How do our beliefs about difference influence the ways in which we see and choose to interact with each other?
- How do we learn which differences between people matter and which do not?
- How do we respond to difference?
Students will categorise the many ways in which humans respond when encountering difference and use this information to write creatively in response to the question, “What do we do with a variation?”
In the previous lesson, students learned about our tendency as humans to form groups. They learned that while group membership can come with benefits, there are also potential costs that can involve hard choices between maintaining one’s own identity and risking exclusion from the group. Students also explored the range of responses available to people when they encounter exclusion, discrimination, and injustice. In this lesson, students will look more closely at the variety of ways we respond to differences between ourselves and others. This is important for students to consider because our responses to difference can contribute to the creation of “in” and “out” groups that can favour some individuals and groups while marginalising others. After reflecting on difference in a journal response, students will read a poem and use it as an entry point for discussing the different ways people respond to human differences and the consequences of those different responses. In the end, students will turn their attention to their school or local community and, in a creative assignment, consider the ways in which they would like to see people respond to difference.
Notes to Teachers
Preparing for Activity 3
This lesson’s third activity requires some preparation in advance, the steps of which are explained in the directions on the What Do We Do With a Variation? Question Sort handout. If you do not want to prepare the question strips in advance, you could distribute the handout and ask each group to cut apart one along the dotted lines for the sorting activity.
Classroom-ready PowerPoint Slides
Each lesson in this unit includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides. The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lessons plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching the lesson. The PowerPoints include basic media and prompts from the lesson plans but are minimally designed because we expect teachers to adapt them to fit the needs of their students and class.
- Reflect on How We Respond to Difference
- Think About What We Do When We Encounter Difference
- Tell students that they will now read a poem by James Berry about the many ways we respond when we encounter a difference. While Berry was born in rural Jamaica in 1924, he moved to Britain in 1948 where he lived until his death in 2017.
- Pass out and read aloud What Do We Do With a Difference?. Try reading it a few different ways. Perhaps you read it out loud the first time so that students get a sense of the rhythm of the poem. Then, using popcorn or wraparound, which are explained on the Read Aloud teaching strategy page, have students read the poem out loud sentence by sentence, and then a third time line by line. Finally, ask students to discuss in a Think, Pair, Share activity what they think the poem is about based on their first impressions of the text.
- Sort and Discuss the Ways We Respond to a Difference
- Create an Aspirational Stanza for Berry’s Poem
- Ask students to take a moment to envision how they would like their school community to respond to the differences between its members. You might ask them to close their eyes and visualise the response they would like to see (rather than what they perhaps have seen or experienced).
- Then tell students that they will end the lesson by writing an additional three-line stanza that describes their vision for how they would like their school community or local community to respond to a difference today. They can follow the pattern of Berry’s poem by starting the first line of their stanza with “Do we . . . ,” finishing the question in line two, and then adding an additional question in line three. You might choose to have pairs work on this task, or ask students to create their own stanzas.
- Students can share their stanzas in a wraparound or gallery walk.
Digging Deeper into How We Respond to Difference
In the reading Understanding Strangers, Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski and Moroccan scholar Fatema Mernissi reflect on the ways in which we respond to difference, both in ancient times and today. Similarly, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom, Jonathan Sacks, considers how we confront the “Other” when he shares his three models for integration in the reading Three Parables of Integration. Both of these readings pair well with each other and James Berry’s What Do We Do with a Variation? After teaching Berry’s poem, you might assign half the class each reading and divide the students into groups to read aloud and then discuss the connections questions. Then jigsaw the students into groups of four so each group has two students with each reading. Students can summarise their readings and then compare and contrast Kapuscinski’s three ideas for how we might respond to the “Other” with Sack’s three models for integration. Then, in a class discussion, students can compare the readings with Berry’s poems. They might rank all of the responses to difference in the three readings from the most inclusive to least inclusive and discuss where they see evidence of these responses in their own school and local communities.