Kara Cooney

Compelling Question

What do teachers need to know about leading conversations in race and ethnicity?

Supporting Questions

1. When do children begin to discriminate?
2. Why is it important to lead conversations about race and ethnicity with students?

Background Information

-Declaration of Independence states that all men “are created equal.”
-Under the law it appears that everyone is created equal and therefore treated equally. This includes people of any race or ethnicity.
-Five-to eight-year-olds are in a critical period where they begin to place value judgements on similarities and differences.
- Many studies have shown that children notice racial cues as early as infancy
- When asked 14% of the children said their parents did not like black people and 38% said they did not know.


This topic is important for K-6 grades because it is essential to teach the students about equality in order to create a healthy classroom environment. Racism is definitely a topic that is still an issue today and a lot of people do not realize it and brush over it. It is an issue that will continue to exist unless some sort of social action is taken, which can start in the classroom. By age 12 children already have fixed stereotypes and certain attitudes towards different groups of people.

What I Learned

-I came to the realization that this was a difficult topic to discuss with the students in elementary school. I learned that it is important to focus on Civil Rights issues and discuss topics by discussing slaves and settlers of Colonial America and how they were treated.
-You must use words purposely, not using terms involving race so the students would feel more comfortable opening up and talking about it.
-You could also talk about stereotypes between the North and South parts of the United States, which is easier than talking about racism.
- A teacher must ease their way into discussing the topic with their students. It is also important to enforce the ideology of tolerance with everyone.
-Rather than sharing opinions is it crucial to be a mediator in the conversation so the students are able to discover their own ideas.


-Do not just start off a conversation with "we are going to talk about racism" but use history lessons such as the Civil RIghts movement to be a lead in to discussions about equality
-Read and discuss books with children asking engaging questions

  • The Sneetches

By Dr. Suess Available at:


Summary: Sneetches are a group of yellow creatures that live on a beach. Some Sneetches have a green star on their bellies, and are called star belly Sneetches. In the beginning of the story having no star makes them less in society. Sneetches who have stars on their bellies are part of the popular group. The Sneetches with stars are snooty and rude to the ones without. Sylvester McMonkey McBean arrives, driving a machine. He gives the Sneetches without stars an opportunity to get a star by going through the Star-On machine. Everyone flocks to them, but the original star belly Sneetches get mad and upset, because they no longer have people to discriminate again. Then Sylvester tells the original star belly Sneetches about his Star-Off machine. The original star belly Sneetches quickly flocked to his star off machine in order to remain special and different. Sylvester does not keep track of who was originally a star belly Sneetch so they all keep running through his machine in order to try to fit into the better group.

  • The Colors of Us

by Karen Katz Grade level: K-2 Available at: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/colors-us#cart/cleanup

Summary: This book is about a 7-year-old named Lena who wants to paint a picture of her. She soon realizes that when trying to do this there are several different shades of brown and that everyone is a different color. She begins comparing all the different colors to foods. She goes on a walk around her neighborhood with her mother and they talk about how people all have different skin colors, and that they must all be appreciated. She realizes that there are a lot of colors that would need to be used to represent everyone.

  • Include Everyone

by Shannon Rhodes Grade Level: Pre-K-2 Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Include-Everyone-My-Kind-Family/dp/1500829382 Summary:

This story’s main message is about including everyone. It encourages children to surround themselves by people who are different from them. The names and pronouns are left blank and the characters in the story are uncolored. This could show the children that it does not matter what skin color people are, and that we are all people.

  • Separate is Never Equal

By Duncan Tontanium Grade Level: 2-6 Available at: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18405521-separate-is-never-equal

Summary: This story is about an American citizen of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent in California who was denied the privilege to go to an all white school. She knew perfect English and the only thing keeping her from going there was her ethnicity. This took place about 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education.


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Live Binder: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=1980546