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Teaching Tolerance Toolkit for Primary-Level ESL Classrooms


Alexandra Claman’s Action Project is social justice oriented, specifically with themes of diversity, tolerance, and coexistence in the elementary school classroom. It aims to discuss social issues with young students without being preachy or partisan in its delivery. Instead, this project seeks to establish a precedent for discussing these issues, thus opening students up to adopting an activist mindset later in life.

Inspiration Behind the Project

Alexandra wanted to address the predominant white, Christian lens through which English language assistants teach English. For example, since most Americans celebrate Christmas, most language assistants will teach a lesson during the holiday only about Christmas and leave out secular and other cultures’ winter traditions. This is problematic because it does not display the diversity of the United States or expose students to cultures that may expand their worldview, especially in a religiously homogeneous nation like Spain.

Student Menorah Crafting

Alexandra wanted to address the predominant white, christian lens through which English language assistants teach english.

Alexandra’s Aspirations

If language assistants wish to go beyond these stereotypical presentations of holidays or provide a more nuanced view of English-language nations, there are few resources available for these topics at the basic level of primary school English. Many assistants do not take the time to plan lessons, as they are not expected to on a part time schedule, and with the low salary, many people work outside of school hours at private tutoring or online work.

This project created and compiled resources on a variety of topics that go beyond the typical language assistant activities but are still successful and fun at the primary level of English. These activities require an incredibly modest budget and can be adapted for an even lower budget. All lessons were tested in classrooms, and specialized suggestions are provided in the toolkit.

These activities were created to be impactful and fun even with a very basic understanding of English, and these activities should be used to help the students learn English through the exploration of these topics.

Project Development

Alexandra first wanted to organize an interfaith seder in Santiago de Compostela as her action project. However, she realized that this would not be feasible for many reasons. Firstly, the restrictions placed on gatherings due to the pandemic could have prevented the event from happening. Secondly, there was the added challenge of fundraising and obtaining the matzah and other materials for a seder in an area with no Jewish population or synagogue. Thirdly, Passover intersected with Holy Week and Easter in 2022, which meant that many people would be traveling or spending time with their families and unable to join in the seder.

Alexandra therefore decided that it would be better to find a route that integrated better with her current role as an educator. She developed the curriculum and tested it in her classes throughout the school year, and then she began to compile the resources and design the booklet.

Once Alexandra created the first draft, she solicited feedback from peer language assistants. After incorporating the feedback, she submitted this project and published the website. Alexandra was able to work on this project autonomously, and it synchronized well with her current role of English Language Assistant.

Next Steps

While the website with the Toolkit and its associated resources are live, the main proliferation of these resources will take place before the new 2022-23 school year in August and September.

This way, incoming language assistants may take advantage of the lesson plans throughout the school year as they will have time to implement as many units as they like. The website and a PDF version of the Toolkit will be posted in global Language Assistant Facebook groups. The PDF will also be uploaded to popular resource sites for teachers.

If one wishes to get involved with the Teaching Tolerance Toolkit, there are several ways to do so. If they are working in education, they are welcome to utilize these materials in their classrooms. They may also suggest additions via the helpline email address. If they are not educators, they may share these materials with teachers and language assistants that they know. Fortunately, the project is ready for distribution, and now it just needs to be implemented.

Updated in August 2022