Tolerance in the classroom

toleranceWe discuss so many important issues in the classroom and course books offer various inspiring topics to explore. There are some concepts, and it is especially true about values, which cannot be ‘taught’ but rather introduced. On Amnesty International Day (28th May) let’s think about the place of tolerance in the classroom. There are two aspects of learning English which make me think about tolerance and other values in our lesson plans. My first reason is obvious for all of us, but it still highlights important ideas. When we teach English, we teach an international language that connects people from all over the world. We aren’t just teaching our students to communicate, but we are also teaching them how to communicate with people from diverse cultures. Moreover, we are also teaching the multicultural history of the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Australia.  My other reason is that by adding texts (both classics and contemporary fiction and visual stories) to our syllabus, we inevitably introduce different points of view, experiences and life stories which then become the starting points of deep discussions in the classroom.

We cannot say that our aim is  ‘to teach tolerance’ through stories and literary texts, but rather to show new worlds to our students in the hope of widening their horizons. Through stories children, teens and adults will become familiar with various realities and emotions they might have not experienced before. The diversity and multicultural aspects of the English language offers you stories from all over the world, and these narratives encourage our students to think about themes such as prejudice,  justice, equality, human rights, leading them to the questions of empathy, solidarity and tolerance.

We looked at the Helbling Young Readers and Readers series and some young adult novels to see which novels could work well in your classroom. With young readers you do not need to stage discussions. The main idea at this age is to get the little ones to experience colourful stories. With older readers you can decide whether you want to use the books as a springboard for class discussion or personal reflection.

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Book recommendations 

Young Readers

  • Can I Play? written by Rick Sampedro, illustrated by Valentina Mai
  • The Beach written by Rick Sampedro, illustrated by
  • The Kite written by Rick Sampedro, illustrated by Stefano Misesti
  • Skater Boy written by Maria Cleary, illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini


Original stories for teens

Young Adult Novels

Visit the the Helbling website about Young Adult Novels, or browse the anthology 101 Young Adult Novels written by Christian Holzmann. Search the following keywords for a collection of titles and more:

  • Abuse
  • Bullying
  • Exploitation
  • Immigration
  • Outsiders
  • Racism

Have you ever read any of these books with your students? How did they respond to them? How did they feel about the lives of the characters? Share your experiences with us!

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