Behind the Scenes--Closing the Curtain on Stereotypes
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.6 Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.

Through a variety of activities, students examine the meaning and examples of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. Students explore how prejudice impacts our human interactions and learn skills of sensitivity for differences. 

PrintThree Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • identify examples of stereotypes.
  • define or give examples of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.
  • explain the connection between stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.
  • state hurtful outcomes of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.
  • name sources from which stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination are learned.
  • identify the cause and effect aspect of a personal experience with stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.
  • suggest an alternate outcome for an experience using a five-step "how-to" process.
  • Enough surprise packages for each student (see Teacher Prep)
  • Whiteboard, chalkboard, overhead, or chart paper on an easel
  • Number slips (corresponding to packages)
  • Student copies and an overhead of What's the Difference? (handout)
  • 3x3 self-stick notes
  • Student copies of Video Viewing Guide (handout)
  • Video Viewing Guide Teacher Key (handout)
  • Think-Pair-Share Activity (handout)
  • Carefully Taught (handout)
Home Connection: 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Using Carefully Taught (handout), students will identify two examples of stereotypes in any of the three sources: music lyrics, magazine or newspaper pictures and ads, and/or poetry. Individually, they will record thoughts and feelings in response to the identified stereotypes. Then they will elicit, discuss, and record parent responses to the stereotypes.Teacher Note: Be sure to explain to the learners that the lyrics to the song are sarcasm.

  • Berry, Joy. The Human Race Club: The Unforgettable Pen Pal. Produced by Bridgestone Multimedia, Inc., 30 min., 1998. Videocassette. ASIN B000007QXM.
  • Rodgers and Hammerstein. South Pacific: Carefully Taught. Compact disk. 1958. ASIN B0000DHSL
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Have students select a slip of paper with a number that corresponds to one of the prepared surprise packages on the table. Ask students, "What do you think or expect will be inside your package, and why do you think so?"

    Write the number of the package, their name, and the expectation on a chart. (It may be quicker to have them write on sticky notes and put on the chart.)

    When all students have their packages, direct them to open the packages. While students open their packages, observe their reactions and write them on the chart. Then discuss the expectations and reactions with students.

    Discuss how the package appearance relates to the contents. Discuss how this relates to prejudice and stereotype.

  2. Explain that when we rely on one example (once a big package had a desireable present) to make broad generalizations or oversimplified statements, it is harmful and called "stereotyping."

  3. Directly teach the students that it is a natural function of our brains to organize incoming information (from our senses) into categories and patterns to make sense of our world. In doing so, we tend to think in terms of the typical rather than the atypical. For example, when we hear the word "bird," we are more likely to think of a robin than a penguin.

    Students should know that it was understandable that they expected the attractive package to contain a desirable item and the unattractive package to contain an undesirable item. It is helpful to organize bits of information in our mind when thinking of "things." However, when we are thinking in terms of people, expecting all people to be like our first experience may be harmful. Ask students, "Why are stereotypes harmful?" (Possible answers may include: They prevent us from seeing people, events or issues as they really are; They may prevent us from recognizing the potential of people; They may prevent creative solutions to problems).

    Emphasize the importance of being open to seeing people as individuals with unknown qualities and rights -- there is something to know and like about everyone. 

  4. Now connect the meaning of stereotypes to prejudice. Teach students that when we form positive or negative opinions based on stereotypes rather than accurate and complete information, it is called "prejudice."

    Ask students, "Why is prejudice harmful?" (Possible answers may include: It may cause hurt or angry feelings; It may prevent relationships from forming; It may prevent open-minded and tolerant thinking.)

    Distribute the flowchart entitled, What's the Difference? (top half of the handout) on which students will record key information. It will be used later to demonstrate learning in the lesson Assessment. 

  5. Focus attention on the topic of stereotypes. Label individual sheets of chart paper with some or all of the following categories: teenagers elderly professional athletes parents young children teachers white collar workers factory workers

  6. Give students 3x3 self-stick notes and ask them to write down stereotypes they have heard or are aware of regarding the above-mentioned categories (one per sticky note which may be color coded per category) and place them on corresponding category chart sheets. Although affective feelings are inherent in this process, the teacher must guide this activity as a cognitive recognition of stereotypes.

  7. Give the students time to view the charts. Then engage the students in reflection by using the following questions:

    • How do you feel about the stereotypes written?
    • Were positive and/or negative stereotypes written? Is there a difference, and if so, what?
    • What observations/insights can you share based on what you learned?
  8. Day Two

    Play the song, Carefully Taught or just show the lyrics if the music is not available. Brainstorm a list of sources from which prejudices are learned. These should be posted as a reminder to reflect upon and be aware of so as to intentionally act sensitively toward others. The list may include: family, culture, gender, friends, and media.

  9. Directly teach students that prejudice (feeling - affective) is based on stereotypes (thoughts - cognitive) and that acting on stereotypes and prejudice results in discrimination (actions - behavior). Direct students to write the label "discrimination" in the final symbol on What's the Difference? (handout).

  10. Distribute Video Viewing Guide handout. Using the video, The Human Race Club: The Unforgettable Pen Pal now will provide a concrete and powerful illustration of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination to which young people can relate. Although it is a cartoon format, the level of thought is appropriate for all grade levels. It is a thirty-minute video, but the song at the end is optional. Therefore, allow approximately twenty-five minutes for viewing.

    Utilize the Video Viewing Guide Teacher Key (handout) to ensure focus and processing of key concepts. The following information may be used for discussion with students:

    • Prejudice happens easily. We must work hard to avoid pre-judging.
    • We must form intelligent opinions since our opinions affect how we behave.
    • Many young people refer to the elderly as "old" people. Discuss the denotation and insensitivity of that term vs. "elderly" or other positive/respectful descriptors.
    • We must evaluate people on "who," not "what," they are.
  11. Follow-up discussion may include responses to the viewing guide as well as characters to which students could identify. This may be related to thoughts, emotions and actions of the characters in the video. The guide may be collected and viewed by the teacher as a means of informal assessment regarding key information and concepts learned. Note: Students will need complete and accurate information from response #8 of the video viewing guide for subsequent lessons in this unit.

  12. On the third day of this lesson, make the transition from the cognitive learning to the affective investment in this learning so that students will find purpose in developing sensitivity to others as they build relationships with others in a direct service relationship. Do a think-pair-share activity in which students reflect on a time when they were affected by stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination or a time in which they were the offender and treated someone insensitively. Then have students orally share the experience with a partner, using the recording sheet Think-Pair-Share Activity as they listen to the experience of another and record the response.

  13. After students have finished the think-pair-share activity, examine the situation in the video between Joey Estrada and A.J. in terms of cause and effect. (A.J. prejudged Joey's "friend" based on stereotypes he held about people with handicaps. As a result, Joey was very hurt, and the friendship between the two boys was destroyed.)

    Then, using the five-step "how to" process to help people form intelligent opinions (to avoid stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination), elicit from and discuss with students how the sad/unfortunate ending between A.J. and Joey could have been prevented. (A.J. should have paid attention to the information he received. Joey told him the "friend" was terrific, and he was sure A.J. would like the "friend." Although he was honest, A.J. didn't keep an open mind and ask questions to gather and evaluate information.)

    Then have the students evaluate the situation of their partner and suggest a different outcome based on the five step model (see "Reflect and Revise" in the handout).

  14. Make the connection between the Anticipatory Set and key lesson information by explaining (or eliciting from students) the following: "You instinctively stereotyped the packages based on their size and/or appearance. In your hope and desire to get the most desirable/best package of all the choices, you used those stereotypes to make assumptions/prejudgment in selecting (act of discriminating) the packages."


Using the flowchart from What's the Difference? (handout), have students work together in pairs or small groups to show their understanding of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. In the now labeled shapes, students must write their own description/definition for each of the terms or they must give a life-related example of each.