Exploring Diversity All Around the Classroom
Use story tapes made by adults to create a multiple-language library Ask five people who speak different languages to read the same book in their language (this should be a relatively simple book with few words on each page). They can use a bell or other noise maker to indicate when to turn the page. Children will enjoy hearing the same story in different languages. Soon they will begin repeating the story in many languages!
Create a class Book About Us. This book should be an ongoing project that includes information about the class. Every day, ask questions such as: What languages do you speak at home? What foods do you eat? What kind of bread do you eat most often at home? Where were your parents born? Your grandparents? What games do you play with your family? What celebrations do you have? If possible, graph each question. At the end of the year, make a copy for each child.
Invite children to create drawings and paintings in the art center to illustrate their class books. Have a wide variety of crayons and felt-tip markers available for children to use to represent different eye, skin, and hair colors as they develop their artwork.
Have children create a classroom mural depicting their family members. They might also represent their family members involved in a favorite family tradition. Display the mural on a wall for children and visitors to enjoy.
Display posters and photographs in the art center that represent many types of art forms originating in different countries. Then provide art materials children can use to create some of these interesting art forms of their own.
Take snapshots of objects around the room. Create a classroom picture dictionary by taping the photos to a blank book and printing words and phrases that describe them in several languages, including English, so that children can compare and contrast them.
Plan a classroom festival. Invite parents to come in and share family customs and traditions. Help children create invitations for their families, personalizing them with their own special "please come" messages.
Ask families to share music from their countries of origin. Invite them to teach children songs from their own cultural backgrounds. Also, ask them to make tapes of their favorite music for children to enjoy and place them in the music center.
Play recorded music from a variety of countries and cultures. Talk with children about the similarities and differences among the different types of music. Invite children to create movements to the music that they hear.
Introduce children to the different breads we enjoy from other countries, including pita bread, tortillas, baguettes, and flat breads. Explain that some people use wheat, while others use corn, barley, rye, cassava, and pumpernickel to make their breads. Then gather a variety of seeds, including wheat, corn, and barley, and place them in plastic containers. Invite children to explore the seeds with a magnifying glass and discuss their similarities and differences. Later, ask children to plant the seeds and chart their growth on a graph.
Talk with children about their family members and the traditions they enjoy together at home. Then display a photograph of each child on a large sheet of poster board. Place a series of dots under each photo to represent the appropriate number of family members. Ask children to count the dots under their classmates` pictures to identify children with the same number of family members, the least number of family members, and the most family members.
Use the following suggestions to help you supply your learning centers with a wealth of materials and activities that will enhance children's awareness of diversity.
- Paint, paper, crayons, and markers in a variety of skin tones that children can use to create family murals and self-portraits
- Materials-including an array of papers, fabric scraps, clay, and natural materials-that represent different cultures to create paper weavings, origami, collages, and sculptures
- Images, symbols, and patterns from magazines that represent different cultures to create collages
- Large blocks, unit blocks, logs, and planks for constructing a variety of homes and buildings
- Boats, cars, planes, sleds, carts, trains, and vehicles of all kinds Plastic and wooden figures of people representing various racial and cultural backgrounds Animals from different settings around the world made of different materials
- Pictures of a wide variety of structures and dwellings
- An assortment of picture books that help children explore the similarities and differences among themselves
- Class-made books representing children's lives and families
- Books and posters in the languages of the children in the classroom
- Dolls of different cultures and of both genders
- A selection of real cooking and eating utensils from children's homes and from different cultures
- Plastic food and empty food boxes, from children's homes as well as from other cultures, that contain print in other languages
- Dress-up clothes for both genders and from various cultures, not just national costumes; also, props that represent the professions of children's parents
- A mirror at children's eye level so they can view their own images
- Puppets of various kinds and cultures for children's storytelling
- Fabrics from different cultures for use as costumes, tablecloths, and room dividers
- Puzzles representing different kinds of people, animals, places, and traditions Interlocking building pieces for creating homes and neighborhoods
- Counting and sorting pieces including foreign coins, grains, and beads
- A variety of baskets for sorting, storing, or counting objects
- Recordings featuring stories and songs representing traditions in our country and around the world
- Musical instruments from different cultures including drums, maracas, kalimbas, bells, rattles, and rhythm sticks
- Dance accessories such as scarves, ribbons, and wrist bells
- Posters of people making music and participating in traditional dances
- Herbs for growing that represent those used by children at home
- Magnifying and measuring tools that can be used for investigating similarities and differences of objects and people
- A variety of plants that may grow in different locations and climates