Activity Ideas for Creating an Inclusive, Safe Place for Discussions
Rules for Respect
This activity is ideal for introductory sessions and is intended to help create a safe and respectful class discussion environment by laying ground rules that will foster that. Ideally, each student should take a turn to suggest one rule so that everyone participates and owns the results. If only a limited time frame is available, poll the class for their input on rules they feel would be helpful. Feel free to nudge students by asking them about some of the concepts below and see if they can generate the rules on their own. With each suggestion, ask the other students if they agree to the rule. You can also add any rules you feel are important but the students did not create on their own. Some suggestions include:
- Listen actively and respect others when they are talking
- Speak from your own experience instead of generalizing ("I" instead of "they," "we," and "you").
- Do not be afraid to respectfully challenge one another by asking questions, but refrain from personal attacks -- focus on ideas.
- Participate to the fullest of your ability -- community growth depends on the inclusion of every individual voice.
- Instead of invalidating somebody else's story with your own spin on her or his experience, share your own story and experience.
- The goal is not to agree -- it is to gain a deeper understanding.
- Be conscious of nonverbal messages -- they can be as disrespectful as words.
Online Class Variant
In their introductory posts, ask students to suggest one rule that they feel will help create that same safe space in online discussions. Once all students have posted, summarize the suggested rules in a class announcement that can be referred to throughout the term.
(Adapted from EdChange)
This activity allows participants to recognize similarities and differences amongst a group that would not be obvious to the observer. It highlights our diversity and provides an opportunity for dissimilar people to find common ground. Ask the group to take turns sharing answers to simple questions about their background. Before starting to share, ask them to mentally pick out two classmates who they do not know and consider what kinds of answers they expect and later compare their expectation to the actual responses. If time is limited, you might also chose some of these topics and have students answer by a show of hands. Potential topics include:
- Ethnic background
- How many generations their family has been in the U.S.
- A family tradition
- Something most people don’t know about them
Online Class Variant
Ask students to share some of this information in their introductory posts. Require each student to respond to two to three classmates and share with them ways in which they are similar or different.