Monday, July 23, 2012

Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover

As a pit bull owner, I battle discrimination and judgement every day. I am constantly on a quest to educate the community on this delightful, kind breed. There is nothing more heartbreaking to see someone judge anyone or anything based on his/her/it's outward appearance.

Our students face this day in and day out. Judged based on clothing, judged based on interested, judged based on looks. Last year I did the following lesson in order to teach my students that it's vital they take the extra step to learn about a person, before they "judge a book by it's cover."

Like all good things in education- I "borrowed" this lesson. My brilliant co-worker, Mrs. Payne, was teaching her students about inferences and I "begged"  her to "steal" her lesson. She agreed and so I took it to my third grade classrooms. Now it's your turn to beg, borrow, and steal from me.

"Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover": A lesson about judgements and inferences.

First, I asked co-workers, family members, and friends to borrow a single shoe. I had a variety- a tennis shoe covered in mud from dog walks, stinky old house shoe flattened from snowy dog walks, a fancy purple strapy super high heel I have squished my foot into once, a casual flip flop worn from walks on the beach, a casual pair of 'school appropriate' flats, etc.

Next, I discuss what the word 'inference' means with my class. We talk about drawing conclusions and using evidence to make conclusions. This discussion can look different depending on the age and academic level of your students. Simply put an inference is " a conclusion or opinion that is formed because of known facts or evidence"

This chart is from a very wise and incredible teacher, Shea Payne. She used this activity to make inferences with her 4th graders. The idea was inspired by Tanny McGregor's book Comprehension Connections, where she used her husband's ratty house shoe and one of my flats. She used three shoes that were very different and had students make inferences with partners. Next they had to use evidence and personal connections to back up their inferences.
My shoe is the last one and their inferences make me giggle!

Then, I present each shoe  (I use three shoes per class and switch them out if possible so the classes don't share secrets with each other) one by one. I tell the students that they need to focus on what 'type of person' would wear each shoe, not the person's name or identity, as they may not know them. For example, the flip flop might be a small size six, so it may belong to a young person vs. the flip flop belongs to Ms. Filtness.

Each student shares what they have noticed about the shoe. Once I had a student notice that it a one of my fancy shoes looked brand new so it was probably worn by someone who didn't dress up often. Dead on, but I kept a straight face.

We then discuss what their observations mean and develop a "profile" of the person who may or may not own the shoe.

At the end, I share the real owners of the shoe. Probably my favorite was the time I took in a man's worn out house slipper and they students were sure that an overweight, lazy, jobless woman wore it. When I told them an active, young male, who was a personal trainer wore them, well the look of shock was priceless.

Debrief with a discussion of making judgements and getting to know each other. It's a fabulous lesson that always leads to a good discussion about making judgements at face value. You can also partner with either of these great books:

Our incredible librarian does a similar lesson, but uses trash. Check out my blog on her lesson "Don't Judge A Person By Their Trash." =)

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