ESL Lesson Plan on Stereotypes

Two elderly Hillbillies gossiping
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One thing we share as humans is our vulnerability to both prejudice and stereotyping. Most of us hold prejudices (thoughts or tendencies based only on limited knowledge) against certain things, ideas, or groups of people, and it is very likely that someone has been prejudiced against us or thought of us stereotypically as well.

Prejudice and Stereotyping are heavy topics. Yet, people’s (sometimes subconscious) beliefs profoundly affect everyone’s lives. If these conversations are led right, ESL classes can provide safe spaces for our students to dive deeper into such broad, sensitive, and yet so crucial aspects as race, religion, social status, and appearance. The estimated time for this lesson is 60 minutes, but it is strongly suggested to be used in tandem with the Extension Activity below.

Objectives

  1. Enrich students' vocabulary about the topic of prejudice and stereotypes.
  2. Become aware of the complexities and negative consequences of prejudice and stereotypes.
  3. Develop deeper empathy and tools to help themselves and others out of the outsider feelings created by prejudice and stereotyping.

Materials

  • Board/Paper and markers or projector
  • Writing utensils for the students
  • Posters labeled with names of the countries corresponding to the students in your class and yourself (make sure you include a poster for the U.S as well)
  • Slide/Poster prepared with a list of possible stereotyping characteristics
  • Two Posters—one labeled "Insider," one "Outsider"—each has a column for "Feelings" and "Behaviors"
  • Slide/Poster prepared with a list of possible questions about stereotypes

Key Terms

prejudice origin romantic
stereotype orientation respectful
national discrimination hard-working
race bias emotional
included excluded well-dressed
unfair assumption outgoing
tolerant punctual nationalistic
talkative sociable serious
quiet formal aggressive
polite humorous rude
lazy sophisticated educated
ignorant hospitable casual
flamboyant reliable stern

Lesson Introduction

Begin the lesson by acknowledging that as ELLs, your students will experience, and probably already have experienced, feelings of being an outsider. Perhaps they have even been victims of prejudice and stereotyping based on their levels of language, accent, or non-American looks. Let your students know that in this lesson you will talk about these topics in more depth—all in an effort to help them navigate such situations and also enlarge their vocabulary on the topic.

It is a good idea to solicit students’ opinions on the meaning of prejudice and stereotype at the very start, and only then provide them with the actual definitions. A good reference for this part is a basic dictionary, such as the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary. Make sure you write or project the words and definitions on the board.

Prejudice: an unreasonable dislike of or preference for a person, group, custom, etc., especially when it is based on their race, religion, sex, etc.

  • A victim of racial prejudice
  • Their decision was based on ignorance and prejudice.
  • Prejudice against somebody/something: There is much less prejudice today against women in the medical profession.

Stereotype: a fixed idea or image that many people have of a particular type of person or thing, but which is often not true in reality.

  • Cultural/gender/racial stereotypes
  • He doesn't conform to the usual stereotype of the businessman with a dark suit and briefcase.

Instruction and Activity—Insider/Outsider Exercise

Objective: Identify the feelings and behaviors when people feel like insiders and outsiders, learn how to cope with them, generate empathy and solutions to help others.

Outsider Feelings

  1. List all the student nationalities on different posters on the board and by nationality, have students name the stereotypes (only) about their own countries and cultures (to avoid any animosity). 5 min
  2. Hang the posters around the classroom and invite students to walk around with pens or markers and add any other stereotypes that they have heard. (Reinforce that what they are writing down isn’t necessarily what they believe, simply what they heard to be said.) 3 min
  3. Ring a bell or play a sound to announce the transition, in which you model the next step in the activity: The students will move onto introducing themselves to others by sharing two negative outsider feelings that they experienced while reading the national stereotypes (i.e., “Hi, I am angry and confused.” “Hi, I am shy and uncomfortable.”) Display the bank of possible words on the board, and preview it with students before continuing the activity. 8 min
  4. After a few minutes, ask students to sit back down and call out the negative feelings they have heard (while you record them on the "Outsider" poster). 3 min

Insider Feelings

  1. Now, direct your students to imagine they are on the inside of a certain group. (Provide some examples: Maybe they are back in their country or belonged to a group as kids, at work, etc.) 3 min
  2. Students call out insider feelings and you record them on the corresponding poster. 3 min
  3. At this point, prompt students to describe the behaviors that correspond to each situation—when they were outsiders and insiders. (Let students come up with their own or even let them act them out if they don’t have the right word for the behaviors or you can suggest and/or act out additional ideas.) Examples: Outsider—feel alone (feeling), shut down, don’t dare, don't communicate much, speak low, stand away from the group (behaviors); Insider—opposite (that’s what we want for our students). 8 min
  4. Acknowledge to your students one more time that in their lives as non-native English speakers, they will sometimes experience feelings of being an outsider. And sometimes in their lives as humans, they will witness someone else feeling that way.
  5. Remind them of the goals of this activity and brainstorm how they can apply what they learned.
    • Goal 1: Cope with Outsider Feelings
      • Instruct students to list a few Insider moments and to remember these and their corresponding feelings when they find themselves in Outsider situations. 4 min
    • Goal 2: Empathy and Help Others
      • Direct students to imagine they meet someone who is feeling like an outsider and discuss possible reactions/solutions. (Maybe they’ll be able to empathize with them more thanks to their own experiences. And based on their personal knowledge of the different negative feelings, they may be able to offer the person constructive help—offer water to diffuse anger, a joke, personal anecdote, or a friendly conversation to help them relax.) 5 min

Lesson Extension—Discussion on Prejudice and Stereotypes

  1. Go back to the beginning of the previous activity, and remind your students of the meaning of prejudice and stereotype. 2 min
  2. As an entire group, identify the areas on which people sometimes base inclusion or exclusion. (Possible answers: sex, sexual orientation, beliefs, race, age, appearance, abilities, etc.). 7 min
  3. Project or write the following questions on the board and invite students to discuss these in small groups. They should also be ready to later share their ideas with the entire class. 10 min
  • What do you think about the stereotypes listed in the Insider/Outsider activity?
  • Are they true or not? Why? 
  • Where do some of these stereotypes come from? 
  • Can they be useful? 
  • What can be the problem with these labels?
  • What prejudiced attitudes and behaviors can stereotypes and labeling lead to? 
  • How could these stereotypical and prejudicial views be tackled? 

Differentiation

The best lessons have differentiation strategies infused within each and every step.

  • Guidelines/questions/vocabulary always posted
  • After assigning an activity, either model/provide examples of what it should look like OR have students tell you back what their understanding of the assignment is.
  • Circulate among your students frequently, check in on them, and offer additional support in the form of one-on-one explanations and modeling.
  • Because of the different learning styles out there, this lesson includes a variety of activities, some of which require students to move their bodies; write, read, and speak; work independently, in small groups, or as a whole class.

Assessment

For homework, exit ticket, and/or the lesson’s assessment, ask your students to write a paragraph-long reflection on the ideas that came up during the lesson. Provide the required minimum of sentences, based on your students’ levels.

Requirements:

  1. Correctly use at least four of the new terms relating to stereotypes and four character adjectives.
  2. Choose a stereotype or two from the list that you may have been guilty of, and:
    • explain why some people might think that label is incorrect
    • explain how people targetted by this stereotype might be affected

Differentiation here would include variety in the number of sentences and/or vocabulary used and possibly a fill-in-the-blanks text.

Important Considerations

Consider the issue of sensitivity among your students. You could inform them ahead of time that you will be exploring a controversial subject matter and it is not your intention to upset anyone. However, if anyone is offended during the class, inform them they are free to speak to you or email you afterward. If any disclosures are made, you will need to follow your school’s child protection procedure.

Be aware that some students may express negative attitudes. It is important to allow them to voice their views and they should be probed, but this should be followed by clearly stating that as a community of learners, you don’t tolerate offensive and harmful attitudes and promote the importance of respect towards difference.

Sources