Steven Singer is an experienced English Language Arts teacher in Pennsylvania. In this post, he shows how he created a lesson about Ukraine and linked it to Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.”

He writes:

How does one teach about war?



With pictures or words?



With speeches or documentation?



With prayers or curses?



With laughter or tears?



I began my class like I always do – with a question.



“Has anyone heard about what’s happening in Ukraine?” I asked.



A few hands, but they had only heard the words. They didn’t know what was happening.



So I showed my 8th graders a short video that summarized events so far. I drew a map of Europe and Asia on the board. I outlined Ukraine, Russia and the European union. I explained about the Soviet Union and its collapse. I explained about NATO and the struggle for power and prestige.



When I was done, there was a moment of silence. They were all staring up at me. It was one of those rare moments of stillness, a pregnant pause before the questions started raining down.



A patter at first, then a storm.



They asked about what they were hearing at home. They searched for corroboration, explanation and/or other viewpoints.



One child asked if this was NATO’s fault. If it was President Biden’s doing.

I



And yet another asked about nuclear proliferation and whether this war meant the end of the world.



I couldn’t answer all of their questions, though I tried. When there was something I couldn’t say or didn’t know, I pointed them in a direction where they might find some answers.



But it led to some interesting discussion.



Then I asked them if they had talked about any of this in their other classes – perhaps in social studies. They all said no, that a few teachers had promised to get to it after finishing the 13 colonies or another piece of mandated curriculum.



I was surprised but not shocked. I know the tyranny of the curriculum.



I was only able to talk about this, myself, because of the scope and sequence of Language Arts. You see, it was poetry time and I was about to introduce my students to Alfred Lord Tennyson and “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Continue reading to learn about the lesson.