Religion gives individuals a sense of purpose and has been one of the most powerful forces in human history. Understanding various religions is understanding the values and beliefs that drive a group of people to act and believe the way they do. Therefore, teaching students about world religions is a significant task, as religious tolerance is the ideal result. By being able to comprehend how religion plays a role in the cultural identities of people all over the world, students will be less quick to judge others based upon their beliefs and more likely to embrace individuals of all faiths.
There are many resources available online for teaching about world religions. This topic can be a sensitive one, but when the right approach is taken, it’s an easy (and very important) one to teach!
- Taking a Closer Look at Religions Around the World: Teaching Tolerance has put together a lesson for educators teaching about world religions in order to promote religious tolerance. Learning about the history behind different faiths will help students to “better comprehend the reasons behind divergent national and international religious beliefs” and increase their “compassion and consideration for other people and faiths.” This lesson plan includes objectives, essential questions, materials, vocabulary, a suggested procedure, and an extension activity.
- Lesson Planning Ideas: The World’s Religions: education world provides information in mini-articles on Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, and Baha’i. In addition, an outline on teaching about world religions in the classroom, including how to discuss diverse religions in the classroom, introductory information for students (which contains a pre-quiz of prior knowledge), discussion points and activities, an extension activity, and wrap-up/assessment options. This site is a great one to take a look at if you are looking to teach about religions that are less-widely discussed in the classroom!
- Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly – Access World Religions: PBS offers an abundance of resources from their television series Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly “to help students gain awareness and understanding of the diversity of religions and religious experiences, and the reasons for particular expressions of religious beliefs within a society or culture.” Resources include lesson plans and video clips on beliefs and practices, holidays and religious observances, religion in America, religious art and symbolism, and specific religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and more).
- How to Teach About World Religions in Schools: This article starts off with discussing the negative consequences that can and have occurred if world religions, especially Islam, are taught in the wrong way in the classroom. The author then provides ten ways that teachers can include religion as part of their lesson plan, such as observing on field trips, having guest talks on religion, choosing textbooks and supplementary materials carefully, and being culturally sensitive to the religions practiced in your community.
- Teaching About Religion: neaToday published an article discussing how the State Board of Education and other associations recommend teaching about world religions, which includes utilizing primary sources and solely sticking to teaching facts about the belief systems of various religions. Information on the separation of church and state (the Pledge of Allegiance, Science-based Curriculum) and guidelines for teaching about religion are also provided. This piece is less about delivering facts on world religions and more about the concept of religion being taught in public schools in a neutral way.
- The Misplaced Fear of Religion in Classrooms: This article from the Atlantic focuses on the fear that many parents have about religion being taught in the classroom. After a quick introduction on the topic, the author interviews a woman who has had firsthand experience with feeling out of place in school because no one at her school with a Christian majority understood her Jewish faith. She contemplates whether her experience would have been different if her school had attempted to teach students about more than one religion. This article offers a new perspective on how students of various religions can be affected by their peers’ lack of understanding and the misplaced fears some adults have about religion being taught at their children’s schools.
- World Religions Homework Help: This site has information on the six main religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism. The basic information provided on this page would be good for a webquest or to have students review for homework at their leisure.
- URI Kids – World Religions: The United Religions Initiative provides a quick introduction and information on Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other world religions and spiritual traditions. Details on how these religions began, their basic belief systems, and other facts related to their specific beliefs and values are included. For educators who are looking for a page of information to have their students look over before jumping into a lesson, this site is a good one to check out!
Teaching students about world religions may seem like a daunting task due to the controversy, but it is very important in order to promote a world of religious tolerance. The number-one thing to remember is that you are not trying to teach students world religions, but you are trying to teach them about world religions. Learning about the history and beliefs of religions is very different from promoting a specific belief system. Giving students the opportunity to gain an understanding of various religions will allow them to gain an understanding of the individuals who practice these religions.
- The Five Major World Religions: This video from Khan Academy about the five major world religions, which are Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, would be good to assign students for homework or as part of a classroom lesson plan. One of the most unique parts of this video is how it discusses the intertwined histories and cultures of these religions, rather than only teaching about them as separate entities.
- Resources | World Religions: The New York Times has put together a list of resources on world religions, including student opinion questions, learning network lesson plans, Times topics, and recent Times multimedia about religion and spirituality. A variety of different subject matters about world religions are discussed here, and reading or watching a few of the resources may help you when putting together a lesson plan.
- World Religions, Science, and Beliefs: The Pulitzer Center provides a two-part lesson plan on world religions, science, and beliefs. The lesson plan includes detailed directions and materials that will be key when prepping for the activities.