Don't Laugh at Me

9, 10, 11, 12

Learners identify stereotypical and discriminatory behaviors and practices. They define and give examples of positive actions and concepts related to addressing issues of intolerance. 

PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define discrimination and describe how it manifests itself within a school climate.
  • describe how the work of Peter Yarrow seeks to end discriminatory actions toward others.
  • describe a personal action plan for decreasing exclusionary and discriminating behaviors which will contribute to the common good.
  • Teacher copy of Stand and Deliver handout
  • video/audio recording or lyrics for the song Don’t Laugh at Me (See Bibliographical References)
  • Student copies of Biography of Peter Yarrow(SeeBibliographical References)
  • Poster paper and markers
  • Sticky notes for student use

Biography: This website includes a biography of Peter Yarrow's life, especially his activism for peace:

Don’t Laugh at Me lyrics by Peter Yarrow

Don't Laugh at Me video on Teacher Tube

The Operation Respect website has information about Peter Yarrow's efforts to promote respect in schools. This page has links to music, including Don't Laugh at Me.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Have students sit in a large circle and quietly participate in an activity that helps them reflect on different ways people experience intolerance. The directions are in the handout "Stand and Deliver." After the activity, discuss student reflections on how they felt during the activity.

  2. Pass out lyrics and/or play the song, "Don’t Laugh at Me" by Peter Yarrow. Ask learners to identify the hurtful behaviors/actions expressed in the song. You may extend the discussion to include other hurtful behaviors, attitudes that show a lack of respect for diverse people in school.

  3. Ask learners if they have ever felt "picked on." Have them do a reflective journal activity with the following topic: Describe a situation where you felt excluded or unwelcome. How has that event affected you? If all persons are "created equal," why is it that they are not actually treated the same in real-life situations? Assure the learners that this writing is for their reflection only, they will not be expected to share the information and it will not be graded.

  4. Discuss what positive behaviors would decrease these feelings at school and promote a safer school community? After they offer suggestions, tell them that acting for the common good is "philanthropic behavior."

  5. Working in a whole group setting, write and define the following terms separate poster papers to hang around the room.

    • empathy:the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to and vicariously experiencing the feelings and thoughts of another
    • prejudice:injury or damage resulting from some judgement or action in disregard of one’s rights (law); preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience
    • stereotype:standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group that represents an oversimplified opinion
    • philanthropy:private and individual action intended for the common good
    • altruism:a belief that human beings should act in ways that help others; a selfless concern for the welfare of others
    • human rights:rights regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons
    • social action:individual or group behavior that involves interaction with other individuals or groups working toward social reform
  6. Give students 3-5 sticky notes to write an example for three to five of the defined terms. They may write about a time they have observed the concept or how it impacts them or the common good. For example, "My dad has empathy for me because he also had acne when he was a teen." or "The Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama was an example of social action." They put their notes on the corresponding poster papers and walk around and read others' examples.


Journal reflections and the discussion throughout the exercise may be used as an assessment of learning.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.12 Explain why private action is important to the protection of minority voices.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the community, state or nation, such as petitioning authority, advocating, voting, group problem solving, mock trials or classroom governance and elections.