Breaking Down Stereotypes
Breaking Down Stereotypes to Build Bridges for Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Understanding
Lesson Objectives: Students will explore concrete examples of stereotyping and the way stereotyping negates an individual’s true identity.
Curriculum Areas: Social studies, life skills
Time Required: 40 minutes
Materials Needed: Copies of Lesson 7 Reproducible (PDF); board and markers
Key Concept: Respect for the identity of others (their individual characteristics and traits) is the foundation for getting along on an individual, community, and national or global level. Individuals should be acknowledged for their unique qualities.
Lesson Background: In this lesson, students will gain a deeper understanding of stereotypes and how they can work to deny a person’s true identity. Students will read a real-life story about a girl who moves to a new school and is misjudged based on stereotypes. Then, students will brainstorm choices that the characters in the story could have made to help correct the stereotype.
What You Will Do:
- Review definitions of stereotype, identity, and community (see previous lessons). Explain that this lesson will look at the consequences of stereotyping—for individuals and for communities.
- Hand out Reproducible 7, “They Didn’t Know; They Didn’t Ask.” Pair up students and have them read the story and discuss questions together.
- Regroup as a class to review responses. End the class discussion by brainstorming choices the characters could have made to help correct the injustice of the stereotype.
- Conclude by having students return to their pairs and interview their partner to find out at least three things that they didn’t know about him or her.
Explain to students that when people make generalizations, they often judge others unfairly as a result. Emphasize that it’s important to get beyond first impressions, and that stereotypes are often false when applied to a particular person. Key words to watch out for are all and always, as in statements such as “all people with purple hair are untrustworthy” or “people with purple hair are always untruthful.”
- Why is it important to take action when a stereotype is used?
- How can you avoid using stereotypes?
Introduce to students the concept of prejudice. While a stereotype can be a generalization about an individual or group, prejudice is an actual judgement. For example, a stereotype is “All people with purple hair are not to be trusted.” A prejudice is “I do not trust anyone with purple hair.” The word prejudice comes from the Latin word meaning “pre-judge.” For example, we pre-judge when we have an opinion about a person because of his or her membership in a particular group. Discrimination occurs when prejudices are translated into action.
Challenge students to discuss how prejudice plays a role in the story they read on the reproducible.
consequence (noun) what happens as the result of an action
prejudice (noun) a fixed, unreasonable, and unfair opinion of someone
formed without sufficient knowledge and based on a stereotype