If we truly want our students to appreciate the diversity around us, we need to make sure it is a part of our daily lives. If we wait until Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, or Black History Month in February to start talking about diversity, it is too late. We can’t expect a few isolated lessons to suffice in instilling the value that all people are created equal. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be difficult to create a classroom culture that celebrates diversity from day 1!
Here are 5 ways you can celebrate diversity all year in your classroom, creating an atmosphere that respects and honors all people.
- Read books with a variety of characters and cultures represented. Don’t use the books with the sole intent of pointing out the diverse characters, but use them to teach language arts, math, and other subjects. Talk about the characters and their joys and struggles, which are common to the human race. Talk about similarities the students see between the characters and themselves. I’ve compiled a list that you can find below of some great books to start with!
- Have a no bullying policy. At the beginning of the year, discuss with your class what bullying is and that it is not tolerated in your class/school. With the students, come up with an action plan of what to do if bullying occurs. This will create an environment of trust, where all students can feel accepted. Children who are secure with who they are do not feel threatened by those who are different.
- Plan for a lot of group work within your class, and with other classes as well (even different grades). Engage the students in activities that require them to work together to complete an assignment or task. Purposely group people up that are different than each other. As they work, they will learn about collaboration and how to appreciate the different strengths people can have (leadership, administration, peacemaking, writing, drawing, etc.)
- Celebrate the diversity in your own classroom. Even students who look the same on the outside may have very different lives at home. Create space for students to share about their lives (through journals, morning meeting time, etc.) Research shows that although some people are more naturally empathetic, empathy CAN be learned! Give your students the chance to really get to know their classmates and practice empathy.
- Lead by example. Set a higher standard of behavior for yourself that shows students how to honor and respect others. Be the change you wish to see.
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