Idea 108: Teaching About Equal Rights

I recently taught the concept of rights to my students, which is a pretty abstract concept to convey. Specifically, I was trying to teach that even though everyone is different, we all have the same rights.

Firstly, I wanted to show that the students have differences but also a lot of similarities. The class stood up and I told them to stand by the whiteboard if they were Thai, or stand by the desks if they were not. I then repeated this with loads of different categories:

Example: If you can speak Thai stand by the whiteboard. If you cannot speak Thai, stand by the desks.

Other examples: If you wear glasses…….. If you were born in January…… If you are Muslim…… If you have a brother…… If you like ice cream…… If you are a student…… If you are seven…… If you are from India…… If you can speak English…… If you like Manchester United…… If you have black hair….. If you have two ears….. If you have been to Malaysia….. If you are a boy….. If you have long hair…… If you are a child……

The kids find this a lot of fun. Afterwards you can emphasise that we are all different in lots of ways, but also the same in lots of ways too.

I play one more game to highlight differences and similarities. The students sit down. One student stands at the front and says: ‘Change places if you are…..’, then they choose something like ‘if you are a girl’. The girls then have to stand up and quickly change places. The last person to get to a seat now goes to the front and says the next sentence, like ‘Change places if you have a blue bag’. Again the kids have a lot of fun and are seeing that they share lots of different features.

I discuss with the children that even though we might be different, we should all be treated fairly. It can be pretty useful before discussing this to arbitrarily treat one group unfairly without telling the students why, like ‘Okay, all the people who have an E in their name can go outside first to play. And they also get ten class points’. Fairness is pretty ingrained into kids, and soon you should be greeted with a loud chorus of ‘But that’s NOT FAIR!!!’. You can move from this into highlighting that just because some students have an E in their name, it shouldn’t mean that one group gets treated different from the others. Similarly, it shouldn’t matter if some students are girls and some boys, or if they are from different countries.

Next, I use the ‘Washing Machine’ (see previous blog post) in this lesson, where one child walks through two parallel lines of students, and everyone says something nice to them. Before they walk through, I tend to talk about ways the student who is about to walk through is the same and different to everyone.

Example: ‘Okay so this is Mandip. He’s a boy, he’s from India, he cannot speak Thai but he can speak English. He’s six. So, because he’s from India, when he walks through are we going to say nasty things? Would that be fair? Does it matter that he is from India and I am from England and you are from Thailand? Should we only be nice to people from our country? Of course not!’. Because every student gets a turn to walk through, they are motivated to be nice to everyone because they know at some point they will be going through the ‘washing machine’.

In the next lesson, I go over these activities again, and then begin to look at what rights everybody has. After we have a list, we move on to thinking about what our responsibilities are so that everybody has their rights respected.

NOTE: (These activities were adapted for my first graders from a list of ideas I found on the U.N.’s website).

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