2020 — A Year of Change

There is always change, but 2020 was a year of extraordinary changes — global deaths due to a pandemic, marches for racial equality and justice, name changes of schools and teams, a woman of Indian and Jamaican heritage on the Democratic ticket, NASA’s return to space shuttles — and mundane curtailments that influenced culture. Students read, discuss and debate, and write about these changes and those who made a difference.
Download Classroom Worksheets (PDF) 

What a year.


When the academic year began in Fall 2019 few would have predicted the changes in classroom routines and celebrations of special events and the early closing of schools. The December 1, 2019, reporting of a viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China, changed after genome sequencing showed the causative agent to be a novel coronavirus, and its spread became a pandemic. All-but-essential businesses closed, people were asked to stay home, and health providers and researchers around the globe urgently sought to hinder the spreading of COVID-19 — efforts to be likened to the quarantines of the plague and the elixirs of alchemists.


Staycations, RV rentals and camping surged. Student desks for distance learning were sold out and delivery services and take out grew while other businesses remained closed. Terms surrounding the coronavirus (PPE, nosocomephobia) and its social (safe space, self-isolate, Zoom), medical (epidemic curve, immune surveillance) and economic (WFH, contactless) impact came into common usage and were added to dictionaries.


The passing of Rep. John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, John Thompson and Chadwick Boseman were noted for the positive contributions they had made to society. And families of more than 186,392 individuals (as of September 3) in the U.S. who had died from the coronavirus virus were grieved. Globally, Johns Hopkins University reported 864,907 deaths and 26,123,176 cases. Their families forever changed.


Into Summer, professional sports teams ceased to play or practice. Black Lives Matter marchers sought change and justice. Bubbles and agreements sought ways to return sports. Statues toppled, school names changed, the Washington Football Team sought a name. But there was no easy answer to the complex issues that demanded dialogue and action:  More Black lives were lost or changed, athletes refused to play, conscience and economics and politics collided.


Possibilities remain in the last months of 2020. Whether in a classroom or through distance learning, you and your students will search for the truth and research for context, debate events and issues, form opinions and express points of view in a year of extraordinary change.




Race and Reckoning
Resource Graphic 

What’s Change?
English, Language Arts, Reading

Word Study activities are based on the etymology of the chosen word that relates to the month’s topic or theme. From there students are asked to relate the concepts to current usage and to apply in their writing. Give students Word Study: It’s About Change.


Teachers are encouraged to find other ways to use the terms in your particular disciplines.



School Name — Keep It or Change It?
Art, Civics, Debate, U.S. History

One case study on the issue of school name — to keep or to change — is T.C. Williams H.S. in Alexandria, Va. Read and discuss “History meets mythology: Debate stirs over push to rename T.C. Williams High School, of ‘Remember the Titans’ fame.”

Discussion might include

• What makes T.C. Williams a unique school and its name more recognizable?

• What arguments are given for and against a name change?

• What name might be a meaningful change? Other possibilities?

• What is the process for dealing with a name change?


Another article that may be read for a broader perspective on school names is included in this curriculum guide. Read and discuss “Va. schools quickly lose Confederate names.”


To discuss the idea of a school name, spirit and identity, give students the worksheet What Should We Be Called?


Debate Removal of Historical Monuments

Art, Civics, Debate, U.S. History

Not everyone agrees. Just as changing of a school’s name engenders debate and disagreement over the decision, so does the removal of statues and monuments on public lands. Teachers may wish to begin with a local statue, one in your state or one of the national or international statues that were removed. Have students read about the statue, its namesake and history. List and discuss the pro and con sides for keeping the statue where it has been.


Watch and discuss “Race in America: The Historical Monuments Debate,” a Washington Post Live August 7, 2020, conversation with Mitch Landrieu and Wynton Marsalis. “While serving as mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu had the city’s Confederate statues removed. He credits world-renowned jazz musician Wynton Marsalis with changing his view of Confederate monuments and helping him see that he had the opportunity to do something about it.” The five videos run from 3:10 to 6:41 minutes. Transcripts of the videos are available.


As the examination of existing statues and memorials continues, students should consider how and why we have memorials, the appropriate place and context for them. Loudoun (Va.) County faced such an issue. Read "Loudoun officials vote to remove 'Silent Sentinel'" and discuss the different perspectives presented. Into the debate, teachers might add the preservation of lands and maintenance of protected areas. Teachers may wish to review two previous Post NIE curriculum guides:

Preserve, Restore or Toss?
From Yellowstone to Acadia and Zion


Post art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott reviews in August 2020 a new memorial at the University of Virginia. Read and discuss “A powerful new memorial to U-Va.’s enslaved workers reclaims lost lives and forgotten narratives.” The concentric rings of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers acknowledges the estimated 4,000 people who lived and worked at the university from 1817 to 1865. In addition to discussing the background, current design and incentive to build this memorial, students could be asked to research more about this and other universities’ involvement in the slave trade and use of enslaved laborers.


After one or all of the suggested activities, teachers might have students select a statue or memorial in your community or state to research and debate whether it should remain or be removed. 

An alternative for those who live near military bases, would be to research the name of the base and discuss whether another name or person to honor would be more appropriate. Read the guest commentary written by retired Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule: “Don’t delay. Rename Army bases that honor Confederate soldiers.”

• Who or what does it honor? When was it established?

• If there is a better place for it, where and why.

Rep. John Lewis
Resource Graphic 

Character Education, Civics, U.S. History, U.S. Government

This activity may begin with a few questions:

• Have you seen pictures recently of people protesting? Where was this happening?

• What rights do people have to protest?

• Have you ever participated in a protest? When? Why?

• Are there any limits on protesters?

In the Declaration of Independence and First Amendment Americans made known their grievances and the right to petition and assemble. Through solitary pleas, marches, sit-ins and protests at home and in D.C., Americans have demonstrated these rights to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Their causes have encompassed all sides of the social, economic and political spectrum — names and mascots of sports teams, taxes, suffrage, civil rights, wars, more government and less government involvement.


Of course, these rights are balanced with protecting public safety, security and order.  For a more indepth study of assembly and petition, review material and activities in

• “You and Your Rights — Assembly and Petition"
• “Explore the First Amendment Freedom to Assemble


From Sit-ins to the Streets is a research activity for students to explore one of many protest marches in the U.S. that brought together large numbers in a common goal or cause. Teachers may use these as a starting point, then further students’ understanding of other governments with a look at protests in other countries. This extension might begin with a review of current world events.


Picture a Year and Write a Story Caption
Art, Government, Journalism, Photography, Visual Arts

Photographs and videos document events as they take place. The show the firsts and historic events that take place. Give students 2020 Images of Change to review and talk about who was involved and what occurred. Photographs and Captions coordinate with the photographs to discuss the content of captions and context they provide. An additional activity might be used at this time or with reading and discussion of the changing of school names. Give students Prepare a Story Caption.


Picture Protest as a Civil Right
Art, Government, Journalism, Photography, Visual Arts

Photographs and videos show who and how many attended, where and with what placards, dress and other physical details. After the video taken by a student of George Floyd being held to the ground by a Minneapolis policeman and eventually dying was shared, protests took place around the globe.


Share the online photo collections with students. Discuss what we learn about the protesters, their concerns and their diversity, from the images.


In photographs | The United States

The KidsPost photograph collection, “Civil rights protests pushed the government to act,” could be a good way to introduce the topic of civil rights and to assist visual learners. Note that one of the photographs is of Rep. John Lewis.


Photographs from the 57th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” address from the Lincoln Memorial update petitioning for equal rights. Also called the Get Your Knee Off Our Necks march, the Aug. 28, 2020, event drew thousands of protesters. Look at each of Washington Post photographs for details: What is the story being told visually?


In photographs | Around the Globe

KidsPost: “George Floyd’s death inspires protests all over the world” includes protesters in other countries. What are their concerns?


Document in Podcasts and Photographs

Art, English, Journalism, Media Literacy, U.S. History, Visual Literacy

“Cape Up” are podcasts of The Post’s opinion writer Jonathan Capehart. Listen to “Voices of the Movement: The story of Bloody Sunday and today’s pilgrimage to Selma” as Andrew Young, John Lewis and other eyewitnesses recall marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Very good for aural learners.



Teachers might pair the podcast with “Documenting John Lewis’s last public appearance.” This July 30, 2020, article gives the backstory on photographer Gary Williams Jr.’s photographs of Rep. John Lewis at Black Lives Plaza. It is a professional and personal story for both photographer and his subject.


Remember Rep. John Lewis

Character Education, Civics, Government, U.S. History

Just as in literature, we can know a person by what others say about him, what she says about herself and the actions and interactions taken. Rep. John Lewis may also be viewed as the embodiment of non-violent protest, a symbol of civil rights and the conscience of a government body. When he died at 80, the Georgia member of Congress was honored and eulogized.



Read the obituary “John Lewis, front-line civil rights leader and eminence of Capitol Hill, dies at 80” and listen to “Remembering Rep. John Lewis, in his own words” (3:44 minute video).



Remembering John Lewis



° “How John Lewis caught the conscience of the nation

° “Cartoonists salute the John Lewis they knew or turned to for inspiration
°  Tom Toles | “I got into Good Trouble” 



• “How to remember John Lewis

“John Lewis was a pillar of strength for those fighting to change the Washington NFL team’s name”

• “Distinguished pols of the week: John Lewis’s funeral becomes a moment for inspiration

 • “Obama delivers call to action in eulogy for Lewis, likens tactics by Trump and administration to those of racist Southern leaders who fought civil rights.

• “The fight for civil rights isn’t a rejection of America’s founding. John Lewis knew that.”

• “U.S. Rep. John Lewis: A First Amendment Champion

 °  “With the deaths of John Lewis and C.T. Vivian history seems to be sending a message



Hear and Read John Lewis in His Own Words

Civics, English, Government, Media Literacy, U.S. History

As a very young man John Lewis was involved in organizing and participating in sit-ins. And in one of his last public appearances, as a member of Congress fighting pancreatic cancer, Lewis visited Black Lives Plaza in D.C. In between these years, he wrote several books and co-wrote the graphic 3-volumn memoir March. Review the sidebar for titles and links. Lewis engaged in what he called good trouble and urged others to engage in "good trouble, necessary trouble" in a non-violent manner.


Read “A tribute to John Lewis — in his own words” by columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.


Lewis was also published in The Washington Post as a guest commentator:

What would MLK say to President Obama?"

Why we still need the Voting Rights Act

Read About Racism

Read Editorial Cartoons and Draw One
Art, Media Literacy, U.S. History, Visual Arts

Every student can relate in one way or another to Tom Toles’ editorial cartoons reproduced in Tom Toles | School 2020. Teachers may wish to discuss these some with students before giving them the questions for closer reading found in A Closer Look: Tom Toles | School 2020 Vision or give students the questions to respond to one their own. Sharing their responses should yield some interesting dialogue.


Note that this activity asks students to draw an editorial cartoon about an aspect of the 2020-21 academic year and to compose five questions for their classmates to respond to after viewing the cartoon.


Read About What’s Gone
English, Reading, U.S. History

The Washington Post began the Endangered Experiences series. Each writer focuses on an experience that is no longer encouraged, allowed or has been curtailed — and asks whether it is worth returning. Before reading and discussing “Will the birthday candle tradition be snuffed out?” teachers might ask students if they have rituals around birthdays. How many involved candles on a cake? Suggestions for annotating this essay are found in Teachers Notes: In Times That Are Anything But Normal.


This piece could be followed by reading and reviewing the ledes to three other essays in the series. See the second page of ENDANGERED EXPERIENCES | Lede to Set the Scene for questions to guide discussing the writers’ art. These can provide approaches for students to model in their own writing.



Write About What’s Missing

English, Media Literacy, U.S. History

My Endangered Experience is provided to guide students in brainstorming their own topic for an essay that could be part of the series. As Zachary Pincus-Roth, Style section features editor, wrote of the first nine essays, “We heard from the fans who want them back, the experts cautioning against them and, on occasion, the detractors who say good riddance.” He concluded, the series “reveals how the pandemic has reached into every corner our lives — and the ways that life’s modest events can evoke a calming normalcy and bring us joy.”


Teachers might review other Endangered Experiences to see which might be appropriate for your students or provide additional approaches to organizing personal experience, research, and interviews.



Write About People Who Make a Difference
Character Education, English, Reading

In a year when the global deaths attributed to the coronavirus came closer to one million. When health officials in the U.S. continued to urge people to wear masks, use social distancing and wash their hands frequently, deaths continued and positive cases increased.


Deaths in police custody continued. And people protested.


The passing of Rep. John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, John Thompson and Chadwick Boseman were noted for the positive contributions they had made to society.


Students may be asked to write about one life that made a difference or a group that mattered. Give students an opportunity to put their feelings into words and to phrase their emotions. Whether in an appreciation or obituary, in an essay of praise, in the first person or third person voice, let them choose their subject.


Teachers may also give students the assignment to interview an older individual. This may be a family member, a neighbor or someone in a senior facility. Some schools have partnered with senior citizen communities or facilities for distance communication. This would be another way to get to know an individual and a different time period. Read and discuss “At 88, A Slave’s Son,” an interview-based article about one local man and the decades experienced by him and his father.

Resource Graphic 
In The Know 


Found in 2020 Visions and Revisions  Found in Endangered Experiences Articles
 Civil Rights  Bacchanal
Civics Cherubic
Commemorate Demurred
Confederate Emblematic
Equality Festooned
Petition Germaphobic
Preservation of justice Imminent
Preserve or vandalize? Opportunistic pathogenic bacteria
Protest Pixelated
Racial justice Potent symbolism
Reckoning Vigilance
Symbols Wariness
District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.



Academic Content Standards may be found at https://osse.dc.gov/page/k-12-education.

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Social Studies. Students will understand the diversity and commonality, human interdependence, and global cooperation of the people of Maryland, the United States, and the World through both a multicultural and historic perspective. (Standard 2.0 Peoples of the Nations and World)


Social Studies. Evaluating the progress of historically marginalized groups including

women, African Americans, Muslim Americans, and immigrants. (Unit 5: Globalization, Terrorism, and Political Polarization, 1992-present)


Social Studies: Question: How did shifts in domestic politics, international trade, communication, and security transform America? (Unit 5: Globalization, Terrorism, and Political Polarization, 1992-present)


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at https://mdk12.msde.maryland.gov/INSTRUCTION/curriculum/ela/SiteAssets/Ho...

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

English. The student will write in a variety of forms to include narrative, expository, persuasive and reflective with an emphasis on expository and persuasive writing (8.7 Writing)

a)   Engage in writing as a recursive process.

b)   Choose intended audience and purpose.

c)   Use prewriting strategies to generate and organize ideas.

d)   Organize writing structure to fit form or topic.


English. The student will write in a variety of forms, to include persuasive/argumentative, reflective, interpretive, and analytic with an emphasis on persuasion/argumentation. (11.6 Writing)

a)   Apply components of a recursive writing process for multiple purposes to create a focused, organized, and coherent piece of writing to address a specific audience and purpose.

b)   Produce arguments in writing developing a thesis that demonstrates knowledgeable judgments, addresses counterclaims, and provides effective conclusions.

e)   Use words, phrases, clauses, and varied syntax to create a cohesive argument.

f)   Blend multiple forms of writing including embedding narratives to produce effective essays. 

g)   Revise writing for clarity of content, accuracy and depth of information.    


Virginia & U.S. History: The United States Since World War II. The student will apply social science skills to understand the social, political, and cultural movements and changes in the United States during the second half of the twentieth century by

c) explaining how the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the 1963 March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) had an impact on all Americans;

 g) evaluating and explaining the changes that occurred in American culture.


Virginia and United States Government, Skills. The student will demonstrate skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision making, and responsible citizenship by

c)   comparing and contrasting historical, cultural, economic, and political perspectives; 

d)   evaluating critically the quality, accuracy, and validity of information to determine misconceptions, fact and opinion, and bias;

e)   constructing informed, analytic arguments, using evidence from multiple sources to introduce and support substantive and significant claims;

f)   explaining how cause-and-effect relationships impact political and economic events;

g)   taking knowledgeable, constructive action, individually and collaboratively, to address school, community, local, state, national, and global issues; (GOVT. 1)


Academic Content Standards may be found at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/index.shtml.

Common Core Standards 

Language. L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.


Reading: Informational Text. RI.9-10.8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.


History/Social Studies. Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.5, Craft and Structure)


History/Social Studies. Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas.)



Common Core standards may be found at www.corestandards.org.