Raising Issues of Race with Young Children
Even in grade 1, kids are not too young to learn about racial awareness and social justice. Some of them might be hesitant at first, but they will love to explore and learn all the things they have in common with their classmates. Rita Tenorio says that children grow up in a racist society and therefore they end up mirroring the attitudes of that particular society. They make assumptions based on what they are shown or taught, but they don’t necessarily fully understand what they are doing, they are not aware that it is wrong. Even though we might assume that kids are too young at the age of 6, to be introduced to these sort of things, they are not! We, as teachers, have to challenge the assumptions the children are making in order to have an influence in their behavior towards classmates. It is possible to explore the nature of racial and cultural differences in an age-appropriate way. Here are some examples of activities you can do with your classroom to explore racial and social justice.
Me Pocket: The kids have clear plastic sleeves that they can fill with photos, pictures, drawing or anything that will tell us more about them and what is important in their lives. It is great for sharing stories with your classmates and the kids will love to learn new things about their peers and see what things they have in common. The teacher should participate in this activity as well.
Partner Questions: This is an activity that helps the development of social skills by communicating ideas to your partner and listening to others’ perspectives.You can ask a question such as: ‘What is the meanest thing someone has ever said to you?’ The students discuss the question with their partners and then share with the classroom if they want to.
Remembering Someone Special: Activity you can do at the end of October (Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, All Soul’s Day). This activity promotes the learning of others’ traditions to remember their ancestors or people that have passed away. The kids bring artifacts and stories to class, as well as the teacher, and then they can share with their classmates.
Let’s Talk About Skin: Start a discussion with your class ‘Have you ever heard someone say anything bad or mean about another person’s skin color?’ Discuss what to do in these situations. ‘Where do your ancestors come from?’, ‘Do we choose our skin color?’, ‘How do you get your skin color?’, ‘Is it better to be a certain color?’ (these are questions that can help for other activities or add to the discussion). The kids can also find an object that matches their skin color and display it together for their peers to see.
Writing About Our Colors: reflect on skin color then write about it
Those activities are very interesting and constructive. The parents are happy about it and see a positive attitude in their child. These are the first steps towards awareness of race in the classroom.