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Unit 1

The Voices of Stereotypes


  • Examine the concept of stereotyping.
  • Understand how assumptions can lead to stereotypes and unfair judgments about individuals and groups.
  • Recognize the ways that stereotypes and biases affect everyone.

Print the UNIT 1 Lesson Plan as PDF


  • Video 1
  • Lesson Plan
  • Video Discussion Guide
  • Choose Your Voice Student Pledge Certificate
  • Rubric 1


Print the UNIT 1 Glossary as PDF

“No matter the languages we speak or the colour of our skin, we share ancestors with those who planted rice on the banks of the Yangtze, who first domesticated horses on the steppes of the Ukraine, who hunted giant sloths in the forests of North and South America, and who laboured to build the Great Pyramid of Khufu.”

– Olson & Chang, 2004

Unit 1 Lesson Plan

This unit begins with a video and classroom discussion about everyday expressions of prejudice such as name calling. Students explore gender stereotypes and other generalizations that can lead to prejudice. They then write about their own experiences with stereotyping, be they personal, witnessed, or viewed in the media.


Ben Mulroney

Video Discussion Guide

Ask students to consider and discuss the following questions:

  1. The playground chant, “Sticks and stones will break my bones. But names will never hurt me” is supposed to protect kids from the effects of name calling. But the boy in the video, Josh Vernon, said that bruises heal, but insults never do. What did he mean by this? Do you agree? Disagree?
  2. In the video, Holocaust survivor Nate Leipciger says that, “Even calling names is dangerous.” What connection can you see between calling names and the images of genocide in the video? (To help stimulate classroom discussion, you can write the quotation above by James M. Smith on the board.)
  3. How can you stand up to name-calling and bigotry? (Some examples include: have something to say in mind before an incident happens; set limits and let the person know you won’t accept their comments in your presence; lead by example and inspire others to do the same.)
  4. Maurice Switzer of the Union of Ontario Indians spoke of the difficult experience he had growing up as an Aboriginal person and gave the example of a classmate who did an “Indian war whoop” whenever he entered the classroom. How would you feel/act as a member of a class in which this happened? What should a teacher do in response to this behaviour?
  5. Len Rudner says in the video that, “We are all responsible for the world we live in.” What is your world? Family? Classroom? Circle of friends? Do you witness incidents of stereotyping or victimizing in your world that make you uncomfortable? How do you react in these situations?


Explore gender stereotypes

1. Write the words “boys” and “girls” on the board in a two-column chart. Have students set up a piece of writing paper in the same way.

Ask students to individually write words or phrases that describe the qualities or characteristics of males under the word “boys” and of females under the word “girls.” Generate a few entries for each column. For example, students might suggest words such as “active,” “loves sports,” and “strong” for boys, and “loving,” “likes music,” “cries” for girls. Do not be surprised if your list is primarily comprised of stereotypes; that is the focus of the activity. Give students time to compile their lists.



2. Have students work in small groups and share their lists with each other. Give each group time to think of additional words describing boys, and time to think of additional words describing girls.




Expand the conversation

1. Ask students to share what their groups have written and create a class list of words and phrases about girls and boys on the board. Once all of the students’ ideas have been recorded, ask them to review the list to see what kinds of questions and assumptions it raises. To stimulate the discussion, some of the following questions may be asked:

  • Do you agree with the way these lists of words describe girls and boys?
  • Are there any changes you would like to make?
  • Are there words that do not belong under their respective headings?
  • Are there words that should be in both columns?

2. Write these sentences on the board:

  • Boys are better at sports than girls.
  • Black people are really good dancers.
  • Old people are forgetful.
  • Jews and Mennonites are cheap.
  • Tall people are good basketball players.

Give students time to consider these phrases, then ask them to share their reactions. Record their reactions on the board (e.g., the statements are too general to be true).

Ask students a key question:

What would the world be like if everyone believed these generalizations?

Connect faulty generalizations such as those above to concepts of stereotyping and prejudice by having students suggest the consequences of believing such statements are true.

Teaching Consideration

  • Explain that it is unfair to make such generalized statements and connect these phrases with stereotyping.
  • Highlight that stereotypes that are directed towards people of a specific ethnicity are the backbone of bigotry.
  • Explain the difference between equity and equality when the discussion either makes direct reference to these concepts or when statements such as “we are all equal” arise. Emphasize that equality means everyone gets the same thing while equity means that everyone gets what she or he needs to achieve shared goals (i.e., we provide extra language support to English-language learners who have not yet learned to speak English well so that they have the same opportunities for school success as English-speaking students).



3. Write the word stereotype on the board and ask the students if they know what it means. Write the definition underneath the word.

Stereotype: A simplified, fixed idea that people have about what an individual or group of people is like.

Write the word prejudice on the board and ask the students if they know what it means. Write the definition underneath the word.

Prejudice: A negative or hostile belief that can be felt or expressed about a group or an individual in that group. To pre-judge based on stereotypes.

Ask students to return to their small groups and write down a few stereotypes or instances of prejudice that they have seen, heard and/or experienced. Ask groups to indicate those with which they are most familiar.



4. Begin to share group responses. Discuss with the whole class ways of refuting stereotypes and instances of prejudice. Focus on constructive solutions rather than those that may provoke negative and/or hostile reactions.



Debrief and Consolidate

Remind students that the purpose of this activity is not to blame ourselves for what we might have done or believed in the past or to blame others for what they do or believe. The activity also helps us to understand how anger and hatred can be perpetuated.

Ask students to reflect about the activity. What did they learn? Were there times during the activity that they felt angry or sad? How do stereotypes hurt people? Is anyone “safe” from stereotyping?




Ask students to write about incidents of stereotyping

Distribute and discuss the evaluation criteria before the students begin to work.

Write a story about a time in your own life when you were stereotyped or when you witnessed stereotyping. Include details about the event and describe how you felt and how you think the other person or people felt. Explain, using the example of your story, why you think stereotyping is wrong.


Research examples of stereotyping that you find in television commercials or magazine ads. Write a summary of TWO (2) commercials and/or ads that feature stereotypes. Using these examples, explain why you feel that promoting these kinds of stereotypes is wrong.

Please see the Curriculum Connections page for the evaluation criteria addressed in this unit.

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