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Religion is one of the greatest common factors that connect us. Whether you are in the far corner of southeast Asia or in downtown Houston, you will cross paths with many people who have unique relationships with religion and spirituality. Oftentimes, students already have a well-developed sense of their families faiths and customs.
Regardless whether your students have some background knowledge of religions or not, a proper world religions unit approaches world religions as a study. Teaching world religions as a historical or cultural study makes for an equitable and engaging experience for students.
In another article, I explore the legality of teaching world religions and suggest approaches to implementing a successful world religions unit. For today, we will focus on my best tips for successfully teaching world religions.
Six Tips for Teaching World Religions
1. Send a letter home to parents informing them of the upcoming unit. Be sure to explain that students will learn about world religions without promoting any specific religion. When presenting this idea to parents, you can let me know how teaching world religions has been shown to reduce instances of bullying and religious discrimination in schools.
2. Set the tone of the unit before digging into the nitty gritty details. Preface the beginning of the unit by sharing that you will be studying world religions. Share that religion is a personal experience. No one needs to practice religion or share personal beliefs to participate. In fact, highlight to students that you will be studying world religions like anthropologists by looking at religion as a part of history and culture.
3. Stick to the facts. Be sure to discuss how world religions are a part of history and culture. Approach the unit as a study of religion the way you would study another country — with curiosity and an open mind. By planning ahead, you can put together a well-researched and equitable unit to study the six major world religions. Save yourself some time with Globally Taught’s World Religions Study for elementary school students.
4. Focus on the similarities between religions rather than the differences. Create connection rather than disconnection. By focusing on what is similar, students will begin to see religion as something that connects us. People practice religions in different ways, but ultimately the connection to community and to a higher power remains the same.
5. Model how to ask thoughtful questions about religion. Show students that it is okay to be curious and ask questions but with an awareness of being kind and respectful. You can show how to ask good questions through modeling good questions with a KWL chart or sentence starters. Students should be aware of how they frame their thoughts, questions, and opinions so that everyone feels welcome and understood.
6.Divide time equally between each of the world religions. Whether you are dedicating one day or one week to each religion, make sure it’s the same for each. Cover similar content as well and refrain from digging into any personal experiences or beliefs.
Implement these tips for great success in your world religions unit. World Religions is a wonderful topic to explore at any age. Students can engage in fascinating stories about the origins of the world, learn about unique holidays and festivals, and study important historical events through the lenses of the major world religions.
Snag 20% off of the World Religions book and activity packet with the code WILCOX11. This resource is designed to easily introduce world religions into the elementary classroom. Discount available through 11/30.
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