Diversity Lesson

Contributed by The "Original" Mike Smith
From the DifferenceMakers' program, Building Community

Lesson 1

Stop Stereotyping

It is our natural tendency to fear those things we do not understand. When we are confronted with people who are different from us, whether that difference is body shape, culture, ethnic, religion, skin tone, gender, dress, economic background or what ever, we rely on our “learned” responses. We use our prejudgement ideas to control our behavior. We tend to react rather than act. Our reaction often triggers an equal but opposite reaction in the other person so the cycle of distrust and ignorance continues. To break that cycle we each must take on ourselves the task of NOT STEREOTYPING and not PREJUDGING those whom we do not know.


You will need enough playing cards or small sheets of paper numbered 1 to 10 for each participant.


1. As the participants enter the room place either a playing card or a numbered sheet of paper on their forehead in such a manner that they have no idea what number is on the card. They are to hold the label on their forehead as they mingle in the room.

2. Write the following instructions on the board: “Please do not look at your card. Do not sit down in your seat. Meet everyone in the class and treat them according to the label they are holding on their forehead. Aces (highest numbers) are most important while 2s (or lowest numbers)are least important. Your task is to determine from the way you are treated what your number is.

3. After 4 or 5 minutes of mingling ask the participants to line up according to what they think their number is from highest to lowest. Caution them not to help each other determine their position.


1. Have everyone look at their numbers and see if they were right.

2. Notice if anyone was lower or higher than their label and see why they put themselves there.

3. Ask the highest people how they felt. Act shocked that the they are not normally treated as aces. It should get a laugh.

4. Ask the lowest how they knew they were low. How did it feel?

5. Is anyone here lower than any other as human beings?

6. What makes us feel lower or superior?

7. Is it possible that people here believe themselves to be lowest? Why?


Paper and pencils


1. Divide the room into 3 person teams. Where possible have these teams of people who do not know each other well. Require the teams be gender mixed. All male groups will not participate as easily.

2. Take a minute to have the team members introduce themselves to each other. Have them share their favorite kind of music and their favorite recording artist with their teammates.

3. For the next (1) minute they are to list all the “official” or “organized” clubs and organizations available at this school.. To jump start them mention groups you know exist like: band, chess club, student government, National Honor Society. Offer a prize for the longest list. (Three pieces of hard candy would be enough.)

4. Have them count the number of groups they identified. Identify the longest list. For the next 5 minutes have that team read their list to the entire group to check their work.

5. Reward the effort.

6. Give the same teams another minute to develop a list of all the unofficial groups people belong to at this school. Offer the same reward. Jump start this list with: Jocks, preppies, etc.

7. Have them count their list. Here is the twist. Those things on their list are the stereotypes that they individually have. Those are the ideas we are attempting to stop.

8. Do not ask who had the most nor award the reward. Begin the discussion.

Discussion Questions

1. How many of you are in one of the “official clubs or organizations?”

2. How many are in more than one?

3. What prompts you to join such an organization?

4. What keeps those of you who do not, out?

5. What clubs or organizations should be offered here that are not? (Send those suggestions to the student government)

6. What “group” would you put yourself in from the second list?

7. Do you usually decide what kind of person someone is by the way they look?

8. Which people do you avoid meeting or working with?

9. Have you ever felt as someone made some unfair decisions about you based on your appearance?

10. If so, how did that feel?

11. How does that prejudgement affect our relationships with others?

12. Where did you get your stereotypes?


For today, just today, look at people who are different in appearance and tell yourself that they are worthwhile human beings, that they deserve to be there, and that they have contribution to make to our mutual well being. Smile at them instead of turning away. Look inside instead of out side. Remember that your prejudgements of others are no more accurate than theirs of you and how it felt to be prejudged. When you find yourself using those labels from your second list, actively say to yourself, “I will not stereo type anyone.” Smile and get to know them.