3 Ways to Help Young Children Respect and Accept Diversity

Encouraging friendships and social interactions among all the diverse young children in your classroom is more important than ever. Studies show that the roots of bullying take hold in early childhood, during the critical first years of attitude development. The message is clear: To reduce the high incidence of bullying in schools, we need to lay the groundwork for acceptance of and respect for diversity when kids are very young.

Here are three of the most effective strategies for helping students respect and accept each other’s differences. These are from The Making Friends Program, a book of practical, teacher-tested strategies for supporting acceptance in K-2 classrooms. The Making Friends Program is published by Brooks Publishing.

  1. Provide a simple explanation. Kids will have questions about people and cultures unfamiliar to them. Provide simple, age-appropriate explanations and answer questions in honest, matter-of-fact ways. You’ll encourage children’s natural curiosity and start valuable conversations about the world around them.
  1. Highlight similarities. Ask children to identify ways in which we are all more alike than different. Start a class discussion about our similar experiences and feelings, and how we behave similarly in certain situations. Increasing your students’ awareness of our common ground as humans will help them develop positive feelings about all of their classmates and engage in respectful behavior.
  1. Offer positive feedback and solutions. When you see children having caring and respectful conversations with each other, point it out and give them praise. If your students bring up a specific challenge, use moments like these to provide positive solutions, so children have a model to follow for future social interactions.

Let’s take a look at these three strategies in action,

Conversations and Actions about Children Who Speak Different Languages

Jisoo (age 5, Korean American) attends kindergarten 5 days a week. He lives with his parents, who speak both English and Korean, and his grandmother, who only speaks Korean. Before attending kindergarten, Jisoo was cared for at home by his grandmother. His kindergarten teacher, Ms. Reeds, asked Jisoo’s parents to write down some words in Korean that could be helpful when communicating with him (e.g., give me [joo-sae-yo], stop [geu-man], bathroom [hwa-jang-shill], water [mool], hello [an-young], good-bye [jal-ga], thank you [go-ma-wa]).

Although it sometimes takes a little time to understand what Jisoo wants or needs, Ms. Reeds thinks she is doing fairly well communicating with him. However, Ms. Reeds has noticed several incidents in class in which Jisoo was left alone or excluded by peers. She has also heard some of her students mimicking Jisoo’s accent when speaking some words in English.

What to Do and Say

Provide a simple explanation:

How many of you can speak more than one language or have family members who can speak more than one language? What languages are they? Who has traveled somewhere where people speak a language other than English? Where did you go, and what language was spoken? What was that like? Did you understand what people were saying? What did people do to help you get around and do the things you wanted to do, like order food, find your way around, or buy something? There are so many different languages that people use to talk with each other. Some people know one language, while others may learn to speak two, three, or even more languages!”

Highlight similarities:

Do you have family members who speak a different language? If yes, what language?”

“Have you ever said something that someone didn’t understand? Or have you ever had someone say something to you that you didn’t understand? How did that make you feel? How does it feel when someone doesn’t understand what you say or when you don’t understand what someone else says?”

“What do you think when you hear someone speaking in a language that you don’t know? What do you know about the country of Korea and the language Jisoo speaks?”

Offer positive feedback and solutions:

“Jisoo’s mom, dad, and grandma taught me to say some words in Korean. You could ask Jisoo to teach you some words in Korean, too. What might you do if you don’t understand something that Jisoo says or if you think that Jisoo does not understand you? You could say it again, say it a different way, or use gestures.”

“Learning a new language is fun! Now you and Jisoo can talk with each other in Korean and English.”

For more examples and information see: http://blog.brookespublishing.com/3-ways-to-help-young-children-respect-and-accept-diversity/