This part contains:
Exploring the human rights environment in the school
How can human rights be part of the curriculum?
Useful teaching methods
How to design your own human rights teaching activities
Evaluating your human rights teaching activities
"You can't teach human rights in a way that is against human rights."
Czech teacher/ trainer
Exploring the human rights environment in the school
Understanding of human rights is best achieved by experiencing them in action. Everyday school life can provide this experience, and can reinforce the formal study of abstract concepts such as freedom, tolerance, fairness and truth.
However, schools often discourage, rather than encourage human rights. Assumptions and prejudices often exist which deny the human rights of some people in the school. For example, if students are allowed to call other students from minority religious or ethnic groups offensive names, and no action is taken by the teachers, this sends a message to students that intolerance is acceptable. It is important to change these sort of messages if teaching for human rights is to succeed.
What is the present human rights environment in the school?
Please read the following questions and think about your school. The aim of these questions is not to attack the discipline and order of the school, but to make teaching for human rights easier by creating a climate of respect for human rights throughout the school.
Relations between students:
Are there cases of violence or humiliation? For example, through name-calling?
Are there prejudices against students? For example, against religious groups, girls, or students from ethnic minority or refugee families?
Does anything happen when students complain about violence? Is this effective?
Relations between teachers and students:
Are students expected to obey teachers without understanding the orders?
Are students given a voice in making and enforcing school rules?
Is the grading system used to impose discipline, or to promote a few at the expense of many?
Are students humiliated by teachers? Is discipline humane?
Is there a student council?
When do students see the Principal?
Is the Principal"s office door opened or closed?
Does the Principal know the student"s names?
Are students called by their own name or their family name?
Are all students treated equally?
Is there a student council? Are students elected/selected democratically for this council?
Relations between teachers and Principals:
Are teachers afraid to complain or to give suggestions to the Principal?
Do teachers from different subjects ever work together to present topics?
Do they exchange teaching experiences among themselves?
Do teachers work as a team in a coordinated way?
Are teachers given a voice in policy decisions?
Are teachers treated equally?
Is promotion based on performance or on political or personal considerations?
What about relations between teachers and educational authorities?
Relations between teachers and parents:
Are parents afraid to complain to teachers when they do not like the way their children are treated or what they are taught?
Do they fear that complaining might make things worse for their children?
Are parents involved in running the school? Does this work? How could it be improved?
School rules and procedures:
What values are promoted in school rules?
Are students expected to blindly obey all rules for the sake of obedience and discipline?
Are there rules that humiliate students, such as having to get permission every time they need to use the toilet?
Are punishments irrelevant or unfair?
So school rules apply to all students equally?
Can students help to make the rules or are they imposed on them?
The physical environment:
Are living conditions in the school building healthy?
Is there a playground?
Are there curtains or flowers in the classrooms?
Are students involved in making their classroom comfortable?
Are students" paintings, poems and writings displayed on the walls? Is the work of less able students also displayed?
Are learning materials and equipment equally available for students regardless of gender or social status?
Do students have a private, secure place where they can leave their belongings? Or where they can be alone?
What can be done to improve the human rights environment in the school?
The questions on the previous page focused on some of the human rights issues in the school. Below are some specific suggestions which may help improve the human rights environment. They are based on the idea that if students are given the responsibility to be involved in making rules, and in deciding what to do when rules are broken, then they will be more likely to respect these rules.
Violence, conflicts and prejudices among students:
Teachers and students can work together to develop a specific policy to deal with these situations.
For example, this is a suggested course of action for dealing with violent conflicts:
Stop physical or verbal aggression.
Find out the real problem by asking those involved and those witnessing for
Allow students to speak quietly in turn and give physical reassurance to upset
Ask the students for suggestions for resolving the conflict and be prepared to
contribute one or two ideas.
Discuss the alternatives on the basis of searching for a fair solution.
Agree on a course of action and follow it. If it is not working after a trial
period, consult the students and try another solution.
Follow up the incident with a discussion, a story, role play or artwork. Ask
students to compare it with similar incidents.
If students find some rules unnecessary, unfair or without reason why not allow them to suggest changes? Rules in school are necessary if we want to avoid confusion and chaos, but each rule can be examined to see if it is fair or still valid. Teachers should be prepared to compromise with the needs of the students if a change to the rules is suggested which would contribute to the effective running of the school. Students should then feel a responsibility to respect the rules.
Class meetings: (Adapted from Educating for Character by T. Lickona p.149-151).
Class meetings can be an important first step to alter the human rights environment in the school. The next three pages give a step-by-step guide to starting them.
The most important thing to remember when starting class meetings is that it will take practice before you and the class gradually learn to enjoy and participate in the meetings. Do not be discouraged if your first attempt is not a great success!
Class meetings can be used to involve the class in planning what to study next, for solving classroom problems, or simply for being together as a group. An important effect of the meeting is that it helps children to participate, a vital skill for protecting and defending human rights. Below is a list of types of class meeting. The questions which accompany each type can be asked by the teacher to help students to participate. However, to be effective, class meetings need to be a place where students feel safe to share their feelings. To encourage them, it is a good idea not to force students to speak if they don't want to - respect their right to be silent when they want to be, then they will be more likely to speak up in a later meeting.
Adapt the ideas on the followiing pages to suit the age of your students.
Types of Class Meeting
Good news meeting: Here, ask questions like "Who has some good news to share?"
Circle: Go around the circle using one of the "sentence-starters" below. Everyone can choose to speak or not to speak. After everyone has had a turn, the teacher can use individual students' contributions as a starting point for discussion. Some sample sentence-starters are:
- "Something I like about this class..."
- "Something I think would make our class better..."
- "A decision I think we should make..."
- "I am wondering why..."
- "It worries me that..."
- "I wish..."
Compliment time: One or two children are chosen; taking one child at a time, the teacher invites classmates to say something they like or admire about that person.
Goal-setting meeting: Discuss the goals for the morning, the day, the week, a curriculum unit, the academic year.
Rule-setting meeting: Here, ask questions like "What rules do we need for our classroom?" "For going to the gym?" "For going to the zoo?"
Rule-evaluating meeting: Have students write about, then discuss the following questions: "What are the school rules? Why do we have them? Are they good rules? If you could change one rule, what would it be?... Do any of our classroom rules need changing to make them work better?"
Evaluation: Here, ask questions like "What was good about today?" "How can we make tomorrow a better day?" "How can we make that activity work better next time?"
Reflections: Here, ask questions like "What did you learn from this activity (unit, project, book)?"
Student presentation: One or two students present a piece of their work, such as a project or story.
- Individual problems: "Who's having a problem that we might be able to help solve?"
- Group problems: "What's a class problem that we should talk about?"
- Complaints and recommendations: You can make a complaint about a problem, but you have to offer a recommendation for correcting it.
- Fairness meeting: "How can we solve this conflict in a way that is fair to everybody?"
Academic issues: Here, ask questions like "Why do you think we need to study this?" "What would help you do a better job on homework?" "On the next test?" "How could the last test have been improved?"
Classroom improvement meeting: Here, ask questions like "What changes would make our classroom better?" Possibilities: changing the physical arrangement of the classroom, new ways of working together, new learning games, etc...
Follow-up meeting: Here, ask questions like "How is the solution/change we agreed upon working? Can we make it work better?"
Concept meeting: Here, ask questions like "What is a friend? How do you make one?" "What is a conscience? How does it help you?" "What is a lie? Is it ever right to tell one?" "What is trust? Why is it important?" "What is courage? How do people show it?"
Suggestion box/class business box: Any appropriate item students have suggested for discussion.
Meeting on meetings: Here, ask questions like "What have you liked about our class meetings? What haven't you liked? What have we accomplished? How can we improve our meetings?"
Good class meetings can be a powerful tool which you could use to persuade your principal that the whole school would benefit from a school meeting or school council. At the school council, elected representatives from each class could meet with the staff to offer advice/ideas on real school problems. If representatives are obliged to represent views of their class (which they can find out at their class meetings), the school council can be a truly democratic model which will prepare students for participation in a democratic society.
A clear structure for the meetings will help make them successful. Below is a suggested model, which you can adapt for your own situation.
Ideas for a model class meeting:
Circle: Form a good circle and ask the students to be quiet.
Set the agenda: State the purpose of the meeting and the different things to be discussed.
Set the rules: Establish or review rules for "good talking and listening".
Form the class into pairs
Pose the problem or question: For example, "several people have said that there is a lot of name-calling on the playground. For example, "Jew", "Gypsy". What can we do to solve this?"
Partner talk: Have partners share thoughts with each other (3 to 5 minutes); move around and help those who may be slow to interact.
Signal for quiet: Establish a signal for stopping talk in pairs, ready to begin whole group discussion.
Whole-group discussion: Invite several pairs of students to share their ideas with the group; invite reactions to these ideas; ask further questions; if appropriate, reach and record agreement on action. Plan what to do and set a time for a follow-up meeting.
Close the meeting: Here you can go around the circle for final comments, summarise what happened, ask the students to think what they remember most about the meeting, or evaluate it.
When the class have become used to meeting, students themselves can take responsibility for the meetings. For example, by taking turns to lead meetings, summarize what has been said by others, or making notes of conclusions reached.
Another useful tip which increases student participation in the meeting, is to ask students a question and give time for them to note their own answer before asking them to share it with the group.
Things to think about:
Many teachers have found that monitoring, then changing their own behaviour was an important step in creating a human rights environment in their classroom. To help you to do this, you can ask yourself the following questions, or discuss them with colleagues. It might be useful to look at these questions for a week or so, during which you monitor your own behaviour in the classroom and think about ways in which it might be improved.
Do you treat all students as individuals? Do you address them by their personal names? If so, do you take care to say the name correctly?
Do you use eye contact and touch to reassure students of your attention and concern?
Do you apologise when you have made a mistake?
Do you allow students to make important decisions? For example, about what to do next, what books to read, where to eat lunch......?
Do you encourage good listening habits? For example, do you sound a musical note to get silence, or do you find yourself shouting?
Do you smile in the classroom?
Do you reward the whole group for something well done together? Do you praise cooperation, caring, and peacefulness, or just good academic work?
Do you use line-ups when they are not necessary, or do you allow the students to move in groups?
Do you label students as bad or good?
Are you afraid of confusion and noise, even when it is caused by students working hard?
Ideally, human rights should be a part of all school subjects, and should permeate the students" whole learning experience. However, because circumstances are different in each country and region, teachers have used many different tactics for fitting human rights into their school curriculum. These tactics can be placed in two broad categories:
Starting to teach human rights at a "grassroots" level in whichever way you can, with the permission of the Principal or local-level officials.
Persuading the local or national educational authorities to change the system from the top to make funding and time available for human rights teaching.
Often, teachers have combined these tactics by beginning with their "grassroots" teaching then using their successes as evidence to persuade the educational authorities to change the system.
In primary schools, because there is less exam pressure on children and staff, and because teachers usually teach several subjects to one class, teachers have often found it quite easy to get the Principals" permission to teach human rights in a way which involves many subjects. Teachers in Rostov-on-Don describe their teaching about rights as a "line" running through all subjects, which they have used to help children to understand that different subjects, different people, and the world around them are interconnected..
Introducing teaching for human rights at this level can be more difficult. A lot depends on the attitude of the Principal and the educational authorities, who are often worried about the already-overcrowded timetable and the students" need to prepare for major examinations (especially in the last grades of school). The subject specialisation of secondary school teachers also means that co-operation between staff is needed to integrate human rights teaching across the curriculum.
However, many teachers have successfully introduced teaching human rights at this level in the following ways:
- As an optional, separate subject after school or in weekly class "free time". This approach gives teachers and students the freedom to explore teaching human rights without pressure, but has the disadvantage that students sometimes do not take seriously subjects which are not essential for examinations.
- Some teachers have started teaching human rights within their own specialist subject. There are ideas for how to do this on the next few pages. In particular, human rights teaching fits well with Civics and Law, although teachers who have used this approach stress that it is important to avoid presenting human rights as an academic subject unrelated to real life.
- Teachers have also planned jointly with colleagues to involve students in project work (see page 30) which involves several core subjects. This avoids the danger that students might see human rights as one, academic subject, and helps them to see the relevance of school subjects to the real world around them.
Teaching human rights in core subjects
When teaching history, human rights can be introduced around traditional subject matter. Here are some examples.
Magna Carta (1215 England)
US Declaration of Independence (1776 USA)
The Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789 France)
Major events: War, slavery, colonialism, imperialism and Nazism, can all be studied with special attention to their violation of human rights. More recent history, for example apartheid, political oppression in Latin America, or under Stalinism, also provides lots of material about human rights.
The growth of human rights through history: For example, the origins and growth of democratic thinking and organization, the development of the United Nations, the growth of trade unions.
Anne Frank (Netherlands)
Mahatma Gandhi (India)
Martin Luther King (USA)
Andrei Sakharov (USSR)
Rigoberta Menchu (Guatemala)
Study of well known figures can lead on to study of `unknown" people who have had their rights violated or who have fought for human rights and peace. For example, slaves throughout history, or ordinary people, such as students" relatives who have had their rights violated by war in this century.
Urban geography can include problems of poverty in tower block estates, and how this affects the human rights of poor people. Economic geography can study the effect of investment and trade on standards of living, or the link between environmental degradation and ill health. Population studies could include examination of how famine and poverty are created, and how racism, colonialism and the treatment of minorities and women has affected the rights of populations.
This subject is an opportunity to teach students about the responsibilities, as well as the rights, which living in peace involves. For example, studies of the structure and processes of their government can emphasise the role of individual citizens. Teaching from a human rights perspective can be especially useful if this part of the curriculum has previously focussed on obedience to the state. The duty of the nation and its citizens to uphold national and international laws against religious, gender and racial discrimination could also be studied. The way in which human rights are developed, recognised, and made into laws could also be examined here. For example, students could examine the process through which women have gradually gained the right to vote.
In this subject, social inequalities and their causes can be examined. For example, xenophobia, poverty, racial and religious discrimination, and all the mechanisms and social structures which combat these injustices. Also the functions and responsibilities of the police, trade unions, education and mass media can be studied. A study of how societies deal with dissent can be particularly useful for bringing up issues of human rights.
Books and poems are excellent resources for vivid accounts of human rights violated or defended. Historical literature is an opportunity for History and Literature teachers to work together to make human rights vivid for students.
Some useful books might be:
Animal Farm / Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
Cry, The Beloved Country (Alan Paton)
The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)
Role of Thunder / Hear my Cry (Mildred D. Taylor)
Of course, there will also be relevant books from your own literary history.
Health issues are a good way to introduce human rights in this subject. For example, students have a right to health care, but also the responsibility to respect their own and other people"s health. There are great opportunities for cross-departmental teaching. For example, a biology lesson examining myths about racial superiority can inform students to make better judgements in a parallel study of racism in history.
Statistics can be used to hide or reveal human rights abuses. The maths teacher can also show students how to critically interpret figures which appear in newspapers.
Language skills can be used to study interesting current themes from other countries. For example, a short text about action against racism in England could be used to teach English vocabulary. The aim would be to give students an understanding of the human rights issues facing people in all countries, as well as knowledge of a foreign language. If available, foreign language press or literature is helpful for this teaching style, but not essential.
Foreign language classes are opportunities for students to talk and discuss. They will be most motivated to discuss when the topic is one on which there are different opinions. Questions of discrimination or of gender equality make good discussion topics. Students can also enjoy roleplay (see page 24). Foreign language classes are also a chance for students to correspond with students in other countries. They could ask about political systems, current social questions, the treatment of minorities and any other questions relating to human rights.
The activities in this manual are based on the methods explained here. They are simple, and practise will make them easier. If you are worried that they will disrupt your classroom, start with a simple method. You may find that letting go of some of your power as "the teacher" helps your students to relax and improves their contributions.
For each method there is a short answer to the question What is it and why do it? , then a step-by-step explanation of How to do it.
What is it and why do it?:
A role-play is a little drama played by the students. It is mostly improvised. It aims to bring to life circumstances or events which are unfamiliar to students. Roleplays can improve understanding of a situation and encourage empathy towards those who are in it. For example, in a roleplay about a robbery, students, by acting the part of the victim, can gain insight into what it is like to be the victim of crime.
How to do it:
With the students:
- Identify the issue which the roleplay will illustrate. For example, the right to property (Article 17 of the UDHR, see page 159)
- Decide on the situation, the problem, and who the characters are. For example, if the class are studying the right to property, they could think of a situation where someone might be deprived of their apartment, maybe because of the ethnic group they belong to, or because of a lack of legislation.
With the students, decide how many students will do the roleplay, how many will be observers, whether to do the roleplay simultaneously in small groups, or all together as a class. Encourage shy students to be involved.
Also, decide how the roleplay will work. For example, it could be:
- told as a story, where a narrator sets the scene and other students tell the rest of the event from the point of view of "their" character.
- a drama, where the characters interact, inventing dialogue on the spot.
- a mock trial, where the students pretend to be witnesses testifying in a court.
Now allow a couple of minutes for students to think about the situation and their roles. If the furniture needs to be re-arranged to make space, do it now.
Students perform the roleplay.
During the roleplay, it might be useful to stop the action at a critical point to ask the participants and the observers about what is happening. For example, in a roleplay about violence, ask the students if they can think of a way that the situation could be resolved peacefully, then ask the participants to play out those possible endings.
After the roleplay, it is important that students think about what just took place, so that it is not just an activity, but is also a learning experience. When planning the role play, be sure to leave time at the end to reinforce the purpose and learning points of the activity. For example, if the roleplay was a mock trial with witnesses, ask the students to decide on a verdict, then discuss this verdict and how it was reached to bring out the learning points.
If the roleplay worked badly, ask the students how it could be improved. If it went well, maybe it could be performed for the whole school, with an explanation of the subject it illustrates.
Because roleplays imitate real life, they may raise questions to which there is no simple answer. For example, about the right or wrong behaviour of a simulated character. Do not give the impression that there is one answer for every question if there isn't. It is very important that teachers and students accept different points of view as a natural, normal situation. Teachers should not impose their view on controversial matters or try to get consensus at any price. However, you can summarize the points where agreement seems to have been reached, and leave open other points which are debatable.
Role-plays need to be used with sensitivity. The teacher needs to respect the feelings of individuals and the social structure of the class. For example, a roleplay about ethnic minorities needs careful handling if there are ethnic minorities in the classroom, so that students belonging to them will not feel exposed or marginalised.
Pairs and groups
What is it and why do it?:
Dividing the class into pairs or groups gives students more opportunities for participating and cooperating.
Pairs and groups can be useful to generate a lot of ideas very quickly, or to help the class to think about an abstract concept in terms of their own experience. For example, if you were studying the right to life, you could give pairs or groups five minutes to decide "Is it ever right to kill someone?", before returning to the whole-class plenary for further discussion.
How to do it:
When organizing the groups, ask yourself questions like: Do I want to divide students according to ability? Do I want to combine the sexes? Do I want friends to work together? Sometimes groups can be chosen at random. For example, by birth date, or by the first letter of their name, or other non-obvious criteria.
If the tables and chairs are fixed to the floor, students can form groups by turning around in their seats to face the students behind.
If a group will be together for more than a few minutes, it might be necessary to have a chairperson and someone to write notes. The group would need to decide who will do these jobs.
Organising the class: Explain the task clearly. Seat students where they can see each other. Tell the students how long they have for the task.
When the pairs or groups are working:
- Stand back, but be available.
- Do not interrupt, unless a group has misunderstood what it is supposed to be
- Spread your attention between groups.
- Allow group and pair discussions to flow, only intervene if asked to by the group.
- Groups often need encouragement to get them going.
- A pair is more likely to stop work when you approach.
Reporting back: It might be necessary for groups to report their work to the whole class. This might involve reporting a decision, summarizing a discussion, or giving information about how the group functioned. This sort of debriefing can be very useful for both the teacher and the class for improving group-work technique. If the groups will need to report back, they need to know this at the start so that they can select someone for this task.
Evaluation: Ask students whether the activity was useful, and what they learned. If there is a negative response, ask the students how they would organise the activity. Use their ideas.
What is it and why do it?:
Brainstorming is a way to encourage creativity and to generate a lot of ideas very quickly. It can be used for solving a specific problem or answering a question. For example, the class could start a study of the right to citizenship by brainstorming answers to the question "what reasons do you think a government might use for taking away someone's citizenship?" Some ideas for when to use it might be:
To find a solution to a problem. For example, after an "incident" involving conflict between students, ask the class to brainstorm all the possible non-violent solutions.
To introduce a new subject. Brainstorm everything that the students already know about the subject. This is a good way to arouse their interest and find out what they already know.
As a quick creative exercise. For example, brainstorm possible endings for an unfinished story.
How to do it:
Decide on the issue you want to brainstorm. Form it into a question which will have many possible answers. Write the question where everyone can see it. For example: "In what ways can we improve our classroom?"
Ask students to contribute their ideas. Write the ideas where everyone can see them. These should be single words or short phrases.
Tell the students that in a brainstorm they can't comment on each other's ideas until the end, or repeat ideas which have already been said.
Encourage everyone to contribute, but do NOT move around the class in a circle, or force students to think of an idea - this is likely to discourage creativity.
Don't judge the ideas as you write them down. If possible, ask a student to write them. Only give your own ideas if it is necessary to encourage students.
If a suggestion is unclear, ask the person to clarify it, or suggest a clarification and check that they agree to it.
Write down EVERY new suggestion. Often, the most creative or outrageous suggestions are the most useful and interesting!
Stop the brainstorm when ideas are running out. NOW, you can go through the suggestions, asking for comments.
Whole Class Discussion
(Based on the essay "Establishing Rules for Discussion" by Felisa Tibbitts)
What is it and why do it?:
Discussions are a good way for the teacher and the students to discover what their attitudes are about human rights issues. This is very important for teaching human rights, because as well as knowing the facts, students also need to explore and analyse issues for themselves. Discussions are also an opportunity to practice listening, speaking in turn and other group skills which are important for respecting other people"s rights.
In order to have an open discussion, it is important to have an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect in the classroom. One way to help create a "safe" environment is to have students develop "Rules for Discussion". This is best done at the beginning of the school year, when standards of behaviour are normally being established, but these rules can be created at any time.
How to do it:
Ask the students if they want their classroom to be a place where they feel free to express themselves and to learn through discussion with each other. (This subject might come up naturally following a difficult discussion in class.)
Suggest that it might be possible for the class to reach a common understanding of the protocol for listening and speaking.
Ask the class to think of some principles for classroom discussion which they think everyone should follow. Write all of these suggestions where everyone can see them. (For advice on brainstorming, see page 27).
After the students have brainstormed for a while, look and see if there are any suggestions which could be combined, and invite the class to discuss or comment. If they have not been suggested by the class, you might want to suggest some of the following principles:
- listen to the person who is speaking
- only one person speaks at a time
- raise your hand to be recognized if you want to say something
- don"t interrupt when someone is speaking
- when you disagree with someone, make sure that you make a difference between criticizing someone"s idea and the person themselves
- don"t laugh when someone is speaking (unless they make a joke!)
- encourage everyone to participate
Suggest that the class agree by consensus to obey the rules which they have listed. They are then responsible for applying the rules to themselves and to other members of the class. If serious violations of the rules occur, negotiate with the students to decide what should be the consequences of rule-breaking.
Write the list up neatly on a large piece of paper and hang it in the classroom for the rest of the year, to be referred to, added to or altered as necessary.
(For a similar process for forming general class rules, see page 104)
What is it and why do it?:
Of course, all teachers already use questions everyday, but what sort of questions? Often, they are questions such as "what did I just say?", which are used to control the class or to ridicule students. Other questions which are used a lot are so-called "closed" questions. They have only one correct answer and are used to test knowledge. Many of the activities in this manual use classroom discussions to explore human rights issues. In these discussions, the questions you ask are very important for encouraging participation and analysis, even with very young children.
Here are some examples of "open" questions which you could use. If you practice using them, they will become easier. The key point to remember is: "What do I want from this discussion? Yes and no answers, or an open, interesting debate?"
Hypothetical questions: "What would you do/think if...?" These help students to imagine situations and stimulate thought.
Speculating: "How might we help to solve this problem?"
Encouraging/supporting: "That's interesting, what happened next?" These draw out students' own experience and views.
Opinion seeking: "What do you think or feel about...?" This tells students that their opinion is important and interesting for you.
Probing: "Why do you think that?" If asked in a non-aggressive way, this can help students to think deeply and justify/analyse their opinions.
Clarifying/summarising: "Am I right to say that you think...?" Summarising what a student said and checking if you understand it will help other students to think whether they agree with what is being said.
Identifying agreement: "Do most of us agree that...?" This can provoke discussion or can come at the end, where, by using a question like "Have we finished that part...?", you can agree to move on to the next topic.
Finally, try to remember to avoid leading or trick questions such as "X is correct, isn't it?". These discourage participation. Asking too many questions at once or asking ambiguous questions should also be avoided.
And remember, an occasional nod, a smile or even just sitting on the same level as the class, will improve the responses you get!
(Based on advice from Hugh Starkey)
What is it and why do it?:
Projects are the independent investigation of topics by students over an extended period, ending in a final product. Projects are useful for teaching human rights because they:
Help students to see links between separate subjects and between their school studies and the outside world.
Give students practice at organizing themselves for action, planning their own time and working to a schedule.
Allow students to take control of their own learning, with the guidance of the teacher.
Create opportunities for students to interact with each other and with diverse people in the community outside the school.
Give students practice at presenting and defending their own findings and opinions in public - an important skill for promoting human rights.
How to do it:
Projects have distinct stages. Throughout, the emphasis is on allowing students to take responsibility for their own study.
The topic or problem. These can be identified by the teacher, and presented to the class as choices, or chosen directly by the class, for example, by brainstorming for ideas (see page 27). It is good to have a direct question on an issue of interest to students. For example, "Are foreign refugees in our town treated well?" or "What do local parents fear most about children and drugs?" The question needs to be specific to avoid students getting lost' in the subject.
Alternatively, your starting point might be a particular sort of activity or equipment which you want students to use during their project. For example, an audio tape machine.
Planning. Teachers and students need to decide when the project will begin, how long it will take, what resources will be used, where these can be found, whether students will work alone or in groups, on the same or different topics, and so on. Students who are not used to doing research might find it easier to work in groups. It is very important to discuss at this stage how the project will be concluded (see below for more ideas about this).
Research / action. Project work builds a lot of skills very quickly. For example, an investigative project about local health care might involve visits, interviews, reading, taking photographs, collecting statistics, and analysing data. A creative project might involve technical knowledge, such as how to work a video camera, and artistic skill, such as banner-making. The best projects combine academic, social and creative skills to involve all the students' abilities. The teacher can help during this stage by answering questions or offering advice, but the students are responsible for doing the work.
The product. This might be a report, a film, an exhibition, an audio tape, a lecture, a painting, a poem.....It is a good idea if the product records not only the students" findings but also the different stages of the project and the students" own feelings about the topic being studied. For example, students making a poster campaign about alcohol abuse in their town could take photographs of themselves at work and write about how they chose and created their designs.
The product can be presented to the class, or to a wider audience. For example, a project about poverty in your area might interest the local newspaper or the municipal authorities might want to know the results of a project about environmental damage.
Marking. Because projects are often multi-disciplinary, several teachers may need to give assessments of the product. Marking needs to reflect the diverse skills which have been used during the project, and should not only focus on academic criteria.
What is it and why do it?:
A "buzz session" can be used to change the pace of the lesson. For example, after a long presentation by the teacher. It is an opportunity to talk in pairs or threes.
How to do it:
Tell students that for five minutes they can react to what has just been said or shown. They can say how they feel, what they think or ask each other questions about things they didn't understand. After the buzz session groups or pairs may be invited to share ideas or questions with the class.Drawing
What is it and why do it?:
Drawing can be used in the classroom to develop observation and cooperation skills, imagination, feelings of empathy for people in the pictures, or to get to know the other members of the class. Drawing is useful when teaching human rights because the work of the class can be exhibited in the school to communicate human rights values to other students. Some ideas for using drawing are given below.
How to do it:
Collect pictures, photographs, drawings on different subjects from newspapers, magazines, books...
Ask the students to work in pairs. Give every student a picture and some drawing materials. Tell the students not to show their picture to their partner.
Each student describes his or her picture to a partner, who has to try to draw it from the description alone. After ten minutes, the pair reverse roles. Because of the time limit, the drawings will be quite simple. The important thing is the describing, not the drawing.
The students then take it in turns to compare their drawings with the original pictures. Ask them if anything important was left out? What? Why?
With a new class, ask each student to draw their neighbour, while at the same time asking their neighbour questions about themselves, such as:
- What are your favourite things?
- Where would you like to travel?
- What is your dream?
Ask each student to draw something to represent the answers to these questions around the edges of the portrait of their neighbour. (For a simpler version of this activity, ask students to write their neighbour's name, instead of drawing them. The rest of the activity remains the same.)
Where students have a formal art lesson, there may be opportunities to create posters or artworks which express a concern for or a commitment to human rights. (see page 91)
Pictures and Photographs
What is it and why do it?:
Because pictures or photographs appear to be the same to all viewers, but are actually interpreted by us all in different ways, they can be extremely effective for showing students how we all see things differently.
How to do it:
Give students in pairs a picture to look at. Give the pairs five minutes to write down all the questions they have about it. Ask them to choose the four most important questions. The picture could be related to a topic which you or another teacher is teaching.
Now ask each pair to show their picture and their four most important questions to the neighbouring pair. Give them ten minutes to work together to find answers to all of their questions. Ask them to make two lists:
1. questions they can't find an answer to.
2. questions with a possible answer.
For the questions with a possible answer it is important that they write down WHY they chose this answer. For example, if they think that a child in a picture is from a cold country, what clues were there in the picture which helped them to decide this?
Make a display of all the pictures, questions and answers. Ask the students to look at everyone else's picture, questions and answers, and make further comments where necessary. Leave a space where teachers, parents or other students can also comment and contribute their own ideas about the pictures.
(See pages 77 and 99 for more activities for more activities using photographs.)
Cartoons and comics
What is it and why do it?:
Cartoons and comics are powerful influences on young people. They can entertain and inform or encourage prejudices and stereotypes. They can be used in the classroom in many different ways. For example, you can prepare for a discussion about violence in the media by asking students to count how many episodes of violence occur in cartoons and comics in a week. Cartoons drawn by the students themselves can also be used as a way to communicate human rights issues to the rest of the school.
How to do it:
Take cartoons/strips from newspapers, magazines, comics and adverts which relate to the subject being studied. For example, violence, intolerance, or racism. Ask students to discuss them in groups. Then ask:
- What is your first emotional response?
- What is the message of the cartoon or comic story?
- Are the images effective in telling the story, expressing the point of view,
making people think about the issues?
- Does it criticize an idea, or a group of people?
- Does it include stereotypes or prejudices towards a particular group of people,
such as women, ethnic groups, refugees, people with disabilities?
- Is it serious, humorous or ironic? How does this contribute to the message?
Ask students to choose a human rights issue and draw a cartoon or comic strip about it. Ask them to try to present this topic in the most powerful way, so that the pictures will make people think about the issues.
Display the results.
Organizations like the Council of Europe and Amnesty International have produced video cassettes for classroom use (see page 200). Parts of the TV News or a documentary can also be useful. Here are some suggestions to remember when using videos:
If students process the information received from videos, they are more likely to remember it. For example, they could use their imagination to write a diary from the point of view of a character seen in the video, or use the video as the basis for a discussion. See the other teaching methods in this Part of the manual for ideas.
What is it and why do it?:
The media are essential for enabling information to circulate in a democratic society. However sometimes we find subjective reporting using stereotypes and prejudices. Identifying and analysing prejudice in newspapers prepares students to identify it and oppose it in every day situations. This sort of activity also improves students' communication skills.
How to do it:
Choose a current rights issue which receives a lot of media coverage in your country, for example, the treatment of minorities. Alternatively, choose a trend which lies behind several different stories, such as intolerance.
Divide the class into groups of four or five.
Give each group at least one story from local or national newspapers about the chosen topic. If necessary, the same report can be used by all the groups. Reports from different newspapers about the same event are good for comparison.
Ask each group to discuss some questions from the following list. Select questions appropriate to the reports being used, or invent others:
- Does the title of the report suggest its view on the issue?
- What is your first impression of the situation described? Does anyone seem to be
at fault? If so, who?
- Are direct accusations made against anyone? If so, list them.
- Is any proof offered to support the allegations?
- How much of the report criticizes someone?
- How much supports or defends them?
- Are there any direct quotes from the people who are being criticized?
- Which words do you think are the most important in creating your impression of
- What impressions, if any, are given of ordinary people"s views on the issue?
- What is the attitude of people in authority? For example, social workers, police,
officials and so on.
This sort of analysis can be followed up in many ways. For example, through a wider discussion, or students writing their own newspaper-style reports or comparing newspaper coverage of an issue with that on TV/radio.
You could also ask students to bring in interesting articles or stories they have found in newspapers. In this way, a class collection can be formed, which can be used as a basis for class discussions. Parents can become involved by helping students to identify interesting articles.
What is it and why do it?:
When teaching human rights, we can look in books for the letter of the law, but for concrete examples of rights in action we can look around us in our own communities. For example, if the class are studying the rights of the child, their parents and their grandparents will be an important source of information about how the lives of children have changed over the years.
Interviews are a good way to bring the wider community into the school, to tie the study of human rights to real life, and also to improve students" skills in dealing with all sorts of people.
How to do it:
See page 75 for an example of a class interview.
What is it and why do it?:
This method can be used with a class at the beginning of a topic to find out how much they already know about it, and at the end to find out how much they learned.
How to do it:
Take a key word related to the issue being studied.
Ask the students to quickly write down other words which they think of when they hear this word. This is a very short exercise, a minute or two is enough time.
Make it clear that writing nothing at all is quite acceptable. The result is a "snapshot" of the range of vocabulary which the students associate with the original trigger-word.
To evaluate the learning process, "before" and "after" results can be compared. This can help you to evaluate your teaching, and your students can see the progress they are making.
Alternatively, at the end of a topic, ask each student to say in one word what they think or feel about that topic. Or, ask for a word which relates to the topic. Go round the class gathering words. Ask one or two students to make a list of these words.
What is it and why do it?:
A good way to internalise and understand information is to re-create it in another form. For example, to listen to a story and then tell it in pictures. Students will have to identify the most important part of the information and decide how to re-create it. The student has to decide, "I'm going to do it this way because...".
This technique helps to develop the imagination, as well as skills of observation, selection and reasoning.
How to do it:
With the students, choose a source such as a story, a picture, a poem, a cartoon or a film. For example, if the class is studying the right to be with one"s family, a picture of a refugee child could be used.
Students read, look at or listen carefully to the original version.
They decide which parts of the story to transfer to the new medium, and explain their choices. If you are using a picture, then they will need to imagine the story behind the picture.
If they want to add things that were not in the original, they need to explain why.
Students produce the new version.
Ideas for re-creation media:
a "radio play", recorded on tape.
a written short story.
a story in comic strip form.
a narrative poem.
a story told to the class, or to the rest of the school.
a display for the classroom.
Each activity in this manual has suggestions which will help you to adapt it for your own needs. You might also want to design your own completely new activities, based on human rights issues in your own country. Here is a simple model which will help you to do this.
Before you read this, look back at "What is Human Rights Education" on page 5, particularly the diagram showing skills, knowledge, attitudes and methodology.
(The advice on this page is based on discussions with the Citizenship Foundation and on the essay "Developing a Lesson" by Felisa Tibbitts.)
1. Select a general topic or theme. The topic could be from a current event (such as a local election), a theme that is of interest to you (tolerance) or an issue required in the formal curriculum.
2. Decide which SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE and ATTITUDES you want your students to develop around this topic. Write these down (see the boxes on pages 5 and 6 for more ideas about skills, attitudes and knowledge.)
3. Choose your METHOD of teaching or the materials on which you want to base the lesson. It might help to focus on a core activity, around which the lesson will be built. This activity might involve conventional activities such as students reading text and responding to it in discussion and essays, or less conventional activities such as a research project, the use of newspapers, the organization of a debate, or the writing of a poem.
4. Write an outline of the different stages which you would like to have in the lesson. Most activities in this manual have the following structure:
- warm-up, motivation exercise (such as open-ended questions)
- concrete task (done individually or in small groups)
- whole group discussion (following presentation of small group work, if appropriate)
- ending and follow-up assignments
5. Now think what previous knowledge the students will need. Also, think how you will evaluate the activity (see page 183 for more about evaluation). Remember to estimate the time for each part of the activity.
6. Now return to your original list of goals. Have you covered them all in your preparation? Think about having an overall balance between discussion, thought and action in the classroom.
Sample lesson on stereotyping
Aims/ Learning Points:
(Note: you can think about these in terms of skills, knowledge and attitudes if you like - see page 5)
- Students will distinguish between generalizations and stereotypes
- Students will identify examples of stereotypes in their local media
- Students will develop sensitivities for those groups that are negatively stereotyped
- Some general understanding of culture, generalizations and stereotypes
What you will need:
- Blackboard or large sheets of paper
- Newspapers and magazines
Time: 45 minutes
How to do it:
Introduction (10 minutes)
The teacher writes on the blackboard certain categories of people (old person, girl, boy, handicapped person) and asks students to suggest descriptive words which define these groups. Write these on the blackboard.
The teacher summarizes these views, looking for links within categories, and decides with the students if the attributes mentioned are positive, negative or neutral.
The teacher makes the distinction between a generalization and a stereotype.
The teacher asks the students: "Where do you think you got these views?"
"From your own experience, or from mass media, or from family and friends?"
Group work (10 minutes)
The teacher asks the students to break into groups of five or six. Each group can be given a newspaper and magazine, or groups can consider different mass media, including popular television programmes or books. Students go through the materials, looking for representations of certain groups - both in the text and in the pictures. The groups could be the ones used at the start of the introduction, but also other groups known to be discriminated against in your society. Stereotypes could be positive, negative or neutral in nature.
Groups make their presentations to the class (10 minutes)
Discussion (10 minutes)
Ask the class as a whole to answer the following questions:
"What similarities did you find between the groups that were positively stereotyped?" "What about those that were negatively stereotyped?"
The teacher might take the opportunity to point out that:
- generalizations about certain groups are negative, and these can be called prejudices
- negative generalizations about whole groups of people are often not based
on actual, personal contact with the group
Conclusion (5 minutes)
"What are the sources of these stereotypes?"
"What conclusions can be drawn about generalizations and stereotypes, based on this activity?"
(For example, that generalizations and stereotypes are found in many parts of the culture, in mass media, in the opinions of friends and family. That negative stereotypes are based on fear, and positive ones on envy.)
Students might write a short essay about an occasion when they felt that they were stereotyped in either a positive or negative way. How did this make them feel?
Evaluation (see page 183 for more about evaluating your human rights teaching activities).
Your evaluation criteria for this activity could be:
- how did individual students contribute to class discussion
- how did individual students participate / cooperate in group work
- result of group work (group mark)
- essay assignment
Adapting your lesson:
Be somewhat flexible in how you do your activities. Some parts of a lesson will excite students more than others and you might be surprised to discover certain discussions or stages of the activity are particularly useful to the students and therefore take longer. An activity should be designed as an "accordion" -- with individual parts able to be expanded or contracted depending upon the response of the students. After trying the activity, make notes for yourself so that you can adjust it next time.
Depending on how you introduce teaching for human rights into your school, evaluation may be something which you are obliged to do or which you want to do. Whatever your motive, there are many good reasons to do it:
- It is a chance to prove to yourself that your efforts are working and are worthwhile (or to see why they are not working and how to change them).
- It gives your efforts credibility with educational authorities.
- It gives the children the opportunity to monitor their own progress.
- It can be part of the process of improving students' personal responsibility for their learning.
Below are some ideas about evaluating in the classroom. For ideas about evaluating in workshops, see page 183.
(This advice is based on the essay "Lesson Evaluation in the Human Rights Classroom" by Felisa Tibbitts)
Academic evaluation methods (such as marking essays on factual accuracy), although useful for evaluating the KNOWLEDGE part of human rights teaching (see page 5), are not so useful for evaluating SKILLS and ATTITUDES.
Also, it is relatively easy to take a pile of essays home to mark, but quite difficult to monitor the development of skills and attitudes in a busy class of students, particularly if they are working in small groups. This has led human rights educators to combine traditional marking techniques with new evaluation techniques designed to assess the effectiveness of the skills and attitudes aspects of their teaching.
How can I assess skills and attitudes?
Marking skills and attitudes is made easier if:
- you have clear criteria or standards (preferably agreed with the students) against which you can evaluate a student's performance.
- you ask students to evaluate their behaviour themselves.
- you ask students to constructively evaluate each other's behaviour.
Involving students in evaluating themselves and their classmates has the added advantage that it encourages students to take more responsibility for their behaviour. However, some teachers may worry about the possibility that a student, the teacher, and the other students may all give conflicting assessments. In these circumstances, differences can be discussed and, if necessary, evaluation procedures adjusted.
It is possible to work with students, for example, by brainstorming (see page 27) to list criteria or standards for participative work. Here is an example of such a list:
Skills in small group work
Does the student:
- keep the purpose or task in mind
- cooperate with other members of the group
- work without disturbing others
- act courteously to all group members
- complete a fair share of the work
- help find ways to improve group work
It is possible to assess attitudes in the same way. For example:
Assessment of "open-mindedness"
Does the student:
- consider new ideas and activities
- try new ways to do things
- put facts before feelings in discussions
- change conclusion in light of new facts
- base judgements on fairness to everyone
- consider all sides of an issue
- recognize stereotypes and prejudice
For self-assessment, a similar list can be used. For example:
Assessment of developing values
How do you rate yourself on the items listed here?
(A = very good, B = good, C = OK, D = very poor)
- respect for others
- interest in others
- listening to others
- sticking to the job
- sensitive to others' needs
- fair judgement of others
- cooperating with others
- thinking before acting
- being honest
- helping others
- admitting errors
Finally, here is a sample marking system which includes evaluation of group work, discussions and joint projects, as well more traditional exercises and tests:
Sample plan for marks for one term of classes (12 weeks)
Marks for each group activity (one per week), based on
- participation (assigned individually - marked through self-evaluation and evaluation by other students)
- group result (assigned to group as a whole - marked by the teacher)
Written tests and homework assignments (marked by teacher)
Project work (one per term)
- Graded for design, execution, and educational value for the student (marked by teacher, and by other students on the basis of oral presentation)
Participation and contribution to classroom discussions (marked by teacher and classmates)
As with all aspects of Human Rights Education, once you try this sort of marking you will have your own ideas about how to do it with your own class - these pages are just a start for your own thoughts.
1,2 (Taken from Michaelis, John U (1988), Social Studies for Children: A Guide to Basic Instruction, 9th edition (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, p388)
3,(Taken from Michaelis, John U (1988), Social Studies for Children: A Guide to Basic Instruction, 10th edition (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, p377)