Looking Beyond First Impressions (5th Grade)
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark E.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.

First impressions of people can often lead to misunderstandings and unfair treatment of others. Using photographs, this lesson raises awareness of our tendency to judge others based on the appearance of a person. Learners reflect on the value of diversity and the necessity for more tolerance.

PrintOne 50 minute class period

The learner will:

  • make character trait assumptions using various photographs of people.
  • write a list of human similarities.
  • reflect/respond in writing to questionnaire.
  • define the terms assumption, prejudice, stereotype and tolerance.
  • brainstorm ideas for a service learning project.
  • Teacher's copy of Handout: Photographs or teacher chosen photographs (See Teacher's Preparation)
  • Student copies of Handout: What Do You See?
  • Display board or chart paper
  • Writing materials
  • Dictionaries for each learner
  1. Anticipatory Set: Have the phrase "Never judge a book by its cover."written on the board as the learners enter the room.

    Hold up two books.Choose a book that is a favorite of the learners and cover it with a plain bookcover. Choose another book that the children might think is difficult to read or that they wouldn't be interested in reading. Cover that book with a very enticing book cover. Ask for a show of hands to determine which of the books most of the learners would like to read just by looking at the cover of the books. After the vote has been taken, reveal that the book with the plain cover is actually a favorite of the class and the other one probably is not a book that they would like to read.

    Read the phrase on the board and ask the learners to share what they think the phrase means. (Don't judge others by their appearances.)

  2. Ask the learners if they have ever seen or met someone and immediately formed an opinion about what that person was like - either a positive or negative opinion. Ask for a show of hands.

  3. Ask the learners to share what criterion they might use to form a "first impression" of someone? (Possible responses might include: clothes, hairstyle, body language, tone of voice, etc.)

  4. Ask for a show of hands to determine how many students have had to change their "first impression" of someone - either a positive or negative opinion - once they got to knowthat personbetter. Ask what kinds of things might they learn about a person, that might cause them to change their opinion (trustworthy, friendly, giving, mean, funny, etc). Point out to the learnersthat "first impressions" are usually based on appearance (the cover of the book). Whether or not we form a relationship with a person usually depends on mutual interests and character.

  5. Ask the learners if they have ever made an assumption (first impression opinion) about someone based on their appearance and later found out that it wasn't true? What criterion did they use to make the assumption?

  6. Engage the learners in a discussion about the words"first impressions" or assuming things about others without much information about them. Tell them that when they make general assumptions about people or groups of people, they are stereotyping people. Tell them that stereotyping means a very simple, often mistaken generalization about a group of people. Stereotypes may be positive or negative but all are unfair and misleading.

  7. Give each learner a copy of Handout: What DoYou See? Tell the learners that you are going to show them some pictures of people. After they have looked at each picture, ask them to respond to the prompts listed on the handout.

  8. Show the first picture to the learners allowing time for them to write their answers in the table on the handout. Repeat this process until all of the pictures have been shown.

  9. After all of the photographs have been shown, show each picture again and ask the learners to share some of their answers for each photograph. Ask them to share what criterion they use to make the choices that they made under the Character Attributes column and to share why they would or would not like to be friends with that person. Remind them to be respectful of other classmates answers especially if they do not agree with them.

  10. After all photographs are revealed, quickly refer back to the start of the lesson about the inability of us to accurately judge a book by it's cover. Stress the fact that we cannot make the assumption that because people look a particular way, that they are as we perceive them.

  11. Show each picture once again.To emphasize the similarities of us all, have students brainstorm the things that humans have in common as you record their answers on chart paper or board.

  12. Tell the learners that during this King Day we are honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s belief that we should not judge others and be tolerant of all people.

  13. After brief class discussion ask the learners to write a personal reflection answering the question: Why is it important not to judge people before you have had an opportunity to get to know something about them? How can we make our school and community a better place by tolerating/celebrating differences?

  14. Have the learners get a partner andshare their responses.

  15. Brainstorm things the class can do to show support for people or groups who have been discriminated against or bullied. What are ways we can encourage others to recognize that our differences make our school (community) stronger?

  16. Make an action plan to carry out a service project. For example, teach anti-bullying techniques, put up posters celebrating famous people who have overcome prejudice, or write or make a film calling attention to a human rights issue.


Learner participation in the class discussion and writing prompt will serve as the assessment for this lesson.


 What does it mean to you that "diversity makes us stronger"?