Lesson Plan: Choices, Choices
Considering the Pros and Cons of Peer Pressure

Activities and Procedures

1. Warm-up/Conversation Starters

Place a large number of beans in a glass jar. Ask students to guess the number of beans in the jar and to anonymously write down their answers on a scrap of paper. Collect their responses. Then, divide the class into three groups and ask each group to guess the number of beans in the jar. Provide each group with a sheet of paper to write their response:

  • For Group 1: Provide some high estimates for them to consider
  • For Group 2: Provide some low estimates for them to consider
  • For Group 3: Provide no estimates for them to consider

Collect each group's response, and then tell them the correct answer. Ask students to consider how their guesses were affected by the estimates they were provided (or not). The results of this experiment should show that students were more likely to guess numbers in a certain range depending upon the estimate provided to their group.

Share with students the range of guesses that they individually came up with at the start of the activity (it should be quite wide). Ask the class: Did the group discussion sway your opinion one way or another? Why do you think so many of you came up with such a range of different answers when I originally asked you to just look at the jar and write down a number by yourselves?

Share with students that a similar experiment was originally conducted back in 1932 by psychologist Arthur Jenness who found that when the number of beans was estimated by people on their own there was quite a wide range of numbers given. However, when groups were given an estimate, the range of numbers grew narrower.

Ask: Why do you think that is?

Peer Pressure (n.): social pressure from members of a group to accept certain beliefs or act in certain ways in order to be accepted.

Share a definition of peer pressure with students. Then ask: In what other areas of your life do you feel influenced by your peers’ opinions or actions in both helpful and harmful ways? Make a list of responses on the board in two columns: “pros” and “cons.”

Wrap-up the activity by telling students that they are going to be reading and discussing oral histories that explore the impact of peer pressure on the experiences and self-esteem of young 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 types of peer pressure and temptations do the writers of “This Is Where I Need To Be” face? Make a list.
  2. Identify or highlight a passage that captures the conflict faced by one of the authors.
  3. How do these authors deal with the peer pressure in their lives? To what do they turn for strength or support?
  4. Did you come across any examples where peer pressure was a positive force in the lives of these authors? If yes, what and how?
  5. Were you able to identify with the experiences shared by these oral histories? Why or why not?

Related resources for this lesson plan.

Peer Pressure
An article in The Guardian about Solomon Asch’s famous peer pressure experiment in the 1950s.

Classroom resources on peer pressure from eMints National Center.

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