It was a timely chat, because I'm doing some collaborative teaching with a Grade 2-3 teacher for social studies and for the time being, we've been splitting up the two groups for some temporarily separate instruction. The classroom teacher indicated to me that she really hoped to sensitively address issues surrounding the recent anti-Muslim actions occurring in Canada recently as an aftermath of the Paris attacks.
The most recent lesson actually linked perfectly to a sensitive, student-led, age-appropriate discussion about the issues. I described it in this (edited version) of the email I sent to the classroom teacher describing the lesson.
The children insisted on sharing their continents song [the classroom teacher] taught them, so I let them sing it. (Very catchy!)
To connect it to last week's Grade 2 social studies, I asked them what continents Canada and India were in. They knew Canada right away, but we had to go look at a big map to realize that India was part of Asia.
We then took turns looking at the dot jot notes we had collected on Divali to see about what would be useful to add to our Venn diagram. We put stickers on the points we used. We did some Internet research to see what the temperature in Toronto and Mumbai was, so we could see how climate impacts the celebration (although we didn't discuss that part as much). We had to do some misconception routing because at first the students didn't believe that there were Hindu temples in Canada, only India. We connected it to mosques and churches.
We divided into two teams to see how many different holidays we could brainstorm and record in 5 minutes.
[One group] listed 17. [The other] group listed 7. ... We didn't get time to go into creating a group definition of holiday, because as we were looking at our lists, K asked the other group "What's Eid?" T chimed up right away to say it was a holiday that she celebrates. I asked T if she'd like to explain a bit more and she agreed to "be the teacher". She talked about Eid, visiting family, getting money, and praying. Then she said "but a bad thing happened before ... some boys came to a Muslim girl and said mean things to her because she was Muslim". It was a perfect segue into current events. The questions and responses that were flowing were pretty amazing, especially between E and T. I can't remember everything that was said, but here's some of it.
"How can you tell someone's a Muslim?" E asked.
"Well, you can tell by their names - my name is a Muslim name"
"But if they don't know your name, how would they know if you are Muslim"
"Sometimes what we wear ..."
(This is where I clarified for the group about hijabs)
"We speak different languages too ... N speaks Arabic and I speak Farsi..."
Others chimed in about their beliefs. J said she's a Christian. K said he doesn't have a religion (I introduce the word "agnostic").
I asked the class if T was a Muslim (yes) and a Canadian (yes) and I said that a small number of people who said they were Muslim had done some bad things in another part of the world, but that did not mean all Muslims were bad. K said "is this like #myCanada?" [a writing prompt the class teacher had given her class prior based on the Twitter conversation #notmyCanada] T said "we Muslims are supposed to do good things".
We talked a bit more about how we might like to learn about holidays that we don't know much about. Someone said "like Eid". I said, "yes, but T already knows lots about Eid" and she said "I wouldn't mind doing more about it".