Teaching Tolerance in the Classroom

SEL - Martin Luther King

Today we celebrate the life of one of the most influential and important figures in American History.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his life teaching and speaking about the importance of diversity and tolerance. We talk about tolerance in the classroom and tolerance in our world.  What exactly is tolerance?  What does it mean?

SEL - Martin Luther King

Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. (Source: https://www.tolerance.org/about)

It seems like a simple concept.  Just appreciate everyone for who they are.  Well, for young children it is.  Tolerance is a concept that becomes more complicated as we get older, as politics and external daily biases begin to play roles in our lives.  It is critical to emphasize the importance of respect and appreciation for all cultures and backgrounds at a young age so that children can carry this respect for others with them throughout their lives.

What You Can Do

Celebrate diversity every day.  Make your classroom a safe place to talk about differences in culture and family.  Let the children feel proud about who they are and who the others are in the classroom.  Even though they may all be different, they are all important to each other and to your classroom as a whole.

Young children are still learning to recognize and manage their own feelings.  It can be difficult for them to be tolerant and empathetic toward others when they are still confused about how they are feeling.  A developmentally appropriate and engaging SEL program can help children learn to navigate their feelings.  Children will begin to recognize other’s emotions and empathize with peers; they will also understand how to handle angry feelings in more positive ways.

As a teacher, you have a great influence on a child’s life.  You already know that teaching is more than reading and writing.  It is about shaping the future of your students’ lives and helping them progress through life as successful and happy people. As Dr. King so eloquently summed it up, “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”


Additional Resources:

For more information about creating an SEL program in your classroom, visit our previous article: Social-Emotional Learning and Its Connection to Life-long Success

You can find free resources and lesson plans for teaching tolerance in the classroom here: https://www.tolerance.org

Posted in Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: , ,

Can Music Help Shape Who We Are?

My answer is “Absolutely!”

Martin Gardiner of Brown University tracked the criminal records of Rhode Island residents from birth through age 30, and he concluded the more a resident was involved in music, the lower the person’s arrest record. (“Music Linked to Reduced Criminality,” MuSICA Research Notes, Winter 2000.) Music has been shown to help self-regulation, body control and ability to work with others as well as independently.  All these skills contribute to one’s feeling confident and capable, thus less likely to participate in criminal activity.

A study at the University of South Florida concluded that the highest common denominator among repeat violent offenders was a lack of language skills.  When do you feel the most frustration?  When you aren’t understood.  The ability to be able to express yourself effectively leads to better feelings about yourself and better relationships.  Music is a wonderful vehicle to learn language, how to express oneself and how to consider someone else’s emotion.  When we sing songs – for example “If You’re Happy and You Know It” – we are teaching the exploration of feelings.

Students who participate in school music ensembles have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs among any group in our society (H. Con. Res 266, US Senate, June 13, 2000). This is another interesting study relevant to the question in the title of this blog.  When children feel a part of something positive, they are less likely to be influenced by peers to be a part of something negative. Providing opportunities for children to fill their time with pleasant activities and with people they enjoy, teaches them to surround themselves with positive people and stay involved with these activities.

In a 1999 Columbia University study, students in the arts are found to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-confident, and better able to express their ideas. These benefits exist across socioeconomic levels. – The Arts Education Partnership, 1999.  Isn’t that wonderful to know?  That it crosses socioeconomic levels?  It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how much money your parents earn or what clothes you wear, music does not recognize any of that.  Music just reaches inside you and helps to shape you into the best you that you can be!

Keep in mind that just participating in music benefits you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a song that says “I Believe in Me.”   (Ooh. Good idea for next CD.) Any song that makes you love music and want it to be a part of your life benefits you.

– Maryann “Mar.” Harman BA Music Ed/MA Ed


Music with Mar - Maryann HartmanMaryann “Mar.” Harman is a music educator with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music and a Master’s in Education, with an emphasis in Early Childhood and is certified in Level I Orff.  These degrees contribute to her ability to write songs that are musically and educationally sound for children as well as fun and easy to use for teachers and parents.  She is the founder of the internationally-enjoyed Music with Mar. Brain Research Based program, Music with Mar. International (Beijing, China) and hosted BAM! Radio Music and Learning Channel.


Currently, she actively teaches and travels around the world performing in concerts with Mr. Froggy or lecturing at conferences. For more information about Music with Mar and to enjoy her weekly blog posts, visit her website at: https://musicwithmar.com/.

Posted in Health, Infants and Toddlers, Music & Movement, News, Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: , , ,

Teaching in a Multicultural Kindergarten Classroom

In the spirit of Hispanic Heritage month, this month we are celebrating the multicultural classroom. As of the fall of 2014, the overall number of Latino, African-American, and Asian students in public K-12 classrooms surpassed the number of non-Hispanic whites, pushing them just over 50% of the student population. (source: Education Week)

We all know teaching kindergarten is tough. You have children coming in with different readiness levels. Some know their letters, others don’t. Some know how to walk down the hall in a straight line, others don’t. Some students like to shout out all the answers, while others don’t even want you to look in their direction. As if these challenges weren’t already a hurdle for kindergarten teachers, the rise in diverse demographics of students is creating additional demands. These new challenges present themselves, not only as the obvious language differences, but also cultural differences, entirely different belief systems, academic levels and educational expectations.

Kindergarten and the early elementary level is the time to embrace these differences. Having a multicultural approach in your classroom can help students with self-image, develop perspectives in thinking, and also reduce prejudicial behavior and stereotyping. These benefits touch all of your students whether they are considered minority or majority.

Here are some tips for teaching in a multicultural classroom.


  1. Don’t wait for Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month to celebrate differences. Celebrate them every day! Discuss culturally and historically significant days with your students as they come up during the year.
  2. Build a diverse library of books. Books not just about other cultures, but books written by authors of all ethnicities: black, Asian, Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, Middle Eastern, etc. Ask your students if there are books that they read at home with their parents that can be shared with the class. This sets a precedent that everyone’s thoughts are important regardless of their background.
  3. Let the children feel pride for their heritage. Ask all students to share their experiences. Share their family traditions. Let others be interested in what they have to say. After all that is part of learning.
  4. Learn respect and empathy for other cultures by having fun. Kids love to sing and dance. Every kindergartener needs to have some movement activities during the day. Try incorporating multicultural activity songs into your day. Ask students to bring in some of their favorite traditional songs. You can also find a large variety of multicultural recordings — from holiday classics to traditional folk songs — on our Multicultural Education page.

For more information about Multicultural Classrooms:

Building Blocks: The First Steps of Creating a Multicultural Classroom

5 Steps to Build a Diverse Classroom Library and Encourage Empathy

Multicultural Education in Your Classroom

Your Multicultural Classroom: The 4 Elements You Need For Success

Posted in ELL/ESL, Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: ,

How To Talk To Students About Natural Disasters

It’s been a rough couple of months – from “once in a lifetime” hurricanes, to severe earthquakes and never-ending forest fires. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another; and it seems like no matter where you live in the U.S., your life is somehow impacted by a natural disaster.

Even if you think your students are sheltered from the news and media, they still manage to piece together enough information to be scared. Oftentimes an event doesn’t have to have a direct impact on them, but just knowing that these horrible catastrophes can occur can be quite overwhelming to many children – and some adults as well!



Have you noticed sudden changes in a child’s behavior? Or maybe the student just really seems off. Research shows that a child’s body chemistry changes during times of great fear. It’s possible that the child is experiencing trauma from a recent event. As a teacher, you are in an excellent position to recognize these fears and work with the child to guide him/her through these tough times.



Once you have recognized that a child is struggling, communication is key. One very important and highly forgotten part of communication is listening. Listen, and show the child that you recognize and understand these feelings. Use child-friendly helpful words. You can communicate verbally and non-verbally and pay attention and listen to what the student has to say.



Create a safe environment for your students. Prepare engaging, uncluttered play areas that help reinforce a sense of security and control. Create safe outlets for stress.



The trauma from a natural disaster can be so overwhelming and difficult that a child may not be able to talk about it. There are many activities that can help children express their feelings and create outlets for pent-up feeling. Some of these activities include art, music and movement, and sand and water play.


Health and Nutrition

When people are stressed, one of the first things to get disturbed is their eating and sleeping habits. This is true for everyone, child or adult. It is very important to encourage children to eat when they are in your care. If they need extra nap time, allow them to sleep. Getting good nutrition and sleep is very important for children’s successful education as well as their overall well-being.

There are a huge number of resources out there to guide teachers through the process of helping children cope with natural disasters. The concepts we presented above are covered in great detail with accompanying activities for teachers to use with their students in the DVD program Helping Children Cope with Frightening Events…What You Can Do!



Posted in Health, Professional Development, Trauma, What's New Tagged with: , , , , ,

What Happens to Your Children When They Play Outside?

outdoor play

It’s summer! It’s beautiful! Kids should be outside enjoying the warm weather and fresh air. If you feel that your kids are spending too much time inside, you may be right!

There has been a significant decline in the time children are spending outside. The list of reasons for this is long and varied and includes things such as increased screen time, loss of natural habitats, crime and safety concerns and daycares or schools with restricted free time.

Now that it is summer it is the perfect time to get your kids outside. Whether you are running a summer day care or you are a parent with kids at home, the best thing you can do is send your kids outside. Research shows that there are many beneficial outcomes for children that spend time playing and learning outside.

outdoor play

 Physical Fitness

 When children are outside they are more likely to play in ways that benefit their bodies (i.e. running, jumping, climbing, crawling, walking, etc.) strengthening their hearts, lungs and muscles. This access to exercise is the first step in preventing childhood obesity.

Did you know that many children are deficient in vitamin D? (source: American Associate of Pediatrics) Exposure to sunlight also increases levels of vitamin D which is needed to strengthen teeth and bones.


Motor Skills Development

 Unstructured outdoor play often involves physical activities like rolling down hills, crawling under obstacles, climbing and walking on uneven surfaces, which help develop young children’s gross motor skills. And examining and picking up small objects like bugs, berries twigs can even help young children develop their fine motor skills.


Immune System Development

There is evidence that children who have daily playtime outdoors experience fewer illness related absences from school and daycare.


Regulating Sleeping Patterns

Natural sunlight helps regulate and balance sleep. Getting the proper amount of sleep is one of the most important things for developing children.


Language Development

Young children will notice different sounds and learn to identify and tell them apart. Noticing and discriminating sounds is a foundational skill for later literacy development. While having additional opportunities to make decisions, solve problems and collaborate with others will help promote language and communications skills in older children.


Cognitive Development

Children have a natural sense of wonder and exploration, two important motivators for lifelong learning. When children are outside, this sense of wonder is only enhanced. Unstructured outdoor play helps children learn concepts such as cause and effect and making connections while increasing creativity and imagination. Unstructured outdoor play also helps improve awareness, reasoning, and observation skills; and it has positive effects on children’s ability to focus and pay attention.

The unstructured aspect of outdoor play also has a significant impact on children’s self-directed executive function. In other words, their ability to organize thoughts, plan ahead, self-regulate emotions, initiate tasks, and navigate between multiple activities. This is very important not only for children who are just entering kindergarten, but also older children throughout their school careers. This directly impacts their ability to generate and achieve personal goals throughout their lives.


 Social Emotional Development

When playing outdoors with other children, there is an increase in social interaction between children. Infants and toddlers learn to play with each other when they take turns using pails and shovels, share a ride in a wagon, and chase each other. Through direct hands-on experiences, young children learn to be gentle with living things and with each other


So the benefits are clear. Get those kids moving outside!


If you would like to read some of our other summer play related blogs check these out:

Make Outdoor Play Safe for Young Children

Summer Activity Ideas

Nature Study for Young Children


For more information on the benefits for outdoor play check out these sites:

Supporting Outdoor Play and Exploration for Infants and Toddlers

Outdoor Play Benefits

Let ‘Em Out! The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play In Kindergarten

The Importance of Outdoor Play for Young Children’s Healthy Development



Posted in Health, Physical Education, Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: , ,