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What to Teach in November

What to Teach This Month: November

November 1, 2023

What to Teach This Month: November

In this November edition of “What to Teach” are recommendations that include topics adaptable for K-12 students like the election process, the global significance of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Indian Festival of Lights, the Gettysburg Address, and resources to create an inclusive school community.

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November is one of my favorite months of the year because, for me, it is the start of many family get-togethers over the next couple months, beginning with Thanksgiving. I look forward to catching up with my loved ones, baking and cooking in the kitchen, and eating all the good food that always comes along with these gatherings. One of my personal favorite dishes to make and eat at these family gatherings is homemade cranberry sauce. And Thanksgiving would not be complete in my family’s home without making pumpkin pie using my great-grandma’s recipe.

Additionally, in Colorado, where I live, it is also the month where we start to light up our fireplace hearths and often hit our first ski slope for the season. Ice rinks start to appear in town and city centers, with joyful children and adults lacing up their skates and gliding across the ice. And, of course, hot chocolate begins to be prominently displayed on the chalkboard signs outside cafes.

The month brings all these fun things, but we can also give thanks that November is an exciting month to dive into all sorts of teaching topics! Below are just a few of the topics that you might want to cover in your classroom this month.

Election Day

Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November each year, so this month is always a prime time to pull out those civic ed resources on teaching the election process. While I encourage you to dive into our whole collection of resources on the election process, I highlight a few below that you may be especially interested in exploring in your classroom this November:

Berlin Wall

Originally erected in 1961, the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, opening passage between East and West Berlin, Germany, and marking the destruction of the Iron Curtain and the end to a symbol of the Cold War divide in Europe. The Berlin Wall fell amid revolutions that were sweeping across communist-controlled countries in Europe. Teach students about the global significance of the collapse of the wall with these resources:

Diwali

Diwali is the Indian Festival of Lights that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. The festival is a significant religious event for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, but it is also celebrated by many individuals outside those faiths. The festival lasts for five days, and the days vary by year, but this year the celebrations begin on Nov. 12, 2023. One big way that people celebrate the festival is by lighting candles, clay lamps and oil lanterns and decorating their homes and streets with them. And, of course, there is always plenty of good food made for the celebration as well. Teach your students about Diwali with the following resources:

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Diwali Recipe Book

Activity | Grades 3-5

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Diwali Diyas

Lesson Plan | Grades K-5

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Bell Ringer: Diwali Celebration

Handout | Grades 6-12, Higher Education

Gettysburg Address 

On Nov. 19, 1863—in the midst of the American Civil War and approximately 4 1/2 months after the Union’s victory over the Confederate soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg—President Abraham Lincoln stood before a crowd at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa., and gave what would become one of the most famous speeches in American history. Lincoln reaffirmed the principles of liberty and equality found in the Declaration of Independence. And he emphasized the need for, and his dedication to, abolishing slavery by avowing “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” The Gettysburg Address has become a symbol of American ideals and a testament to the nation's commitment to preserving its founding principles. Learn about the address with these resources:

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1863: Shifting Tides - Traditional - Elementary

Lesson Plan, Presentation | Grades 3-5

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Gettysburg

Lesson Plan | Grades 6-12

Native American Heritage

November was designated as Native American Heritage Month (also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month) in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. The observance aims to raise awareness about and honor the traditions, languages, achievements and contributions of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and affiliated island communities while acknowledging the challenges they have faced throughout history and continue to face today. While we encourage you to embed this topic in your curriculum throughout the year, November can be a great opportunity to particularly highlight Native American heritage in your classroom. Explore the resources below:

Transgender Awareness Week 

Each year, Nov. 13-19 is designated as Transgender Awareness Week and is the lead-up to Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20. This week aims to raise awareness of the transgender community and the struggles they face. Transgender Day of Remembrance honors those who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence. Use this week as a moment to promote inclusion, respect and kindness toward all. Explore these resources that highlight transgender people:

Recognizing that some districts and states have more extreme policies in place restricting discussions and lessons about the LGBTQIA+ community, we hope you will still use this week as a time to focus on creating a safe, inclusive school environment. Inclusion can be promoted through the language we choose to use, such as using words like “partner” instead of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” or using gender-neutral terms such as “students” or “scholars” as opposed to “boys and girls.” Additionally, shutting down and addressing bullying of students can go a long way in making sure that LGBTQIA+ students feel safe and welcome in schools. Providing mental health resources can also help ensure that all students have a safe place where they can go and open up about their truth. Lastly, promote inclusion by teaching students that differences are OK! While you may not be able to explicitly address LGBTQIA+ issues, you can still teach students about the importance of creating welcoming and inclusive communities using the resources below:

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My Best Self! Exploring Identity and Bias

Activity, Handout, Lesson Plan, Worksheet | Grades 9-12

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Walk in Another's Shoes

Handout, Lesson Plan | Grades K-12, Professional Development

What are you teaching this month? Let us know in the comments below.

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Megan Ortmeyer
Megan Ortmeyer is an SML Team Member and has worked in the AFT Educational Issues Department since fall 2018. She received her M.A. in education policy studies in May 2020 from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University. Prior to working at the AFT,... See More
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