Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated the news over the past week, leading newspapers and headlining nightly shows. And students are watching.
Abigail French, a 6th and 7th grade U.S. history teacher at Frederick County Middle School in Winchester, Va., said earlier this month that several of her students first asked her about the then-developing crisis when they got news push alerts on their cellphones.
French asked her middle schoolers to send her the stories that they saw. Then, she devoted some class time to explaining historical context and weaving in students’ understandings about military alliances from previous study of World War I.
“I’m asking kids to find connections,” French said, a week before the invasion began. “Why is this happening? Why do other countries get involved?”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, more than 100 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and half a million Ukrainians have fled their country as refugees, according to United Nations agencies. Delegations from Russia and Ukraine met for peace talks on Monday; the same day, Ukrainian officials said that Russian forces launched rockets into a residential neighborhood in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.
The day before, Russian President Vladimir Putin put the country’s nuclear forces on high alert, a move that U.S. officials say has further escalated tensions.
As the situation continues to change by the hour, some teachers have turned to social media to crowdsource resources that can help them explain the invasion and support students in processing emotions of fear, anger, or sadness.
Experts say that teachers should start with student needs: How they discuss the war should change based on students’ developmental levels and what students want to know.
“It depends on the teacher; it depends on the classroom. It depends on the questions that your kids may or may not be asking,” Emma Humphries, the chief education officer at iCivics, a nonprofit that promotes civics education and provides educational resources for teachers, said in an interview with Education Week in February.
Education Week collected examples of resources that teachers are using to help students understand historical context, process current events, and use their news and media literacy skills as they read or watch coverage.
Teach students how to understand the historical context around what is happening in Ukraine
Some U.S. history and world history teachers are using their students’ understanding of the World Wars, the Cold War, or the concept of military alliances as an entry point for teaching about the invasion.
- Jeremy J., 8th Grade Science and Social Studies teacher
-James F., History teacher
- Rebecca B., Ph.D. historian and educator
Show kids how to process fast-changing current events
The war is ongoing and the situation is changing daily. Some educators looking to teach lessons about on-the-ground developments and foreign-policy implications have turned to resources created by news organizations, nonprofits, and other teachers.
- Alex M., teacher
-Shannon S., civics teacher
Make instruction in media literacy a high priority
Strengthening students’ media literacy is a key goal of many civics teachers. Some teachers are drawing on the many resources available designed to hone critical thinking skills, to help students become informed consumers of coverage about the war.
-Wayde G., education coach
-Dr. Torrey T., Associate Professor of Ed-Tech at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst
A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2022 edition of Education Week as How to Teach About The Russian Invasion Of Ukraine