Religious Prejudice

6, 7, 8

This lesson will explore historical and existing religious prejudices using a variety of texts and media research instruments. Understanding of religious persecution will be learned through the experiences of Jewish people, gypsies, Catholics and the mentally and physically challenged, leading up to and during the Holocaust

PrintThree to Four Forty-Five to Fifty Minute Class Periods<br />(One forty-five to fifty minute class period for assembly of showcases and bulletin boards)

The learner will:

  • compare and contrast the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions, and complete a Venn diagram illustrating their likenesses and differences.
  • analyze the elements of prejudice and attitudes that led to the Holocaust.
  • define the term "crimes against humanity."
  • identify ways in which individuals aided Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Europe.
  • discuss the shared experience of discrimination as it pertains to all types of prejudice.
  • discuss the events of September 11 as a catalyst fostering fear and hatred of Muslims in America and abroad.
  • design and implement a service activity, i.e. showcases, bulletin boards to enhance school community awareness of and appreciation for religious diversity.Instructor's Notes: An example of a Venn Diagram can be viewed at: Web link is an excellent source of many assessment tools and strategies. While math content is specific in many instances, you can substitute any content area.The Venn diagram consists of three overlapping circles. For this lesson, one circle represents each of the three faiths. Learners list the likenesses and differences within the circles and can clearly see where the differences and likeness exist.
  • Sufficient copies of all three attachments
  • Access to school and or public library, computers
  • Internet access
  • Pens, crayons
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Venn diagrams, enough for two copies each
  • One copy of Ann Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
  • Rodgers, Richard. South Pacific. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein III. A Lincoln Center performance starring Florence Henderson and Giorgio Tozzi. Columbia audiocassette. OS 3100. 1967.
  • Frank, Ann (1952). Ann Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl. New York: Bantam Books. The famous and heart-wrenching diary of a young Jewish girl during World War II provides lessons on life, love, and the human spirit. The introduction is by Eleanor Roosevelt.
  • Adams, Simon et al. Eyewitness: World War II. DK Publishing, Sept. 2000. This is a comprehensive coverage of all aspects of WWII with a small but good article on the Holocaust, age appropriate.


  1. Anticipatory Set:Show students a cross, a crescent and moon, and a Star of David. Ask learners to identify each to determine their level of awareness. Ask them to find something all of these symbols have in common. They could make the connection to things visible in the northern night sky, symbols of religion, shapes etc. After learners have given some ideas, lead the class to agree on a common definition that all could work from during the lesson: that these are all religious symbols and represent a particular religion.Instructor's Note: Remember that the Cross, as a symbol of Christianity, is not uniform and that there are variations. The instructor should demonstrate major distinctions such as Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant presentations. There are no variations in Muslim or Jewish symbols.Ask learners to list any other religions they know. Write the list for the class to see. Have the learners tell as much as they know about those religions. Tell the class they will study the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions for this lesson and learn about the effects of religious persecution and discrimination. Check for understanding of the terms. Ask for synonyms also.


  2. Read instructor selected excerpts from Ann Frank: Diary of a Young Girl to the class.Instructor's Notes: The entire Diary may be suitably read by an eighth grade class, but it is strongly recommended that excerpts be read to a sixth or seventh grade class. It is suggested that one copy per group be provided for an eighth grade class.

  3. Divide the students into three research groups.Instructor's Notes: While three is recommended so that each group has one religion to examine, class size above 27 may require more than three groups. The maximum number in each group should be nine since each group will be divided into three subgroups. More than one group may have a variation of a religious group or two groups may have the same religion, but study a different time period. Use instructor discretion. Place the choices on a slip of paper or index card and place them in a paper bag or other container. Have one member of each group make a selection. You may allow two minutes for each group representative to trade topics.

  4. Have each group select a chairperson. Direct the groups to divide themselves into three subgroups for research purposes. One subgroup will research the beliefs of the religion, one the history, and one the traditions and people. Each group is to discover and report out on instances of discrimination that religious groups faced.

  5. Give each learner Attachment One: Religions of Our Diverse Community, the research worksheet

  6. Explain to learners that each group will be responsible for teaching the class the beliefs and traditions of the religion they have been assigned, and that the class will be creating a three-circle Venn diagram together, using their completed worksheets.

  7. Give learners research time. It is recommended that two class periods for research be planned. Make available to them computers, textbooks, encyclopedias, and/or other available research books. Helpful Web sites include:Abiline Library Consortium: Resources on discrimination against Arab and Muslim peopleAnti-Defamation League: Resources on discrimination against Jewish people

  8. Direct students that they are to find examples of discrimination and persecution against each of the groups in history and the present.

  9. Pull back together as a whole class. Have each group report the beliefs of each group. Discuss. Point out similarities and differences.

  10. Put a blank Venn diagram on the board or overhead projector. Give each student a copy of the Venn diagram. Together fill in the beliefs of each religion in the appropriate circles.

  11. As a whole class, discuss and list from where prejudices come. This can be done as brainstorming. As the instructor, make sure that environment, family, society, and the media are included in the list. Note: Sensitivity training teaches us that we must allow the learner through our process to discover their prejudices without directly confronting themselves or their family. Use family or extended family, but not specifically theirs. Remember these are 6-8 grade learners.


Each learner will write a journal entry discussing what he or she has learned from this lesson. The entry must have the following elements: A daily record of activities in complete sentencesA self-assessment of the learner's activities for the dayOne reflective sentence about their feelings on their research and/or their attitudes Instructor-devised instruments to measure content awareness. Evaluate each group presentation.

Cross Curriculum 

Students will create a school display on accepting diversity that will include drawings, paintings, literature, poetry, and writing.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify civil society organizations that protect and speak for minority viewpoints.
      3. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.
    2. 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.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
      3. Benchmark MS.3 Describe the task and the student role.