Getting Out of the Box

9, 10, 11, 12

Students will define stereotype, discrimination and prejudice. They will brainstorm a social action plan to heal racism.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • differentiate between misperceptions and actual demographics about population, health, wealth and resources.
  • illustrate a stereotype and identify stereotypes illustrated by other students.
  • describe the role of racial identity in his or her life.
  • compare, contrast and interpret national and classroom statistics on hate.
  • define stereotype, discrimination, prejudice, egoism and altruism and recognize discrimination.
  • describe the origins of prejudice and list ways to heal racism.
  • create a personal social action plan for healing racism.
  • Student copies of The Herman Grid (see Bibliographical References)
  • If the World Were 100 People (Attachment One)
  • The book If the World Were a Village (optional)
  • If the World Were 100 People Answer Key (Attachment Two)
  • Papers with stereotypes and numbers in the corner
  • Pencils, markers, erasers, blank paper and tape
  • Racial Identity Autobiography Guidelines and Rubric (Attachment Three)
  • Projected copy of Don’t Laugh at Me song lyrics
  • The National Hate Test (Attachment Four)
  • The National Hate Test Answer Key (Attachment Five)
  • Stand and Deliver Activity (Attachment Six)
  • “Healing Racism: Education’s Role” (see Bibliographical References)
  • Healing Racism Action Plan (Attachment Seven)
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: Day One: Ask students to write a two to four paragraph autobiography based on their racial identities. They will answer questions about ways it has influenced them. The order that the students answer these questions is their choice and the autobiography should not be written simply as numbered answers to the questions (Attachment Three). The teacher will score according to the attached rubric. Day Three: Have students diagram the cafeteria with ethnic and/or social groups shown.


Seskin, Steve and Allen Shamblin. Don’t Laugh at Me. Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2002. ISBN: 1-58246-058-2

Seskin, Steve and Allen Shamblin. Don’t Laugh at Me. Sony/ATV Tunes. David Aaron Music. Polydor compact disk.

Smith, David J. If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World’s People. Tonawanda: Kids Can Press Ltd., 2002. ISBN: 1-55074-779-7

Teaching Tolerance  Stereotypes lesson:

The Herman Grid

To find a musical version of "Don’t Laugh at Me," search the internet by that title. Here is a video version created by a classroom
page=Homework&subpage+HealinRacism [no longer available] 


  1. Day One:Anticipatory Set:Pass out copies of the Herman Grid to each learner. Ask the learners to share their impressions of what they see. Then, ask if they see gray dots at the white intersections. Are the gray dots really there? How does the Herman Grid represent our self-betrayal and/or self-deception? What do the boxes represent? What do the gray dots represent? How might the Herman Grid be interpreted on an individual, school, community, state, country and world level? The gray dots are an example of how we sometimes see things that are not really there (misperceptions) when we are trapped in our boxes.

  2. “Stereotyping:” Explain that the learners will take a look at some of their perceptions about the world and compare them with actual world demographics about population, health, wealth and resources. Distribute the If the World Were 100 People worksheet (Attachment One) to each learner. Break the learners into groups of four or five to discuss answers, reach consensus and complete the worksheet. A recorder from each group should come to the board and write the statistics their group chose for each item on the worksheet. When all groups have written their information on the board, the teacher should write the actual statistics (Attachment Two) and have the class discuss why the actual statistics may vary from the student responses.

  3. According to the statistics, which ethnic group(s) is (are) a minority (minorities)?

    • Which country has all of the wealth?
    • Ask the learners what surprised them the most about these statistics. Why? (Note: Generally students are surprised by the low statistic for the white population in the world and the wealth statistics.)
    • How does surprise at these statistics relate to perceptions and misperceptions?
    • If our perceptions about the world are not accurate, then how accurate are our perceptions of our own country, state, community, school and other individuals? (Note: The teacher may want to read the book, If the World Were a Village, to the students at this time, but it is not included in this lesson as an essential step.)
  4. Tell the students that they will be doing a fun drawing exercise that will explore their perceptions of other people on a smaller scale. They will have only ten minutes to draw. Give each student a piece of paper on which they will draw a specific subject (written in a corner and folded to the back of the paper so that others are not able to see it). The goal is to draw a picture that provides clues to the rest of the class so that they will be able to identify the subject. Each paper will also have a number on it. When students have finished drawing their pictures they are to tape them up in the room in the area designated for their number. (Teacher Note: Write the numbers and subjects on the papers prior to distributing them. Possible stereotypes might include: teacher, environmentalist, business professional, welfare mother, skater, garbage man, senior citizen, teenager, political activist, drug user, homeless person, computer programmer, drug dealer, service-learning practitioner, biker, interior decorator, librarian, politician, truck driver, single father, alcoholic/wino, punk rocker. The teacher should modify the list to meet the specific community/school population. There may be more than one picture per number area.)

  5. When all drawings are complete, ask the class:

  6. Who do you think this is?

  7. What about the picture made you think that? Then ask the artists why they chose some of the specific items on their drawings. Discuss the stereotypes presented in the drawings by asking questions like:

    1. Are stereotypes harmful? Helpful?
    2. How do they get started?
    3. Are they always true?
    4. Are there exceptions?
  8. The goal is to help students see that we all have stereotypes and we all recognize stereotypes.

  9. Ask the learners how they think stereotyping originated. How did their own racial identities evolve? Have students write an autobiography based on their racial identities for homework using Racial Identity Autobiography Guidelines and Rubric (Attachment Three). This will lay the groundwork for developing ways to heal racism.

  10. Day Two:

  11. “Discrimination”: As students enter the classroom, display the lyrics to the song, “Don’t Laugh at Me” while the homework assignments are collected. Ask students what they feel the theme is. Then, explain to the students that they will be exploring discrimination of all types.

  12. Give each student a copy of The National Hate Test (Attachment Four) and givethem about ten minutes to complete it. Collect the papers. Explain that the scores will be tallied per item and then compared and contrasted to the national statistics the next day. See The National Hate Test Answer Key (Attachment Five).

  13. Do the Stand and Deliver Activity (Attachment Six). It may take 20-25 minutes. Total silence and seriousness during the activity is extremely important to its effectiveness. Debriefing is imperative as some students may be emotional. Debrief by asking:

    1. What are some feelings that came up for you during this activity?
    2. What was the hardest part for you?
    3. What did you learn about yourself? About others?
    4. What was your biggest surprise during this experience?
    5. What did this activity show you about discrimination?
  14. Keeping this in mind, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Let us rise up tonight with a great readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be.” In your opinion, what else do we need to know in order to begin healing racism?

  15. Day Three:

  16. Share the results of the class’ National Hate Test using The National Hate Test Answer Key (Attachment Five) and compare/contrast to the national statistics. Discuss those statistics that indicate stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice exist in their lives.

  17. Read the Rosa Parks quote: “Each person must live their life as a model for others.” Briefly explain egoism as a theory that human beings act or should act in their own interests and desires. Egoism is frequently associated with the early Greek hedonists, whose aim was pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. Define altruism as a belief that human beings should act in ways that help others. It is also a selfless concern for the welfare of others. Ask students in which category Rosa Park’s actions belong. Distribute the Healing Racism Action Plan (Attachment Seven) for students to complete and turn in. This enables them to begin to brainstorm individually their role in making change through altruism.

  18. For homework, have students draw a plan of the tables in the cafeteria and identify where various groups locate (both race/ethnic and/or social cliques). Explain that there is actually a day when groups “Mix It Up” at lunch to heal racism. (See This will be a future activity in this unit.


Racial Identity Autobiography scored with a rubric Brief oral presentation of information in reading Diagram of cafeteria with ethnic and/or social groups shown

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.12 Explain why private action is important to the protection of minority voices.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Compare and contrast enlightened self-interest, egoism, and altruism as they relate to philanthropy and principles of democracy.