How do you make the students in your classroom feel safe from prejudice? (FYI: This isn’t a rhetorical question. I really want to know—so email me!)
There are lesson plans to try to reduce prejudice. For example, the Peace Corps has a series of lesson plans called “Building Bridges: A Peace Corps Classroom Guide Building To Cross-Cultural Understanding.” OPI’s Indian Education Division also has several lesson plans relating to prejudice reduction/stereotypes:
- “What Causes Conflicts Among People?” (Grade 3)
- “Identifying Stereotypes and Countering Them” (Grade 4)
- “Explaining Factors Causing Conflict and Cooperation” (Grade 6)
- “Factors Causing Conflict and Cooperation Among Groups and Nations” (High School)
1. Understanding Prejudice offers these tips for elementary schools.
2. Pay attention to IEFA Essential Understanding 2: "There is great diversity among individual American Indians.... A continuum of Indian identity, unique to each individual, ranges from assimilated to traditional. There is no generic American Indian." (This is equally relevant for all minority students. Not every African American student will be steeped in black culture, and not every Muslim or Jewish student will know the details of their religions--or practice them.) Do provide students and families opportunities to share aspects of their cultures, but don't single out students to be a representative of their people--especially since (sadly) many minority students try to blend in so as to avoid prejudice.
3. Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers a number of resources, including lesson plans, free classroom resources, and webinars.
4. The Southern Poverty Law Center also offers this advice for responding to every day bigotry in the classroom:
- Determine the extent of the problem. As a social science or club activity, survey students about biased language at school: what they hear most often, who they hear it from, how it makes them feel and what they're willing to do about it.
- Implement a 'words hurt' campaign. Get students, teachers, counselors and administrators to sponsor an assembly, or a week long or year long education campaign, about the damaging effect of hurtful words.
- Support student mediators — and use peer pressure. Train students in conflict resolution techniques, and ask them to work with peers to marginalize the use of biased language.
- Teach tolerance. When slurs are exchanged in the classroom, interrupt whatever lesson is being taught, and start a new one on language, respect and cultural sensitivity.