Teaching Tolerance and Acceptance
If you teach students about tolerance and acceptance at the beginning of the year, you can create a positive classroom environment.
By Deborah Reynolds
Imagine a classroom free of bullying, teasing, and hurtful moments. Teaching students about tolerance and acceptance is a good start toward reaching that goal. Students have different personalities, ability levels, learning styles, and come from various cultural backgrounds. Some children have learning challenges, while others are gifted. Socio-economic status can vary, which affects whether or not all of the students have school supplies or dinner the night before. Teaching children to understand and respect those differences can vastly improve the atmosphere of a classroom.
Tolerance lessons are a great way to start the school year. After students are introduced to one another by name, they can begin to learn other things about their classmates. Scenarios can be used to open up a discussion. For example, students could be given a scenario in which a student receives a graded paper from the teacher and a neighboring student begins to tease him or her about the low grade received. Students can share their feelings and experiences with the class. A role play could follow. Students could act out a given scenario and the class can react to it or offer ideas how to respond. The school’s guidance counselor would be a wonderful resource for ideas and support with this lesson. Students could also create a classroom list of ways to show respect. This will give them ownership over the classroom rules.
Students do not come to us knowing how to handle all classroom situations, nor do they understand that everyone comes to class with different backgrounds and personalities. Beginning the school year by addressing these issues can decrease the possibility of them becoming disruptions through the school year. More importantly, it will help students become more accepting and understanding of others, which they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Here are some more tolerance lessons.
Using the book "Stone Soup" by Ann McGovern students discuss how the characters were treated in the book. Then, students conduct a "Needs Survey" in which they suggest ways to address social issues at school. Students also create skits, make a school handbook, or design a video celebrating differences.
In this lesson comics are used to teach students how to identify and resolve issues at school. This lesson is geared toward fourth grade and up, but it could be modified for younger grades. The students choose a topic such as bullying, race or socio-economic status discrimination, or gender issues. They work in small groups to create a comic strip that depicts this conflict and how it can be resolved.
In this lesson students learn about fairness and discrimination. At the beginning of the day, the teacher gives half of the class a star. Throughout the day, the students with the star receive special rewards. The teacher would have all of the students discuss how they felt about what happened. This lesson can be used in any grade level by modifying the reward and/or incorporating information on the plight of women and minorities in history.