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How we treat each other is the difference between a great place to live and a bad place to live. We shape our world through relationships. Most people agree we want communities where all people have dignity and respect. Yet respectful interactions are often not what we see modeled in the media and in politics. And far too many people feel disrespected in their lives. What is our role in these dynamics? How can we have effective, impactful conversations?
Estimated Time: Two class periods
Level: appropriate for all grade levels
Skills Focus: Civil Dialogue
By the end of this lesson, students will have learned:
- How to have a respectful conversation with someone different from them.
- Skills in engagement that will serve them well when working together in class and outside of class.
- The value of listening, respect, and holding the tension of our differences.
See how this program complies with Common Core standards.
Tools & Resources Provided By AS4S & Our Partners
A list of Conversation Agreements to ground respectful discussion.
The Mismatch conversation guide on Relationships First to lead an in-class discussion
The AllSides Connect platform, to engage in conversation with another classroom.
Suggested Curriculum / Class Plan
First 5-10 minutes
Hand out the Relationships First materials. Read the introductory paragraph for the Relationships First conversation and the conversation agreements. (Option: let different students read each agreement aloud.) Talk briefly about how you will spend the next 50 minutes (please adapt for whatever time period you have.)
We have 30 minutes to have a structured conversation about relationships. I’m going to mix you up into groups of 5. (The more differences in a group the better. Probably best to break up cliques.) I’ll let you know when 10 minutes and 20 minutes have passed. At 30 minutes I’ll suggest you wrap up your conversation and then you will have a few minutes to fill out your feedback forms.
Round one of this conversation should take you about five minutes. Remember when answering the questions – you choose to answer one or more questions. You don’t need to answer them all. You want to be sure that there is time for everyone to talk.
Round two is longer — take 10 to 15 minutes to answer one or two of the questions. Pick the questions that interest you the most.
Round three takes 5 to 10 minutes.
Remember – Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the quality of the conversation by noticing what’s happening and actively support getting yourself and others back “on purpose” when needed.
- Everyone shares responsibility for guiding the conversation and is invited to help keep the conversation on track.
- If an area of interest has arisen that has taken the group off topic, ask the group if they would like to set aside the new topic for a separate conversation.
- If someone is dominating, disruptive or has found their soapbox, respectfully interrupt the situation, refer to the conversation agreements and invite everyone to get back on track with the current question so the group can complete the current conversation.
End of class – You might encourage students to read the Head / Heart handout (page 2) and suggest they think about what aspect of the conversation they had fits with the ideas shared in the handout.
This is a great time to have an open discussion about the concepts in the Head/Heart handout and how those dynamics impact student’s lives, civic life and other aspects of the curriculum being taught.
Optional Homework Assignments
- Have students write a 300 word reflection after the Relationships First class discussion — what did they learn? Did they have any interesting disagreements? Why do they think respectful conversations matter?
- Have students craft their own lists of “tips to a respectful conversation.” What 5-10 things do they see as most critical to an effective discussion? Alternatively, have them write a list of 5-10 things that cause conversations to break down.