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Lesson 6
Caution: Stereotypes Ahead

Caution: Stereotypes Ahead

Lesson Focus
Stereotyping Defined: Response to the Unknown, Assigning Group Traits

Lesson Objectives: Students gain key insights into the roots of stereotyping and prejudice.

Curriculum Area: Social studies

Time Required: 40 minutes

Materials Needed: Copies of Lesson 6 Reproducible (PDF); board and markers; a piece of paper cut in 30 small squares or 30 self-stick notes to hand out

Key Concept: It’s a natural tendency to make associations and see patterns among people and objects in order to make sense of the world. But judging an individual based on the real or imagined characteristics of a group that he or she is a part of is a stereotype. Stereotypes are unfair in that they deny the identity of an individual. They don't just arise from a person's ideas, but are socially reinforced.

Lesson Background: Students will look at a photograph on the reproducible and then answer questions about their first impressions. They will then create a short bio about the person in the photo. The students will be given one clue about the person’s identity.

What You Will Do:

  • Create small squares of paper, one for each student in your class. On half of the squares of paper, write “is a painter.” On the other half, write “no further information known.” Randomly distribute the squares to your students.
  • Hand out Lesson 6 Reproducible, “First Impressions and Assumptions.” Hold up the reproducible and review the photograph on the page with students.
  • For Part I, explain to students that they will be answering questions about the photo and thinking about possible identity traits for the person shown.
  • For Part II, have students read their “clues” then write a paragraph about the girl they see in the photograph, based what they see and prior knowledge. When students have completed their paragraphs, have several of them read theirs aloud.
  • Was there a difference in what some students saw? Did some students use their clues to make assumptions about the girl, her dress, and the container she carries? Explain to students that one’s impressions of the world are sometimes influenced by assumptions, generalizations, and impressions, all of which are based on prior life experience and knowledge.

Summary/Wrap-up: 
Discuss what students learned by doing this activity. What might be lost if someone solely relied on using a stereotype to understand someone? Wouldn’t you want to be judged on who you really are, not on generalizations?

Discussion Questions:

  • Can you think of a time when your impression of someone proved to be incorrect? What happened?
  • Can you think of a time when someone got the wrong impression of you? What happened? How did you feel?

Student Journey Book Connection: Caution: Stereotypes Ahead (PDF)
Answers: Click here for answers to the Student Reproducibles and Student Journey Book (PDF).

Key Definitions
categorize (verb) to group things together based on common characteristics

first impression (noun) the first ideas we have when we see or meet a new person

stereotype (noun) a judgement about an individual based on real or imagined characteristics of a group

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