In this month’s blog post, Katherine writes about the importance of creating a classroom which promotes equality and celebrates diversity. She explains what equality and diversity mean and why they are important in our context. She then shares a classroom activity to get children thinking about one aspect of diversity, gender stereotypes in jobs. She ends with a simple reflection task to support your professional development.
We’re all different, we’re all the same!
Equality refers to the way individuals are treated equally regardless of their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Diversity refers to the way we recognize, respect and celebrate these differences. By promoting equality and diversity in our classrooms we can create an environment where all children thrive and where they understand that their individual characteristics are what make them unique and special.
10 ways to make our classrooms all-inclusive
- Have a clear set of rules about how we should treat each other.
- Treat everyone equally and fairly.
- Avoid stereotypes in teaching materials.
- Whenever possible, use materials with multicultural themes.
- Plan lessons that reflect the classroom’s diversity.
- Use the children’s diverse experiences to add value to the learning experience.
- Use a range of different teaching and assessment methods
- Make sure all children have equal access to opportunities.
- Make sure that all children have equal access to participation.
- Deal promptly with inappropriate behavior.
A classroom activity idea – gender stereotypes in jobs
Teaching vocabulary for jobs is an ideal opportunity to challenge the stereotypes that many people have. Make sure you use gender-neutral language to describe professions: Police officer, firefighter, postal worker, etc. and look for materials and resources that don’t depict stereotypes of male and female professionals but have a more diverse representation.
On the board draw a stick person teacher to represent you. Add a heading: Teacher. Then add a speech bubble. Copy these 3 sentences including your own name.
Hello! My name’s ______.
I’m a teacher.
In my job, I teach English.
Give each child a piece of A4 paper and ask them to draw lines to divide it into 4 equal parts. Tell them you want them to write a heading, draw a person and write a speech bubble in each space. They should choose 4 jobs from a list on the board. Then they use your example as a model, changing the information that is underlined and inventing a name.
List of jobs:
Make sure children know all the items of vocabulary and mime any jobs they aren’t familiar with. Don’t use any visual clues as these might influence them when they do the task. Give children a limited time to complete the task and make sure they know when half the time has passed.
When the children finish, get them to show their pictures to each other, either in small groups or as a whole class, depending on class size. Then write these questions on the board and have a class discussion about their drawings and texts:
- Is your picture a man or a woman?
- Can men and women do this job?
- Why did you draw a man/woman?
In most cases, children will draw stereotypes of male and female professionals because this is what they have seen most frequently. This is an opportunity to get them thinking about stereotypes in general.
For homework get children to repeat the task with the four other jobs that they didn’t choose. In most cases, they will change their approach and draw a non-gender stereotype doing some of the jobs.
Try out the classroom activity idea above and spend some time completing the reflection tasks below. This can be done in your own professional development journal or in a discussion with a colleague.
- Was the activity successful?
- How did the learners respond?
- Did you encounter any problems? If ‘yes’, how did you resolve them?
- Would you do this activity again? If ‘No’, why not? If ‘Yes’, would you do anything differently?
If you try this activity with your class, we’d love to hear how it goes and we’d love to see some drawings!
Author: Katherine Bilsborough
Katherine has been creating ELT materials for 30 years, for her own students and for some of the top ELT Publishers. She has written more than 30 course books and many online courses. Katherine also writes monthly lesson plans for the British Council/BBC website teachingenglish.org.uk and blog posts for National Geographic Learning’s In Focus blog. She is the author of ‘How to write Primary materials’, a training course for ELT writers and is the Joint Events Coordinator for IATEFL’s MaWSIG (Materials Writers’ special interest group). Katherine is a co-author of Look, a seven-level primary series from National Geographic Learning.