Uniqueness and Prejudice

Grades: 
9, 10, 11, 12

Students explore their personal experience with stereotypes through an interactive game. They reflect on how it feels to be characterized by first impressions.

Lesson Rating 
0
Duration 
PrintOne 45-Minute Session
Objectives 

The learner will:

  • identify social groups and personal traits that define who they are.
  • identify generalizations and first impressions.
  • reflect on the risks of generalizations and the importance of showing respect for diverse people.
  • give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and ethnicity contributed to discrimination and strife
Materials 
  • Handouts are for educator background information.
Teacher Preparation 
  • Before this activity, write down a list of traits that might describe some students in your group. Use the sample statements below as a guide. Start with descriptions that are obvious before moving to descriptions that are more personal. In this way, students build trust before moving into more challenging territory.
  • Move the furniture so that there is room for participants to stand in two groups facing each other. Create a line on one side of the floor with masking tape, a rope, or a meter stick.
  • Sample Statements:

    ▪ I have blond hair.

    ▪ I walk to school.

    ▪ I am an only child.

    ▪ I live in an apartment.

    ▪ I love science.

    ▪ I want to be a doctor when I graduate from college.

    ▪ I don’t want to go to college.

    ▪ I was born in a different country.

    ▪ I am on the basketball team.

    ▪ I don’t eat meat.

    ▪ I am a religious person.

    ▪ I am a quiet person.

    ▪ I am a cheerleader.
Vocabulary 
  • tolerance: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own; the act of allowing something
  • acceptance: generally approved; the act of taking or receiving something offered; believing
  • social responsibility: the belief or ideology that a person has an obligation to act to benefit society at large. This responsibility can be passive, such as by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or active, such as by performing activities that directly advance social goals.

Instructions

Print
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Tell the students that they are going to play a game called "Uniqueness and Prejudice." They will be asked to stand up and move around the room as they reflect on different ways they can be described. Tell them that you want them to be honest but remain open to playful expressions of first impressions.

  2. Play a game called Uniqueness and Prejudice. In this activity, the leader reads statements that describe different physical or cultural traits (see sample statements below). Participants identify statements that describe them and then tell the group what they don’t want others to assume about them because of these traits.

  3. Before this activity, write down a list of traits that might describe some students in your group. Use the sample statements below* as a guide. Start with descriptions that are obvious before moving to descriptions that are more personal. In this way, students build trust before moving into more challenging territory.

  4. Move the furniture so that there is room for participants to stand in two groups facing each other. Create a line on oneside of the floor with masking tape, a rope, or a meter stick.

  5. To begin, all students are on the opposite side of the room, facing the line.

  6. Tell participants that they must be respectful, positive, and supportive of all the other participants or they will not be allowed to play. Directions:

    1. The leader reads aloud a descriptive statement in the first person (e.g., I have blond hair.) If the statement is true for any students, those individuals step across the middle line and face the rest of the group.
    2. Those who stepped across the line should think about and take turns giving the following response statement: “Just because I (have blond hair), don’t assume that I (finish the sentence).” Encourage the participants to be honest and to think past the initial stereotype to the ways they think others have responded to the featured trait. They may use humor and creativity in their responses, but should remain honest. (e.g., Just because I have blond hair, don’t assume that I’m not smart. …that I bleached it. …that I can’t understand trigonometry.) Stress that the purpose of this activity is not to have the funniest response – while students may use humor, their responses must be relevant and meaningful to get the most out of this activity.
  7. After playing several rounds of this game, reflect on student feelings about the activity:

    1. How does it feel to step over the line and face the rest of the group?
    2. What are the positive and negative sides of being unique?
    3. In what ways does society reward and punish uniqueness or differences?
    4. What did you learn about your classmates?
    5. Are prejudices and assumptions always bad? Always wrong? Explain.
    6. What prejudices do you have that you didn’t know you had before?
    7. Why is it so easy to come up with assumptions to complete the statement?
    8. Are some prejudices easier or harder to discuss?
    9. What can we do to stop others from making assumptions about people?
  8. Discuss examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and ethnicity contributed to discrimination and strife . For example, after 9-11, people made generalizations about people of the Muslim faith and in some cases violated their rights.  Many Muslims were treated with suspicion and a lack of respect by people--including some who might not have understood that they were exhibiting prejudice and intolerance.

  9. *Sample Statements: ▪ I have blond hair. ▪ I walk to school. ▪ I am an only child. ▪ I live in an apartment. ▪ I love science. ▪ I want to be a doctor when I graduate from college. ▪ I don’t want to go to college. ▪ I was born in a different country. ▪ I am on the basketball team. ▪ I don’t eat meat. ▪ I am a religious person. ▪ I am a quiet person. ▪ I am a cheerleader.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.12 Explain why private action is important to the protection of minority voices.