For Teachers

Activities for Teaching Tolerance in the Classroom

By The Room 241 Team September 22, 2012

Teaching for tolerance isn’t as hard as it sounds. Many of your students may be growing up in communities where racism, homophobia and other forms of intolerance are seen as commonplace, but luckily, they’re still young enough that you can pass on some more positive, progressive ideas. This isn’t even a question of what is right. We’re looking at a future where gay people, blacks and other racial minorities and whites all work side by side in the workforce. No matter how old-fashioned the grandparents may be, more multiracial children are being born every year. Intolerance will always be around, but it’s becoming more and more of a hindrance for the person who holds onto it. Here are just a few activities that will help to combat intolerance in the classroom:

Blind Teams

Team people up in your classroom without their knowing who their teammates are. Ask them to answer math questions or other classrooms and tally up correct answers in the form of points. This kind of activity can help to prove that intelligence is not tied to skin color.

Cooperation First

The most important lesson to learn about tolerance is that it’s necessary for succeeding in today’s workplace. Offer your students opportunities to win a pizza party or other rewards, but assign them into mixed-race teams. The lesson is simple: in order to get what you want in life, you need to let go of intolerance.

Teaching the Full History

The way that we teach slavery in this country is woefully incomplete. Slavery is something that has affected the vast majority of family histories. Teach the full history and base projects on subjects like Irish and Scottish slavery in American history, Slav slavery and African American slavery. Many white people look down on blacks due in part to slavery, they still see blacks as second class citizens, not knowing that they themselves may have been descended from slaves.

Cultural Pot Luck

Here’s a fun project that you can use to explore tolerance without getting too preachy: have everybody bring in one of their family’s traditional food items. Your Mexican-American student may bring in a tortilla soup while an Italian-American student brings in their mom’s trademark homemade pasta. What may surprise your students is that some of their favorite foods come from other countries, while there are people of the same skin color, right in the same classroom, whose families make food that they’ve never seen in their lives. Culture is a wide and varied thing, it goes well beyond white/non-white, and this is a great way to teach people to relish that difference.

The only way to combat intolerance is to encourage people to work together with one another. If you allow isolation to exist in the classroom, then certain tribalistic instincts will take over. Seat students beside students of different races and cultures and above all else, get conversation going between all of your students.

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