Teaching the Social Justice Standards

The Social Justice Standards

From the Learning For Justice website: The Social Justice Standards are a set of anchor standards and age-appropriate learning outcomes divided into four domains—Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action (IDJA). The standards provide a common language and organizational structure: Teachers can use them to guide curriculum development, and administrators can use them to make schools more just, equitable and safe. The standards are leveled for every stage of K–12 education and include school-based scenarios to show what anti-bias attitudes and behavior may look like in the classroom.

Teaching about IDJA allows educators to engage a range of anti-bias, multicultural and social justice issues. This continuum of engagement is unique among social justice teaching materials, which tend to focus on one of two areas: either reducing prejudice or advocating collective action. Prejudice reduction seeks to minimize conflict and generally focuses on changing the attitudes and behaviors of a dominant group. Collective action challenges inequality directly by raising consciousness and focusing on improving conditions for under-represented groups. The standards recognize that, in today’s diverse classrooms, students need knowledge and skills related to both prejudice reduction and collective action.

I approach the Social Justice Standards (SJS) like a progression of skills. The first half of the school year is dedicated to lessons about Identity and Diversity to lay the groundwork for safe, empathetic, and informed discussions that will naturally unfold after instruction related to Justice. This work is necessary before developing and carrying out action plans to solve challenges identified within the community. Of course, this is not an exact science and teachers will facilitate learning that is student, family and community centered.

Once you begin teaching the Social Justice Standards daily, I strongly suggest investigating Ethnic Studies.

Other ways to Teach

Social Justice & Literacy

  • Music lyrics related to social justice (A Change is Gonna Come, This Little Light of Mine, You Can Count on Me, Lean on Me, I Think You're Wonderful, Stand By Me, songs from other cultures in different languages)

  • Poems, Spoken Word & Speeches (Langston Hughes, Phyllis Wheatley, Fredrick Douglass, Dolores Huerta, Amanda Gorman, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison)

  • Flyers and websites from social justice minded organizations or cultural groups in your community.

  • Teach visual literacy using images from Education Amplifier or Just Seeds.

  • Honor the cultural wealth in your community. For example, Value Oral Traditions by having students interview an adult in their home, using FlipGrid, and asking them to share a happy memory from their childhood. This will give the teacher valuable information that can lead to co-creating curriculum with families.

  • Ideas for informational texts with text features:

    • Epic! has biographies and books about religious faiths

    • Humanize texts about animals by choosing animals that have some connection to culture or community. For example, butterflies migrate and so do people, or the importance of salmon to Pacific Northwest Indigenous peoples.

  • Newsela- Nonfiction articles on current events

  • For almost any form of literacy, teachers can teach: Asking Questions, Monitoring, Author's Purpose, Making Connections, Inferring, Summarizing, Theme and Comparing & Contrasting with other texts.

  • Teachers can use any of the texts on this site to also address Speaking & Listening standards.


Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain