Children should learn about diversity at a young age to prepare them to be members of an increasingly global community. Teaching diversity can include such topics as racism, prejudice and discrimination. Teachers can help students appreciate differences among their classmates and others in the world by teaching them about different cultures and discussing diversity.
Help children see that people share common characteristics by asking students to brainstorm similarities and differences among the members of their class. Then, use the information to point out that all children share some similarities. Also, discuss with the children the benefits of being different. Another activity that can add to the previous one allows students to work in pairs to find five similarities and five differences between the partners. Allow each student to pair up with two different partners so that they will have two lists. Then, discuss and list similarities and differences as a class. Discuss the importance of the similarities and differences in order to show students that the similarities supersede the differences.
To begin a unit on racism, teachers may want to read "The Sneetches" by Dr. Suess. After reading the book, the teacher and students compile a list of classroom privileges on the board. Privileges may include computer time, passes for homework and getting to be the line leader. Then, number the children separately by odd and even numbers. Place a green sticker (dot or star) only on the children who were assigned even numbers. Those children with stickers will get to have classroom privileges for a certain time period while the others will not. Later, remove the stickers and give them to the kids with odd numbers and allow them to have privileges while the others do not. The time frame for each group to have privileges could be a few hours or a whole day. To finish the activity, the class will discuss how they felt when they had a special sticker and how they felt when they did not. Then, the students can reflect on what they learned by sharing in small groups. Finally, the class can brainstorm ways to make sure everyone always feels they belong.
Learning Disability Lessons
In recent years, most schools have moved to including children with special needs in the same classroom as children without disabilities. Children learn to accept each other despite learning differences. Lessons for teaching students about learning disabilities may include teaching the meaning of the term "learning disability" and discussing how labels such as "learning disabled" lead to discrimination. Students may complete posters and booklets about understanding learning disabilities and refraining from discriminated against others because of their learning differences. Teachers may want to use the book "Thank You, Mr. Falker" by Patricia Polacco to discuss learning disabilities. Also, teachers may want to teach students about Helen Keller to show students how people with disabilities can overcome their disabilities.
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