1. Organising pupils in groups and pairs

Young children often find it easier to identify difference rather than similarity. In this part, we show two ways to organise your pupils that will help them to explore differences and similarities.

They will:

  • learn how to share information and contribute to discussions;
  • learn about themselves and each other;
  • have better self-esteem as they realise their ideas are as valued as much as those of others.

As a teacher, it is important for you to encourage this – if your pupils all understand their similarities and celebrate their differences, they will treat each other better. You should act as a role model, treating your pupils fairly and equally.

Before starting, it is a good idea to reflect on this and think about whether you treat your pupils respectfully. Do you ever have a ‘bad day’ when you shout at them for no good reason? Do you have favourites who you treat more kindly than others? If you can answer these questions honestly, you can take steps to make sure that all your pupils are treated fairly and respectfully.

To work in this way, you need to ask yourself questions to help you plan these activities, including: What questions will the pupils ask each other? What information will they need to find out? Will they work in groups? In pairs? How will you organise this? How will you give them instructions to do the activities? See what the teacher does in Case Study 1 before trying Activity 1 with your class.

Case Study 1: Working in groups to explore similarities

Chanda teaches at a rural primary school in Mwenda, Zambia. He is working with his pupils to develop a positive classroom environment. He is looking at the pupils’ similarities and differences and asks them to think about the ways in which they are all the same.

First, the whole class practises making sentences, e.g.: ‘We all like food’; ‘We all go to school’. Next, he puts them in groups of five to think of five sentences beginning: ‘We all …’ with one pupil in each group writing the sentences on a piece of paper.

After ten minutes, each group reads out one sentence. If the class agrees with the sentence, Chanda writes it on the board.

Using the sentences, he shows the class the different ways in which we are the same:

  • e.g. physically – ‘We all have skin’;
  • e.g. how we experience the same kind of feelings – ‘We all feel happy’;
  • e.g. situation – ‘We all are school pupils’.

Chanda is pleased with the ideas from his class and plans to use this as a starting point to look at differences.

Activity 1: ‘Are we the same?’

Read Resource 1: Similarities and differences, before you carry out this activity.

  • To introduce the idea of ‘the same’, start by asking easy questions. Hold up two pencils and ask: ‘Are they the same? Why?’
  • Hold up a pen and a pencil. Ask: ‘Are they the same? Why?’
  • Repeat this, using different objects.
  • Ask two children to step forward. Ask: ‘Are they the same?’
  • Be careful. If they are girls, the pupils might say ‘Yes!’ If it is a boy and a girl, they might say ‘No!’ But they might give other answers e.g. the children might be the same height or have the same name.
  • Split the class into pairs. Ask them to look at each other’s features including such things as height, foot size and possibly hair, eyes etc. and list how they are similar.
  • Share their ideas, one group giving one idea at a time.

Did they listen to each other? Did they accept the idea of being the same but different? What evidence do you have for your answer?

Section 1: Ways to explore who pupils are

2. Finding out what pupils think and feel