Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pinkies: A Lesson on Segregation

Friday morning, the routine started as it always does.  Students came in and completed their morning work.  When the bell rang and announcements were over, though, we had a slight change.  Instead of coming to the carpet with book boxes as soon as I'd checked work, students were asked to remain seated as I marked their hands with either a green or a pink dot.  I used my scented Mr. Sketch markers and I alternated as I walked up and down the desks: Green, Pink, Green, Pink, Green... Pink.

When I finished giving each student a dot, I asked those students with green dots to go clip up before coming to the carpet.  I told them not to sit in their regular seats, but instead to sit in a spot I assigned them.  The green dot students all got seats right up front.  

When they finished coming to the carpet, I told the pink dot students that I would now refer to them as "Pinkies."  Pinkies were asked to go clip down and then sit in a spot I showed them on the carpet.  The pink dot students all got seats at the back of the carpet (or even as far back as some desks).

When we went over the morning message and said the alphabet, Pinkies were asked to remain silent.  They were not permitted to join in our conversation or move in their space.  A sound - or a movement - would result in another clip down.  

Partially through the alphabet, I had Pinkies clip down again anyway, and I passed out candy to those with green dots.  "Man, life is pretty good for those of you with green dots, isn't it?"

"Pinkies, hurry up and get back to your spot."

Can I interrupt my own story and tell you something at this point?
I teach this lesson EVERY year right before the Martin Luther King, Jr.  holiday.
This moment of segregation lasts about three minutes, but it is HARD to teach.
I feel like such a mean person! Don't worry. I make it up to them.

"Pinkies, how are you feeling at this point?"



"Because you made us move our clip down and we didn't even do anything," a child said as tears welled up in his eyes.

"You guys, I am so sorry! This was actually part of a lesson.  And as soon as I'm done explaining it, if you have a pink dot, you'll be able to clip up to purple and I'll give each of you TWO pieces of candy for having to endure this lesson."

At this point I explained that what the kids just experienced was segregation.  I told them that I didn't look at who was getting which dot (which explains why some kids cry - because they've literally never clipped down before this lesson).  I just randomly marked hands in an alternating fashion as I came by the desks.  I told them about how, not so long ago, people were treated differently based on the color of their skin.  That just like the color of the dots on our hands didn't really matter, neither does our skin color.  But to some people, it did - and to some - it still does.

We looked at pictures of segregation on buses, at water fountains, and in schools before reading a book about Martin Luther King, Jr.  We listened to part of his "I Have a Dream" speech before writing about our own dreams for peace:

Later in the day, we did the brown egg/white egg comparison.  Once we cracked them open, students were reminded that we can't judge people by their outer appearances.  Many students assumed that the brown egg was rotten, not a chicken egg, or somehow bad.  I let them know that they had inadvertently made the same judgment that people used to make based on skin color.  That because the shells were different, the contents must be different.  But just like the eggs both had the same interior, so do we.  We all have hearts, and feelings.  

We need to treat each other with respect and dignity, and appreciate the differences among us that make each of us unique.  Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr!

If you'd like your own copies of the MLK Handouts, click HERE and grab them for free!


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