Kick off the new school year with meaningful lessons for every grade.
Standard Met: McREL Behavioral Studies Standard 4 (Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions)
What you need: Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun, by Maria Dismondy; butcher paper; crayons; scissors; glue; Classmate Connections printable
What to do: Doris Young, a third-grade teacher at Wilderness Elementary in Spotsylvania, Virginia, has students create “diversity diagrams” to prevent bullying and promote differences.
First, Young reads Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun, the story of a girl who is teased for having wild hair and eating unusual things. Then she discusses the words diverse and diversity.
Next, students complete a Classmate Connections worksheet on which they write and draw things about themselves, such as their favorite food. They then break into pairs, cut out their squares from the worksheet, and begin gluing them onto Venn diagrams drawn on butcher paper. If partners have something in common, they glue the square in the overlapping section; they paste differences in their circles.
“It helps to foster a feeling of community as we make discoveries about one another and recognize that we all come with different interests, talents, and strengths,” says Young, who blogs at Third Grade Thinkers.
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1
What you need: The Crayon Box That Talked, by Shane DeRolf; crayons; paper; writing prompt template
What to do: Alisha Peare, a second-grade teacher at Indian Hill Elementary in Omaha, Nebraska, does a diversity-themed activity with a twist. Instead of talking about students’ differences, she discusses what it would be like if they were all the same. First, Peare, who blogs at The Bubbly Blonde, reads The Crayon Box That Talked, a story about a girl who convinces a box of cantankerous crayons that their different colors are what makes a drawing beautiful. Students discuss connections between the story and everyday life, touching on how boring it would be if they were all alike.
Then, Peare asks students to write a paragraph starting with “If we were all the same color…” (color referring to the whole person and not just their skin). To underscore her message, Peare hands each student a red crayon and instructs them to draw a picture illustrating their paragraph. Peare then asks questions such as “How might more colors make the picture better?” Finally, she asks students to use an array of colors to decorate a crayon that represents who they really are. Finally, Peare displays the drawings to illustrate diversity within the class.
Give Yourself a Hand
Standard Met: McREL Visual Arts Standard 1 (Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts)
What you need: Pens, drawing paper, scissors, acrylic paint, paintbrushes, index cards, music
What to do: In late September, Laurie Foote’s third graders at Sunnyside Elementary in Clackamas, Oregon, celebrate their differences with an artistic take on musical chairs.
Students begin by tracing their hands and forearms on drawing paper. They fill in the outline with a “zentangle,” a complex design made of simple shapes and lines (go to bit.ly/imagine_zen for instructions), and incorporate their names into the design. Next, on a second piece of paper, they use colorful paints to create a background that conveys their personality; after the painting dries, students cut out the decorated hands and forearms and glue them onto the background.
Finally, students write their names on index cards, tape the cards to their chairs, and move the chairs into a circle for a game of musical chairs. When the music stops, students pick up the card on the nearest chair and write one positive adjective about the person named on the card. Play continues for several rounds. Afterward, students retrieve their cards and choose three adjectives to write in the background of their artwork. “I love this activity because it incorporates how students are seen by their peers,” says Foote, who blogs at Chickadee Jubilee.
It’s Okay to Be You
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4
What you need: It’s Okay to Be Different, by Todd Parr; computer with Kid Pix or similar program; paper; markers; scissors; construction paper
What to do: Jodi Durgin, a third-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary in Danvers, Massachusetts, incorporates technology and writing into her celebration of diversity. First, Durgin reads It’s Okay to Be Different, an illustrated book that describes ways in which people are different. “Some of the pages are serious—‘It’s okay to be small’—and some are silly—‘It’s okay to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub,’” explains Durgin.
Next, she asks students to consider the organization of the book using questions such as “Which pages are silly?”, “Which pages are serious?”, and “Why is that important?” Later, students brainstorm qualities that make them unique, and choose one quality as their writing topic. They start with “It’s okay to…” and end with their character trait. “It was great to read such personal snippets,” says Durgin, who blogs at Clutter-Free Classroom. “For example, ‘It’s okay to sleep with a stuffed rabbit,’ and ‘It’s okay to wear hand-me-downs.’ They were sweet, honest, fun, and positive.”
Students then create accompanying illustrations using Kid Pix or hand-drawn illustrations in the style of Parr, and paste their artwork next to their sentences on bright construction paper. Durgin ends the activity by encouraging students to expand on their sentences by composing a paragraph about why it is okay to have their trait of choice.
Photo: Christopher Futcher/E+/Getty Images
Activities for all ages, CCSS-ready lesson plans, and more.
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Print-ready resources, lesson ideas, and craft projects for the new school year.