Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stereotypes - Controversial Topic to Raise Cultural Awareness

Much has been said about the dangers of generalization and stereotypying a certain group of people. Now, how do we approach it in the classroom?

Here's a lesson plan I've used it in the past with my groups. The first part is adapted from

  1. Choose two adjectives that you think describe different nationalities.
    • punctual
    • tolerant
    • romantic
    • respectful
    • hard-working
    • emotional
    • aloof
    • mean
    • honest
    • ardent
    • organized

    • outgoing
    • nationalistic
    • well-dressed
    • humorous
    • lazy
    • sophisticated
    • friendly
    • tedious
    • systematic
    • chaotic
    • unpleasant

    • aggressive
    • polite
    • rude
    • arrogant
    • ignorant
    • casual
    • refined
    • reliable
    • careless
    • unstable
    • dull
    • disciplined

    • hospitable
    • talkative
    • sociable
    • serious
    • quiet
    • formal
    • passionate
    • tender
    • uninsterested
    • cold
    • negligent
    • untidy/disorganized
    • messy

A- Warm -up 
  1. I show them photos of people that seem to come from a certain country and ask them to speculate where they are from and why they think they are from that nationality. 
  2. They share their ideas with the group. 
  3. Students group the adjectives above under categories (taste, attitude, feelings, organization, etc) and indicate which are positive or negative traits. Ask them to use the dictionary for unknown words

B - Vocabulary Practice
In groups, students complete the sentences with the adjectives listed above.

The British are regarded as being...
The French are portrayed as being...
The Germans are considered as being...
Italian men have a reputation of being...
The Swiss are said to be...
Brazilians are considered to be...

C - Discuss

1) Students regroup and compare their answers to see if they have come to the same conclusion. Share with the class.
2) Brainstorm common stereotypes that they have heard people use.
3) Questions to students: 
  • Was it easy to complete the sentences? Did your answers come naturally? Why? Why not?
  • Did the completed statements make you feel uncomfortable? Why? Why not?
  • In general, were your responses positive or negative?
  • List the stereotypes under positive, negative or neutral. What does this tell us about stereotypes?
D - Expansion
Fill in the following questionnaire on your own and later discuss it with your teacher and colleagues. You may use :
A= I agree B= I'm not sure C= I disagree
  • National stereotypes are dangerous because they may provoke racial prejudice.
  • Stereotypes contain a certain amount of truth.
  • There is no such thing as national character and therefore the idea of national stereotypes is rubbish.
  • The reason stereotypes exist is because people are afraid of diversity, change, and what is unknown. They prefer to cling to simple classifications, which maintain an old, familiar and established order.
  • Stereotypes are simply harmless sorts of jokes we tell about other nationalities or groups of people.
E - Further Discussion
  • What is, in your opinion, the best way to challenge a stereotype.
  • What you have seen here are national stereotypes. Can you think of other kinds of stereotypes?
  • What are the stereotypes about your own culture, nation, or people? Are they true? How are these stereotypes different from your own reality? What are your impressions about the Brazilians?
F - Global Voices 
Students listen to people discussing about stereotypes about their countries. 

Then, they might join a Voicethread discussion:

Or they can create posts trying to demystify common stereotypes about their countries, ilke this example from my students: 

Finally, tell students the true nationalities of the people portrayed in the photos they guessed in the beginning of the class. 


Check the international project that was the kick off for the original lesson plan, created by Barbara Dieu


  1. I am glad you have enjoyed the Stereotype lesson I created for my students, who at the time (2003) were participating in a Unesco international project. Voicethread and Voxpop did not exist so we exchanged information through a forum but it worked fine as well. In spite of the link rot, this is the outline of what we did:

  2. Dear Bee, as I mentioned to Robert in Google+, this is the magic of serendipity! The first time I used the lesson plan you created was before I met you! Then, I used other times and adapted it to the new technologies available. The topic is still up-to-date and I just rescued it after a long time...and am glad to have referenced it and to know you were the one behind it in the first place. I took a look at the project you've referred to just to prove that you've been always ahead of times! Fantastic.


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