Wednesday, April 18, 2012


For the past few weeks in Social Studies, we've been studying the Civil Rights Movement. While there's potential for it to be a difficult unit to teach with all the 'political correctness' and what not in our world today, I actually really enjoy it. My kids are always very engaged in the unit and really get riled up about the social injustices that prevailed. We've even read a few picture books that use the word 'negro' and it's opened up some really good discussion about the use of that word and others.

Incorporated in the unit is a lot of new vocabulary for the kids. They have to learn 'segregation,' 'desegregation', 'integration,' 'discrimination,' and 'prejudice,' to name a few! To start out the unit, I chose 5 students and had them each get a dictionary and go to the back table. I gave them the vocabulary words and told them to look up each word, write down the definition, use it in a sentence, and draw a picture for it. At first they were excited about it and thought they were the 'chosen few.' Once they had started, I pulled out some jelly beans, opened up a Jeopardy review game and started playing that with the rest of the students. When the Dictionary kids started to complain about not being able to play or get jelly beans, I kept reminding them they needed to do their work. When one kid finally asked WHY they couldn't play, I said, "because you're wearing a red shirt." He looked around and realized that all 5 students at the table were wearing red shirts and said, "So?! It's just the color!" This led into a good discussion about segregation, how it felt (from both perspectives), and whether it was wrong or right. They definitely got the idea. :)

A few days later, we were reviewing some of the vocabulary and I brought up the word discrimination. I said, "Remember how I treated everyone in a red shirt differently?" In unison, about 15 kids shouted out, "You're wearing a red shirt today! You have to go copy out of the dictionary!!" So, to quickly avoid that, I said, "Ok. Let's use a different example. Let's say that I have a prejudice against.... (thinking... thinking...) people who drive trucks." In unison again, "My mom/dad drives a truck!! Do you hate them?"

...and that lesson was over. For the next 5 minutes I had to stand and explain that it was simply an example, a lot of my close friends drive trucks and I really have NOTHING against them. As soon as I was done, I asked if anyone had any questions about the vocabulary. One student raises her hand and says, "My mom drives a truck."

I give up. :)

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