One of the recurring topics this semester has been surrounding the question, “How do we teach sensitive material to young students?” Topics like World Wars, Egyptian afterlife, slavery, the Holocaust and controversial historical figures are just a few examples of topics that are touchy for both students and teachers. I found a great article that discusses how primary sources and artifacts can help teach sensitive topics in a variety of ways. The article talks about how images, artifacts and objects can provide a soft transition into a hard, sensitive or possibly controversial conversation. These kinds of visual aids can also make the material easier for students to understand and digest if shown rather than simply explained. The article follows this up with some great suggestions to consider before teaching sensitive subjects:
- Consider your audience and take your students backgrounds and experiences into account
- Consider your role as a teacher in this conversation (to challenge preconceptions, remain neutral, etc.)
- Consider whether it is appropriate or necessary to share your own view or opinion. (This can help a conversation or hurt it)
As educators, I believe teaching sensitive subjects should go hand in hand with our efforts to teach about bias, diversity and social justice. History repeats itself, which means the hard conversations have to go hand in hand with the right response. Dr. Stohr has mentioned in class about bias free teaching and literature and how to recognize bias from a historical perspective. Another great article on Edutopia discusses this topic and explains the importance of teaching young students about bias and social justice. The article provides strategies elementary teachers can use, such as anti-bias lessons, news stories and children’s literature, to start the conversation. The article also points out how we can use a child’s viewpoint on fairness to our advantage when teaching history. These are all great suggestions on how to teach history and lead our kids with truth, knowing that our students are worthy and capable of knowing and understanding it.
What are some sensitive topics that you are interested in finding resources to help you teach? What strategies from the articles stuck out to you that you think you may use in your classroom? What are some other ways you think we can approach sensitive subjects?