1st grade Social Studies & SEL update

1st grade Social Studies and SEL update

by Jahi Johnson and Katy Ailes

We have spent much of last month defining what a right is and, connected, redefining our Class Values. The kids are thinking about rights that everyone in our community has and the responsibilities that need to be upheld to protect these rights. We’re taking a closer look at some of our identities- things we enjoy so much we call them our passions, our racial identity, and things we cannot see but need to respect and understand just as much, like gender identity. The students created self portraits for this month using words and pictures they chose to describe themselves and their identities.

Building off of our discussions around identity, we held a class circle discussing how sometimes people say unkind things to others and these putdowns relate to some part of that person’s identity.  We named how these types of aggressions are called microaggressions because they happen frequently, and they often go unaddressed.  We read a book called Ouch! Moments:  When Words are Used in Hurtful Ways.  The book names examples of “ouch moments”-  “Move on fatso!,” “He throws like a girl,” and “What a freak!”

It also mentions that during “ouch moments,” everyone needs help-  “The kid who is saying mean or ugly things needs help, the kid who is getting hurt needs help and all the kids who saw or heard what happened need help.”  We then opened the conversation up for kids to share experiences they have had with “ouch moments” and we focused on identity-  either when someone was hurtful towards them or when they may have said something hurtful about someone else.

Kids shared about their bodies, their gender, and their clothing being commented on in hurtful ways.  We closed the meeting by thinking about how (like a paper heart), each microaggression adds a crease within our hearts.  The paper can be smoothed out again with repairs and kindness from others, but the creases never really go away.  We hope that children will be more mindful when they use words towards one another and we will continue to notice microaggressions and discuss and repair their impact.

The day after Dr. King’s birthday we did a presentation with both first-grade classes present, that was something like a family interview. In teaching about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, we are hoping to broaden the students’ understanding of him as a person.  So many of kids’ associations with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are connected to his belief in fairness and equality, his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but also to his assassination.  We want to downplay his death and focus on his life.

Building on our theme of “What makes a family” from our family interviews project, we showed the students pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a young boy and as a father. It gave the students a chance to focus on things that were similar and different about Dr. King’s family and their own family, while keeping love at the center.  We printed out various pictures we found online and placed them within pictures frames.

During the presentation, we shared about Dr. King’s upbringing, provided a few details about each member in his family, and shared what they enjoyed doing together. The students got to see pictures like these ones to see how his family spent time and the fun they had together. We also read the books Be A King and My Daddy.

After reading My Daddy, we shared more history with the students related to segregation and leaders who fought to change the law that “separate was equal.” We used props to represent different parts of our share, hoping to provide visuals for the kids to hold on to beyond our circle time. We shared that at this time in history, segregation, “separate but equal,” made it so that white people and Black people could not use the same spaces within their communities- we focused on buses and schools; separate was NOT equal; everyone suffered when Black children and white children were not allowed to attend the same schools- it is important to have people learning and working together to get the best ideas; leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Rosa Parks worked in nonviolent (peaceful) ways to end segregation.

After sharing the history and writing together some of the key words and people from our share, we asked the kids what they were thinking or wondering. Here are some of their questions:

I wonder how long it took and how long it will take for things to be changed for good.
I wonder if some schools are still only white or only Black.
I wonder if people still disagree with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
I wonder how the kids felt being separated.

More notes from Jahi

About a week later…

As students returned from lunch, they saw a picture of people marching holding up a Black Lives Matter banner projected on the screen. I asked students what they saw and some of the responses included: people marching, the black lives matter sign, the crosswalk, the store is behind the people marching, and the different complexions of skin.

This opened up our discussion about Black Lives Matter as a class. I pointed out how these people may be disrupting traffic or the businesses that may be open, such as the bank for the camera store. Before we transitioned to the carpet I let them know that we will be talking more about this picture and Black Lives Matter. All pictures shown from this day are within this post.

I shared with the students that there is still work to be done around everyone being treated fairly; a place where all races and nationalities are treated fairly, and that is why the Black Lives Matter group/movement was created.

I didn’t mention anything about police brutality in relation to Black Lives Matter. I did show the students the Black Lives Matter website so they could see pictures of the founders. I read the name of each founder and the students repeated each one. I shared how the Black Lives Matter movement is a non-violent movement but how others have interfered with their marches by causing violence and harm to others during the time people are marching.

I went over that someone who supports the Black Lives Matter movement still cares about the rights and needs of other types of people. In order for everyone to matter and be cared for, black people need to matter too. Within a couple of days after this conversation I shared my Black Lives Matter sweater and few students smiled and clapped as I showed it off.

This week,  I showed students quite a few pictures from Coretta Scott King’s book. One of the pictures included Dr. King being in a jail cell. We talked about how even though Dr. King wanted people to be treated fairly and was non-violent in his actions, he did things that broke the law. Even though the laws he was trying to change were unfair, there were consequences for breaking the law. We did talk more about how being arrested can result in jail time, fines or how someone can be released later if they are arrested.

After stating that justice is similar to fairness at the end of the discussion, I said, “Put a hand up if you want peace!” “Put another hand up if you want justice! Put both hands up if you want peace and justice!” It was nice to see many first graders with both of their hands raised high up in the air.