Exploring Stereotypes: First Thoughts

(Grades 4-6)

Ask the class, What do we mean by "stereotype"? Elicit that a stereotype is a general statement about a group of people based on incomplete information.

Today we're going to explore stereotypes through an exercise called First Thoughts. Have the students work in groups of four. Each group needs a piece of chart paper and markers. In their groups the students write the word "teenager" in the middle of the chart paper and draw a circle around it. Then they fill the paper with their first thoughts about teenagers.

Give the groups five or ten minutes to complete their "first thoughts" charts. Then give each group a chance to share what they came up with. After all of the groups have presented, write "Teenagers" on the chalkboard, elicit from the class the main points that have emerged from their "first thoughts," and write them down. Your description might look something like this:

Teenagers:

  • like loud music
  • are addicted to junk food
  • talk on the telephone a lot
  • are rowdy, rude, and disrespectful
  • won't let anybody tell them what to do
  • are totally into themselves

Discuss:

  • Do some teenagers fit this description?
  • Do all teenagers fit this description?
  • Who can describe a teenager you know who is not like this?
  • Is it fair to say or imply that all teenagers are like this?
  • What negative results could come from people having stereotypes of teenagers?

You might repeat this exercise to explore stereotypes of senior citizens.