What has been going on in Charlottesville? Why did it happen there? Should we be worried? These are a few of the questions a lot of students might try to find the answer to. I know a lot of my American friends have expressed worry and anxiety and fear in the days that followed the incident and the killing of a young woman. Here are a few activities you can use in class.  If you are still looking for the right resources to make sure you effectively address this in your classroom and school community, a community of educators has also been sharing on social media using #CharlottesvilleCurriculum.

Lesson plan

There are 4 videos, some background material, some questions and some extension activities to choose from here. Most is taken from PBS Newshour. In your class discuss the incident first. Then go on.

Activity 1

Read the text, see the 3 videos and answer the questions below.

The chaos in Charlottesville was prompted by objections to an attempt to remove a Confederate statue. Now the long-running debate over what to do with Confederate statues, flags and other symbols has been reignited. President Trump tweeted that removing them would hurt US culture. The governor of Maine said tearing them down, like protesters did in North Carolina, would be like ripping down 9/11 memorials. But the great-great-grandchildren of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson say it’s time to let the monuments and statues go. Here’s a rundown of where things stand.


  • Three people died and multiple people were injured in the chaos of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • A judge ordered 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. be held without bond on second-degree murder charges. Fields was accused of ramming his car into a crowd of demonstrators who came out against the white nationalist rally to denounce a Charlottesville city decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
  • Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer of Charlottesville was killed in the attack and nineteen others were injured. Separately, two Virginia state police officers were also killed, when their helicopter, which had been monitoring the protests, crashed.
  • President Donald Trump faced criticism from the left and right alike when he didn’t name neo-Nazi or white supremacist groups for inciting the attacks until two days after the events took place. He instead denounced violence — quote — “on many sides.”
  • On Monday, Trump said, “Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.” However, on Tuesday, Trump once again blamed “both sides” for the events in Charlottesville.
  • White nationalist Matthew Heimbach helped organize the protest. He called the rally a success and says the white nationalist movement is stronger than ever. Heimbach took zero responsibility for the weekend’s events that led to death and injury. “Even just going back since I have been involved in this movement, it used to be a rally of 50 guys was very successful. Now we’re rallying 1,000, 1, 500 people in the streets. Our movement is growing.”


  1. Essential Question: Why does racism continue to be a serious problem in the United States?
  2. How should President Trump have addressed the events in Charlottesville over the weekend?
  3. What do you know about the history of white nationalism in the U.S.? Images of white supremacy groups taking part in protests and rallies are understandably unsettling for people, particularly young people. What kinds of conversations would you like to see take place in your school that would help address rallies involving white nationalists and the emotions they generate?
  4. Share your views here.
Key terms:

media literacy: the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and act using all forms of communication (NAMLE’s definition)

Confederacy: “the body formed by persons, states, or nations united by a league; specifically, capitalized: the 11 southern states seceding from the U.S. in 1860 and 1861″ (www.m-w.com)

alt-right: a political movement originating on social media and online forums, composed of a segment of conservatives who support extreme right-wing ideologies, including white nationalism and anti-Semitism” (http://www.dictionary.com)

neo-Nazi: a member of an organization that is similar to the German Nazi Party of Adolf Hitler

Activity 2


Discussion questions:
  1. Essential question: Why is media literacy, including reading multiple sources, important when discussing sensitive current events?
  2. How does President Trump’s view of the events in Charlottesville conflict with multiple media reports? Why do you think the majority of Americans including members of the Republican Party were disappointed in Trump’s reaction to what took place in Charlottesville?
  3. Do you think tragedies like Charlottesville may create an opportunity to discuss the effects of slavery in American history, including racism and the rise of white supremacy groups? Explain your answer.
  4. IAre there examples of protests by white supremacy groups in your country? Is it likely to escalate?

Activity 3

Read the essay topics below and chose two or more questions to answer. Write you answers on your blog and bare in mind your readers might not have the same knowledge about this topic as you have. Be sure to inform your readers of the facts you have read up on here and use sources in your answer. You may include videos.

Essay topics
  1. To find out more about the history of Confederate monuments, read this NewsHour article ‘Robert E. Lee opposed Confederate monuments.’ Do you think most people know of General Lee’s opposition to Confederate monuments that would “keep open the sores of war”? Do you think such knowledge would alter their opinion of whether or not the statues should be removed? Explain your response.
  2. Watch NewsHour video ‘The shifting history of Confederate monuments.’ Why were Confederate statues erected? When were the majority built? What do you think should happen with the hundreds of Confederate statues that have been erected throughout the U.S.?
  3. Read these two NewsHour articles, Photo of ‘Antifa’ man assaulting officer was doctored, analysis shows and How the term alt-left came to be. Why it important to practice media literacy when first seeing a news story or an image or hearing from individuals in power? Why is it important to question the sources and seek multiple sources when reading about something in the news?
  4. Recommended NewsHour video stories (always preview before showing videos to your students and check with your administrator around sensitive topics).

I would love to hear from you