Starting the conversation
Talking about terrorism in a classroom is not an easy task. Our mission is to help you get the conversation started in the classroom, allowing for students to learn the facts about terrorism in a safe and controlled manner.
It is important to discuss difficult topics, such as terrorism, in an educational setting to ensure that children are receiving a safe and factual dialogue about issues relevant to them.
Terrorism is covered almost daily on mainstream news channels along with being all over the internet. It can be frightening and confusing for an adult, never mind a child, making it critical to provide children with the answers they seek so they do not feel compelled to look for them in other places (the internet).
It is understandable that it can be compelling to shield children from the full truth of the matter, but we suggest being as transparent as possible to ensure they feel fully equipped with factual answers to their questions.
Suggestion: Before bringing the conversation into your classroom, spend some time exploring Op250 materials and resources to ensure you feel comfortable with the material and answering possible questions from your students.
Activities to start the conversation
Before even starting an educational conversation, it is important to understand what the students know about terrorism. The use of guiding questions can be a great tool to discover their base line understanding of the topic:
Activity 1: Carousel activity
Place multiple poster boards around the room with different titles: "9/11", "al-Qaeda", "ISIS", 'Islamic Extremist", "Radicalization", "Terrorism on the internet".
Give each student a marker and have a silent discussion, allowing for students to walk around the room to each poster.
At the posters, students should write down what they know, think, have heard, and believe to be true about the terms. You can walk around and write questions that might strike a conversation between the students, or watch and wait for trends to arise.
After each student has ample time to write his or her thoughts and comments on the paper, pull each poster to the front of the class and go through the answers as a group, conversation may flow naturally from the responses.
Strike up a conversation based on common misconceptions and answer questions that are asked as best you can.
Activity 2: Group work
Break students up into groups and assign each group a different topic. Some possible topics could be the different types of terrorism (Right Wing, Left Wing, Ethno-nationalist, Environmental, Religious) or even specific terrorist groups. If students have yet to explore the platform then some simpler topics ideas could be: Is terrorism a new thing? What would make someone be a terrorist? Why would hurting others help promote a political cause?
Have guiding questions that each group should answer concerning the types of terrorism or other relevant topics. Give them time with our platform and allow time to discuss later on. This is where you can guide the discussion. If you would like them to go into more detail of specific topics past what we offer on our platform, it is suggested that you decide which sites they will be allowed to visit ahead of time.
Activity 3: Table Talks
Op250 has created a series of printouts called, Table Talks. The purpose of these printouts are to teach and start a discussion about terrorism in an informational and interactive way.
The activities can be as simple as printing and handing out a Table Talk to the students and going through it together or having a dynamic in-class activity that leads to a conversation. There is a part in each Table Talk that is interactive with questions and scenarios that can be discussed and decided upon as a class.
Each Table Talk discusses different facets of terrorism, all with their own unique examples, discussion questions, and scenarios. To find downloadable Table Talks, head towards the Table Talks page, or click here.
In doing this activity or others like it, the most important part of the exercise is that you pull guiding questions out of what they know and want to know. Terrorism is very seldom discussed in classrooms and doesn’t find its way into some curriculums. The main purpose of this site is to give a place for the students to be able to learn anything they wish to know and want to learn more about in a controlled setting.
An interesting way to go about talking about terrorism is putting it into perspective the of things the kids already understand. For example: Were the Sons of Liberty during the American Revolution considered to be terrorists? What differences might there be between terrorists and 'freedom fighters'? Can terrorists and freedom fighters be the same thing? How would Britain answer this question?
Placing a definition on terrorism is not an easy task. There are thousands of definitions and because of that it might be important to give something very broad, like a violent act done for a political or religious gain. This is the simplest definition that can be given, but it leaves a lot up for interpretation. It is often said that terrorism is something you know once you see it.