For young white students, explorations of fair and unfair, just and unjust, can go a long way in advancing anti-racist white identity. Purposeful use of literature and basic study of white anti-racists are among the key ways educators can advance such aims.
Teaching Tolerance presents four short biographies for early grades classrooms, with activity ideas.
Prior to using these biographies, educators should ensure students possess prior knowledge about the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II (Margaret Gunderson), segregation and the Civil Rights Movement (Jack Greenberg and Myles Horton) and/or the needs of immigrant students today (Laurie Olsen).
Create the context: Divide students into small groups. Assign each group one of the following topics: the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II; segregation and the Civil Rights Movement; and the educational needs of contemporary immigrant students. Small groups should conduct research. Groups with the same topic should then collaborate on a verbal and visual classroom presentation about their findings. Alternatively, students can write short essays about their findings.
Connect the people: Working in small groups, students can research and write companion biographies for other individuals referenced in the stories: Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fanny Lou Hamer and Paulo Freire. Students also can create biographies of Japanese American children who were imprisoned during World War II.
Fill in the blank: In classrooms where the Internet is available, teachers can remove key facts from the biographies and send students on an online treasure hunt to locate information. If the Internet is not available, educators can compile resources, and students can conduct the treasure hunt using provided information.
Click here for literature selections to help young white children see racism and bigotry and understand how to take a stand against it.