress's role in certifying a presidential election?
  • What is supposed to happen if a member of the House of Representatives and Senator objects to a state’s electoral college results?
  • How might these objections delay the process?
  • What false information was shared about the certification process before January 6, 2021? Why do you think it was shared?
  • Why have there been claims of fraud occurring in this past November’s presidential election? What evidence is there to support these claims?
  • Why do you think an insurrection occurred as the election was being certified?
  • How should we respond to the misinformation about the November presidential election?
  • How does this misinformation, and the subsequent events of January 6, 2021, challenge the goal of free and fair elections in the United States? What should be done about this?

New York Times Far-Right Groups Are Behind Most U.S. Terrorist Attacks, Report Finds Article on the rise of White Supremacist violence and the recent Department of Homeland Security report that concludes “that violent white supremacy was the ‘most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland.’”

Focus Question 

  • How has the threat of white supremacist terrorist groups grown in the last few years?

Discussion Questions

  • How has politics played a role in the growth of domestic terror groups?
  • How did the news cover the attacks highlighted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies?
  • Why do domestic terrorists attack people who are exercising their right to free speech?
  • How does domestic terrorism challenge central values of American democracy?
  • How can people try to stop the growth of terrorist groups?
  • How might the pandemic be playing a role in the growth of hate groups?

PBS Kids When Something Scary Happens Resources for use with young students in challenging times. This is a collection of various activities and videos for younger students to help them deal with emergencies and crisis situations.

Focus Question

  • Who do we look to for help in a crisis?

Discussion Questions

  • Why is it important to tell people how you feel when you are worried or scared?
  • Who would you look to for help in an emergency?
  • How can you help others in a crisis?

CNN A Confederate Flag At The Capitol Summons America's Demons An opinion piece by two historians drawing connections between the mythology surrounding the Civil War and the ideological beliefs of the rioters on January 6, 2021. The article provides deep context for the assault on the Capitol building as well as for drawing historical parallels between events leading up to and following the Civil War and the recent assault on the Capitol building.

Focus Question

  • How did the ideology of white supremacy influence the events in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021?

Discussion Questions

  • What is ideology? How does it shape people’s actions?
  • How do myths about the past shape people’s ideology?
  • What is the argument that the writers of this article are making?
  • How is white supremacy built on mythology about the past?
  • What is the Lost Cause of the Confederacy?
  • What happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington D.C.?
  • What questions do you have about what happened? Where can we look for answers to those questions?
  • The writers of the article state, “The lineage between the slaveholding secessionists and the modern insurrectionists could not have been more clear: Both groups were willing to destroy the union and both used violence to deflect their own racial fantasies of power and privilege slipping away.” What do you think they mean by this? What are the connections between the white supremicist beliefs of the Confederacy and the ideology of the insurrection on January 6, 2021?
  • In the article there is a widely shared photograph of a man carrying a Confederate flag in the United States Capitol building, something that has never happened in history, even during the Civil War. Behind the man are portraits of Charles Sumner and John C. Calhoun. What is the significance of these two pre-Civil War politicians to this photograph and to the argument that the historians are making in this article?
  • The article draws connections between a scene in the racist film Birth of a Nation and the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. What is the film Birth of a Nation? How does it connect to these events? Why do you think the authors of this article want you to see that connection?
  • The article concludes with a quote from the politician Thaddeus Stevens at the beginning of Reconstruction, "If we fail in this great duty now, when we have the power, we shall deserve and receive the execration of history and of all future ages." What is he saying about what needs to happen following the Civil War? How is this 155 year old quote a challenge for us at present?

New York Times ‘Sedition’: A Complicated History An article discussing the meaning and complicated history of sedition in the United States.

Focus Question

  • What is sedition and did the people connected with the insurrection commit sedition?

Discussion Questions

  • What does sedition mean?
  • When and why did Americans start talking about sedition?
  • What examples of sedition have there been in the history of the United States?
  • In what ways has the meaning or charge of sedition changed in the United States over time? Why has it changed?
  • What happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington D.C.?
  • What questions do you have about what happened? Where can we look for answers to those questions?
  • Were actions connected to the events on January 6, 2021 in Washington D.C. seditious? Why or why not?

Civics for All Curriculum Resources

Grades K–2: Civics for All Curriculum Guide Lessons

  • Civics for All: K-2 Part 1
    • Core American Values, Page 107
    • Purpose of Rules and Laws, Page 167
  • Civics for All: K-2 Part 2
    • What is Democracy?, Page 12
    • Leaders’ Roles and Responsibilities, Page 23
    • Electing our Leaders, Page 44
    • Where Our Leaders Live, Page 69
    • Our Branches of Government, Page 78
    • Fostering Civil Discourse, Page 203

Grades 3–5: Civics for All Curriculum Guide Lessons

  • Civics for All: 3-5 Part 1
    • Negotiating, Compromising, and Respecting Views, Page 37
    • American Ideals, Page 58
    • Participation as Civic Ideal, Page 212
  • Civics for All: 3-5 Part 2
    • The Constitution, Page 46
    • Power and Use of Power to Influence, Page 90
    • Active Political Participation, Page 145

Grades 6–8: Civics for All Curriculum Guide Lessons

  • Civics for All: 6-8 Part 1
    • Structural Overview of the U.S. Constitution, Page 121
    • The Executive Branch, Page 128
    • Project: Time Capsule, Page 193
    • Rights and Responsibilities of the Press, Page 250
    • Project: Current Events Newsletter, Page 285
  • Civics for All: 6-8 Part 2
    • A Just Society, Page 149
    • Democratic and Republican Party Platforms, Page 181

Grades 9–12: Civics for All Curriculum Guide Lessons

Resources to Support Mental Health and Wellness

The riots, shooting, and related violence that occurred in the Capitol building have gripped our nation and reflect the hurt, anger, and pain of generations of racial trauma. Emotional responses may manifest in different ways, including anger, irritability, grief, and hopelessness. Now more than ever, we need to be well versed in understanding the signs of trauma or distress not only for our youth, but also for ourselves and our colleagues. We should also be aware of effective strategies that school communities can implement to support children and families who are struggling. To tackle these challenges, the Supportive Environment Framework identifies research-based practices that ensure physical and emotional safety, foster collaborative and trusting relationships, prioritize student health and wellness and advance equity.

Essential Questions

  • How can we support students, colleagues, families, and ourselves through this trauma?
  • How can we leverage restorative practices to promote healing, community, and student voice?
  • How can we attend to the mental, emotional, and physical wellness of our students, colleagues, families, and communities?

Resources

  • DOE Mental Health webpage DOE landing page with contact information for local mental health resources, including telehealth services for students and adults.
  • Mental Health: Parent & Educator resources Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
  • Restorative Circles For support in using a virtual classroom community building circle
  • Addressing Race and Trauma in the Classroom: a Resource for Educators This resource from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is designed to help educators understand the interplay of race and trauma in the classroom. The guide reviews historical trauma and racial trauma, explains the impact of trauma on different age groups, and offers supplemental resources.
  • Radical Self Care in the Face of Mounting Racial Stress Five ways to practice radical self-care in the face of mounting racial stress. 
  • Mindfulness Techniques for Students and Staff Calm Classroom is a simple and accessible way to integrate mindfulness into the classroom or home culture. Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to our present moment. The daily practice of mindful breathing, stretching, focusing, and relaxation exercises cultivates a greater sense of self-awareness, mental focus, and emotional resilience within educational and personal spaces
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