Depending on your school district and where it is located, there are a variety of scenarios concerning the “look” of your elementary classroom. You may be situated in the inner city or a rural setting. Many educators are somewhere in between. Your group of students can be a daunting mix of backgrounds that include differences in religion, race, beliefs, socioeconomic status, and ability.
Often, these differences can lead to conflict, both in the classroom and on the playground. The best way to handle these disparities is to teach diversity and acceptance by integrating it into your curriculum.
Here are a few ways to launch discussions about diversity and bias and how to resolve problems you and your children may face.
- Carefully select current news stories about a chosen topic and bring them up in class. Build lessons around the theme and incorporate them into your math, language arts, science, and social studies instruction. Articles that feature instances of bias, standing up to it and justice triumphing may be particularly thought-provoking and inspire some deep dialogues.
- Children’s literature is an excellent resource for learning more about diversity, prejudice, and social justice questions. There are books on virtually any subject in this area. Read a story aloud in class or have the children read independently and present a book report or create a diorama. Discuss what is most important to them.
- Help students learn to accept others who may not be like them in some way. Bullying, teasing, and name-calling are common among school-age children. Setting aside time each week to deal with these identity-related issues helps students grow socially and emotionally.
- Utilize popular video games, television shows, and toys to discuss gender stereotypes, disabilities, and other diversity concerns.
- When you and your class talk about a bias issue, brainstorm ways to realistically resolve the situation.
The more we can teach our children about diversity when they are young, the better they will be able to handle themselves as adults. It is never too early to start the conversation.