Kristen Kurtz, Grade 3, Bren Mar Park Elementary School, Alexandria, VA
I was excited to see that Diversity was the topic for October, because it integrated perfectly with our Social Studies curriculum. My class started the month by reading the book Everybody Eats Noodles. This fiction book explores the many different types of noodles and the different ways that people might eat noodles according to their culture. It was a great introduction to diversity that the kids could relate to as they always see each other’s lunches in the cafeteria. I followed up this lesson by asking students to write down food, music, and clothing they like. They put these on posters and we did a gallery walk so that the kids could see their classmates’ answers. My school is extremely diverse – the students speak 52 different languages – so it was interesting to see their differences, as well as similarities. The students actually noticed that they had a lot in common despite their differences. We ended the lesson by talking about how diversity makes everyone unique and gives us the chance to learn from each other, while our similarities bring us together.
In the next lesson, I continued the theme of valuing diversity as well as similarities. We read the book “Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun”. In this book, the main character is a unique individual and does things that others consider odd, such as eating spaghetti in a hot dog bun. One student in her class often makes fun of her for it. One day, the bully gets stuck on the monkey bars. Instead of taking the opportunity to make fun of him back, she helps him down. The message of the book is twofold. First, it is ok to be different. Second, even though we are different, we can find things in common and treat each other with respect. After reading the book, I paired the students to work on a venn diagram comparing and contrasting themselves. I have done this lesson in the past and always enjoy watching the kids notice how they are the same and how they are different. They love finding things in common with someone that they don’t know very well.
The next week, we read “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss. In the story, the star-bellied sneetches have certain privileges just because they have stars. When the plain-bellied sneetches figure out how to get stars, the star-bellied sneetches have their stars removed and suddenly the plain-bellied sneetches are considered better. This book led to a discussion about the ways that we are different from each other, such as race and ethnicity, and if those differences should matter in terms of privilege. Our discussion was really inspiring. It was so awesome to hear my students talk about how silly the sneetches were and make the connection on their own to discrimination.
We ended this month by bringing the topic back to valuing the diversity in our classroom. I taught a short lesson on the flags of different countries and how they represent the history and values of that country. Each student had the opportunity to make their own flag that represented themselves. In this lesson, we also watched Alex’s video. To meet her challenge, I paired the kids with a classmate that they didn’t know very well, and gave them three minutes to find as many things in common as they could. The record was 14! Then, we shared these with the whole class. I really valued this topic as I think it made my kids appreciate each other even more.