Teaching Family in Grade 6

Ever since I started listening to the podcast Queer America from Teaching Tolerance, I realised how little time I spend on explicitly teaching LGBTQ issues in my lessons. Therefore I wanted to do better and taught a lesson about “What makes a Family?” in grade 6, as a part of a unit about early human beings. This lesson is an example of how LGBTQ topics can be integrated into a curriculum.

The resources for this lesson came from different places. One was the before mentioned podcast, which highlighted the adaptation of state standards in California. The new set of states standards for social studies in California are aiming to be inclusive and encouraging critical thinking. The standards for social studies focussed a lot on family and different kind of families. This gave me the idea to talk about diverse families in grade 6, in which we were discussing the evaluation from apes into Homo Sapiens. This lesson elaborated on the idea of our early ancestors living closely together in medium-sized groups, forming tight communities, perhaps comparable to nowadays nuclear families. Therefore the question to be examined this lesson was: “What makes a Family?”

The resources from this lesson came from the New York Times, “The Learning Network“. The New York Times has some excellent teaching resources, of which this lesson about family was one. Another resource for this lesson was Twitter, I follow some educators who are inspiring and one of them is @Jess5th. She posted a photo on Twitter about a lesson she recently taught, during which students draw a particular concept and then examined their own biases.

Thus, at the beginning of the lesson students made a drawing of the word Family. They drew what came to their mind when I said the word “Family”. Most students drew a female and male figure plus some children. The student put the sticky note on the corner of their table and moved on to the second activity.

Students’ interpretation of the world Family at the beginning of the lesson.

During the second activity, students looked at eight photos of families. The photos of families were diverse and a-typical. While walking around, the student described what they saw on those photos. Thereafter, we had a whole-class discussion concerning the questions: What kinds of Family do you see? And how do these photographs challenge your ideas about family? This was an interesting discussion because the students had their original drawing on the table and could express the difference between their drawings and the photos .

As an exit ticket, students answered the question: “What Makes a Family?”. The answers given by the students indicated that their thinking was challenged and new ideas emerged.

This lesson was an example of how LGBTQ topics can be discussed in the classroom, while incorporating it into the standard syllabus. Furthermore, the lesson made thinking visible, as students could compare their original thinking to new ideas at the end of the lesson.

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