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Release #97/23

early years are learning years
Starting small: Fostering kindness in the classroom
For most young children, being
a "classmate"—at child care, at
a place of worship, or at
school—constitutes their first active
participation in an ongoing social
structure outside the family.The vision
of community that these experiences
provide can color a child's ideas and
expectations about equity, coopera
tion, and citizenship for a lifetime.
Starting Small: Teaching Tolerance
in Preschool and the Early Grades is
an innovative multimedia resource
that illustrates how promoting empa
thy in young children can be achieved
in the early years through various
teaching methods.
The book component features
seven early childhood classrooms
(preschool, kindergarten and primary)
in which teachers are helping young
children build inclusive, caring com
munities across differences that too
often divide. Each classroom narra
tive is followed by research-based "re
flections" addressing specific themes
or developmental aspects of teaching
tolerance. Practical applications are
also provided for incorporating the
concepts into activities.
The teachers featured in the book
and video understand that even within
the seemingly safe confines of the
classroom, children can feel lost or
frightened. Following are examples of
methods used in Starting Small. Par
ents will also find these strategies
helpful at home.
Affirming identity
Lead discussions and activities
that openly value racial and ethnic
diversity in the classroom (e.g.,
compare and contrast skin colors
and affirm the beauty of all of them).
Nurturing Justice
Design learning activities that help
children explore the concepts of fair
ness and justice. For example, use
dramatic play, interviews, and puppets
to talk about social and moral dilem
mas, or read selected children's litera
ture to discuss or act out hypothetical
social and moral problems.
Fostering Gender Equity
Break down gender stereotypes
through your own actions (e.g., a fe
male teacher fixing a wagon or a male
teacher mending a doll's dress). It is
also important to inspect books, post
ers, and bulletin boards for gender
Building Friendship Skiiis
Have children draw pictures of
themselves playing with friends, and
label and display the artwork.
Facing Prejudice
Take an active role against hurtful situ
ations that occur among children. For
example, if a child uses a racial epi
thet, determine his or her understand
ing of the term. Explain that such
words are mean and make people feel
Encouraging Self-Discipline
Create "Peace Tables" where chil
dren can work out their own conflicts,
or role-play conflict situations and in
clude a variety of ways to solve prob
Responding to Special Needs
Invite guests with special needs to
present activities in your classroom;
focus on their "regular" traits first (such
as job and family) and the activity they
will lead. Create a relaxed atmo
sphere for questions and answers
about disabilities and other matters.
Coping with Loss
Provide opportunities for children
to commemorate loss through play
and work activities, such as making
memory gifts, planting a flower or tree,
lighting a candle, or creating a mural.
The Starting Small resource kit is
available free of charge to elemen
tary principals, child care directors
and teacher education department
chairs upon written request. Quali
fied educators should mail re
quests for free materials on your
program's letterhead/stationery to
Starting Small, Teaching Tolerance,
400Washington Ave., Montgomery,
AL 36104, ATTN: Order Depart
ment. Requests may also be sent
by fax to 334-264-7310.
For paid orders, send your re
quest with a check or credit card
authorization for $25 to the same
address. Purchase orders can not
be accepted.
1509 16th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036-1426 202-232-8777 800-424-2460 FAX: 202-328-1846
Copyright ©1997byNational Association for the Education ofYoung Children. Reproduction ofthismaterial isfreely granted, provided creditisgiven
to the National Association for the Education ofYoungChildren.