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.


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.