5 Ways to Teach Diversity in the Classroom

March 29, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Resources


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In my experience, young children are generally colorblind when it comes to other children of different skin colors and cultural backgrounds, but the older they get, the more they tend to gravitate to other children who look and think like them. This is one of many reasons it’s important to teach diversity in the classroom to help children of all ages learn that just because someone comes from a different background than you or looks different from you, doesn’t mean they won’t make great friends. The good news is there are numerous ways to teach children diversity in the classroom, among them the following:

1.) Having students share their life story.
This is a great lesson that you will find many parents are more than willing to help their children out with. Start by having your class take home a sheet of paper, with questions along these lines:
• What is my nationality? This gives children the chance to discuss whether they are Irish American, Lebanese, Mexican American, Bengali, Native American, Asian American, African American, etc.
• Where was I born?
• Where did I grow up?
• Who are my parents/guardians and what do they do?
• What does my family do together at home when we’re not at school?
• What kind of food do I eat at home?

You can come up with other creative questions as well to help your students best share what their life outside the classroom is like. Once the child has completed the questionnaire, he or she should prepare to talk about it in front of the class, or as an alternative, all the students can remain seated, going around the room and sharing from their questionnaire.

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2.) Having students expound on their nationality.
Piggy-backing on the life story project in which children share about their nationality is a project where students are asked to do some online or library research on the countries or people groups represented in their ethnic background. For instance, if a child’s nationality is a mixture of German and French, a student would research those two countries and answer questions about what life is like in that country. Good questions would be:
• What foods/dishes are popular in this country?
• What games do children play in this country?
• What are some major holidays in this country?
• Name an important tradition in this country.

3.) Assign a genealogy/ family tree project.
Ask your children to complete family trees, complete with the cities or countries their grandparents and great-grandparents lived in. Ask them to bring in photographs or memorabilia of their ancestors if possible and perhaps talk a bit about what life was like in the era of their grandparents and great-grandparents and what languages they might have spoken.

4.) Designate a month or week to a particular cultural group/segment of society.
Black History Month offers a fantastic opportunity to focus on the positive contributions African Americans have made in our nation, and many teachers take full advantage of this opportunity. International Women’s Day is another excellent occasion to focus on the contributions of women, but there are countless other cultural groups and segments of our society that don’t have a well-known day or month designated for them. You can designate any month to a cultural group and tie it in with a well-known holiday in that culture. For instance, in the first week of May you can focus on Mexican heritage and assign special projects around Cinco de Mayo.

5.) Sharing Family Traditions.
Last but not least, you can ask your students to come prepared to talk about family traditions. This gives students the chance to share what church, synagogue, mosque or temple they might attend regularly, if they go hunting and fishing with their dad, if they go out of state or the country every year to visit family, etc.

For more great information on teaching diversity in the classroom, check out some of the lesson plans, activities and professional resources offered by Scholastic on the topic here.

Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031@gmail.com.

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