Diversity, acceptance, and inclusivity are hot topics these days, but rightfully so! Students have constant access to divisive videos, messages, and pictures at all times through mainstream media and social media. It is our job as educators to not only teach our students the academics needed to be successful individuals but also the social-emotional and character skills that will set them up for life-long successes in other ways. Teaching acceptance in the classroom is no small feat. Children love to be loved, and when they feel different it can be hard. Differences can come in all shapes and sizes, from different races to physical abilities to interests and more. Children all have varying understandings of acceptance when they enter our classrooms as well.
I am sure we all agree that teaching acceptance to our students is a huge responsibility and an absolute necessity, but the question remains: how do we teach acceptance effectively and in a way that students will truly grasp, especially in today’s world?
Create a Classroom Community
Create a community in your classroom from day one! Create a classroom goal and work together to achieve it. Discuss special abilities that each student has and ways that their strengths can positively impact the entire class. Cheer on the students as they make progress towards the goal and encourage them to cheer each other on as well. Have a dedicated space to display positive artwork or papers of each student. Recognize birthdays in your classroom in a special way. Celebrate outside accomplishments of students such as new scout badges, winning a chess tournament, or making the cheer team. By making your students feel welcomed and special, they will be more willing to share, accept, and celebrate differences too. Help your classroom feel inviting and welcoming with these FREE Safe Space Posters.
Model & embed acceptance into your classroom
Show your students that you appreciate and celebrate differences in others by choosing books written by different authors, listening to speakers from different cultures and who have varying life experiences, and recognizing the differences you see in the students within your classroom.
You can also use morning meetings as a way to introduce acceptance to your students. Activities like those found in “Acceptance - Character Education & Social Emotional Learning” in my Teachers Pay Teachers store are an easy way to implement this topic without feeling like you have to reinvent the wheel. This product includes nine activities, a recommended book list, writing prompts, decor pieces, virtual presentations and so much more that can make teaching this topic a piece of cake for you!
Using read-alouds to teach acceptance in the classroom
Read alouds, writing prompts, self-reflection guides, cause and effect activities are wonderful ways to ensure that your students are understanding and able to apply the topic of acceptance both in and out of the classroom. Check out this blog post about Children’s books that teach Acceptance. Here are a few highlights of my favorites:
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Acceptance is My Superpower by Alicia Ortego
Lisa is a young girl who loves to sing and wears glasses. A classmate who Lisa views as a friend made cruel comments about her, and it leads her into learning what diversity is. Lisa learns that when others misunderstand it can sometimes result in words or actions that are hurtful. She also learns that differences are not actually flaws but instead are superpowers. By accepting herself and others, Lisa is being a superhero!
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonya Sotomayor
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor celebrates the many differences and challenges that children have and describes them as special powers. In her book, she equates these differences to the different types of plants and flowers that make a garden beautiful. Kids of all races, diagnoses, abilities, and more work together to create a community garden. As they do, they ask each other questions to learn more about one another. They learn that they all have something unique to contribute to the beautiful garden they are building, just like in the garden of life!
The Very Last Leaf by Stef Wade
The Very Last Leaf is about Lance Cottonwood. Lance is the greatest and smartest of the leaves at school, but even still, he worries. He makes high grades in all of his classes but is so nervous about his final exam of floating to the ground. He is afraid of falling off of the tree and makes excuse after excuse as to why he cannot do it. He even tries to look like an evergreen leaf and stay on his tree all winter long. A kind teacher helps Lance overcome his fear, and his classmates encourage him when it is time to let go. In the end, Lance lands safely on the ground and is extremely proud of himself for acknowledging and accepting his fears.
As educators, we want to teach students to not only tolerate and accept diversity in the classroom and world around them but to welcome and CELEBRATE others’ differences. Without diversity, the world would be all the same or, at best, broken into many different groups of the same types of people. How absolutely boring and sad would that be?! Remember, teaching acceptance does not have to be hard. Show interest in your student’s lives and utilize relevant and diverse materials like books and this product in my TPT store to make things easier on yourself and more engaging for students.
Do you have any amazing success stories for teaching acceptance in the classroom to students? If so, I would love to hear them! Leave me a comment below.😄