Lesson Plan: Don't Judge Me
Understanding the Power of a Stereotype

Activities and Procedures

1. Warm-up/Conversation Starters

Note to Educators: This lesson touches on a sensitive subject, and some words associated with negative stereotypes may come up in class during the suggested warm-up exercise. Students should be briefed on the difference between using such words in an academic versus a social setting, and should be advised to maintain a respectful environment throughout the lesson.

Provide students with a definition of “stereotype.” As a class, brainstorm a list of groups based on religion, race, ethnicity, or social standing (e.g.: geeks, jocks, punks, etc.) on the board.

Next, divide students into four groups and have each group generate a list of slang words or visual stereotypes associated with a particular social group (they may draw from the list on the board).

Then, reconvene as a class and have students share their lists and reflect on the exercise. Some reflection questions you might ask include:

  • Where did you hear or learn about these slang words and/or stereotypes? Are they positive, negative or neutral?
  • Do you know someone who is part of this group but doesn’t fit this stereotype?
  • Why do you think labels such as these exist in society?
  • How do stereotypes and labels harm the people they are used to describe?
  • What about the people who use them? How are they harmed by forming these stereotypes?
stereotype: “A generalization about what people are like; an exaggerated image of their characteristics without regard to individual attributes”

Tell students that they are going to examine the effects of stereotyping on one group of Americans—Muslim Americans.

2. Questions for Class Discussion

As a class, read and discuss the related chapters of This Is Where I Need To Be, focusing on the following:

  1. What is the critical event that these oral histories pinpoint as affecting the way the world views them? Find, highlight, or identify at least two quotes or examples to share with your classmates.
  2. As you read these chapters, make a list of the common stereotypes associated with Muslims that the authors repeatedly encounter. In other words, what does the world seem to think a “real Muslim” is?
  3. Is there a story in these oral histories that surprised you? That made you think differently about Muslim Americans than you did before? If yes, what is it? Explain how it affected you.
  4. What solutions do these authors propose to counter the stereotypes that they bump up against in their schools and communities? Which of these actions do you think would be most successful and why?
  5. Have you ever been in a situation similar to these authors where you have had to defend, justify, or explain your views, appearance, or behavior because another person assumed something about you? How did it feel?

Related resources for this lesson plan.

Facing History
A wealth of resources and articles are available at the website of this non-profit organization whose aim is to “engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and anti-semitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.”

Teachers Against Prejudice
A non-profit group which helps teachers address issues of sensitivity and respect concerning diversity in the classroom and provides trained professionals to teach students how to confront prejudice.

Five reasons to teach, This is Where I Need to Be.
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