Group of students in conversation

Photo credit: Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages

Educators are often faced with the dilemma of how to discuss challenging topics in the classroom. The stronger your classroom community is and the better you know your students, the more informed your decisions about these conversations will be.

There are a number of steps that caring educators can take to build community, establish shared guidelines, and ensure that English language learners (ELLs) and immigrant students are included and supported in these discussions in meaningful ways — steps can make a significant difference when tough topics arise.

This project was made possible with support from the American Federation of Teachers.

How to Use This Toolkit

Our toolkit has ten sections. You may want to work through them sequentially by using our table of contents on the left or the arrows at the bottom of each page. The first couple of sections provide a helpful foundation that we refer back to in the later sections. You can also go directly to the section you need if you are looking for tips, resources, or recommended booklists.

PDF version

This guide is also available as a PDF, which you can:

  • Download, print, and share
  • Use in professional development settings
  • Share in professional learning communities

Contributors & Reviewers

This toolkit was made possible by a partnership between Colorín Colorado and the American Federation of Teachers. Project leads include Lydia Breiseth, Director of Colorín Colorado, and Giselle Lundy-Ponce, Director for Educational Rights and Social Justice Initiatives and Policy at the American Federation of Teachers. Contributors and reviewers including the following:

AFT English Language Learner Cadre

Joanne Anderson, Nelver Brooks, Becky Corr, Evelyn DeJesus, Ameena Elder, Loyola García, Maria Elena Guzman, Gabriela Ibarra, Susan Lafond, Cassandra Lawrence, Glenda Macal, Ingrid Miera, Neyda Mora, Patricia Nuñez, Jesús Puig, Juan Ramírez, Christine Rowland, Erica Schatzlein,  Areli Schermerhorn,  Servia Silva, Christine Vasilev 

Friends of Project

Dr. Ayanna Cooper, Valentina Gonzalez, Manuel Gomez Portillo, Kristina Robertson, Omar Salem, and Victor Tam