This guidance and drama unit offers students the opportunity to identify prejudices and understand how certain character traits such as tolerance, respect, and kindness affect their choice of behavior. Since this lesson addresses sensitive issues, teachers should avoid situations that could be hurtful to individuals or groups. This unit can be adapted to almost any age group or ability level.
A lesson plan for grades 6–8 English Language Development, Guidance, Healthful Living, and Theater Arts Education
- identify similarities and differences among each other with regard to physical/social differences, attitudes, abilities, likes, dislikes, etc.
- identify reasons people dislike others based on a personal injury or a prejudice.
- examine prejudicial situations in literature, tv, music, fairy tales, movies, historical and present times, and identify positive strategies which employ character traits such as kindness, courage, respect, and tolerance.
- become aware of how body language can communicate hostility and rejection or a more positive message. They also will understand how their choice of attitude expressed through body language and words affects the responses of others.
- create and perform everyday scenes which portray peer rejection. They will determine alternative positive outcomes based on respect, tolerance, and kindness.
Time required for lesson
- pencil and paper
- Intolerance, a film by D. W. Griffiths
- Diary of Anne Frank
- 8th grade literature text
- additional attachments found in the Supplemental section
Personal survey: The teacher will introduce the lesson by explaining that in the next few sessions, differences and diversity will be explored. To understand their current perspectives on differences, students will complete a personal survey to be repeated at the end of the unit. These pre- and post surveys will reflect attitudinal changes.
Up and down
- Tell the class that we will be discussing ways we are similar and different. To identify these ways, we will play a game, “Up and Down.” Students will stand up if a statement is true for them.
- Discuss with the class such questions as:
- Was anyone surprised by the results?
- Did you learn anything about your class?
- Discussion will conclude with the concepts that we are alike and different from each other. Differences can lead to disagreements. Everyone has choices how to handle differences and disagreements.
What’s your bias?
- Divide the class into small groups. Give each group chart paper and one marker. Select a timekeeper and a recorder to write down results. The group will brainstorm a list of why they might not like someone. Establish the rule beforehand to use no names; simply state the reasons. These might include name-calling, new student, nothing in common, irritating habits, etc.
- Teacher puts two sheets of chart paper on board. As each group shares their bias list, the teacher selects legitimate reasons for disliking someone,(i.e. a personal injury or insult) and writes those on one sheet. On the other sheet, reasons based on prejudice (e.g. group labeling, irrationality, etc.) are written. After modeling this technique, the class will understand how to place their items on the appropriate sheet as the teacher asks for them.
- Teacher will introduce the concept of prejudice and ask students to give their own definitions, which are then listed on the board. This might include labeling a group, stereotypes, jokes, slurs, negative body language, ignoring someone, etc. Teacher then shares a dictionary definition of prejudice.
- The teacher, wearing a large brimmed hat as a prop, if possible, leads the class discussion to recognize that prejudice is like putting on a huge hat. The hat blocks the vision of the wearer who only sees the big hat. The hat represents prejudice blocking one’s vision to see others as they really are. Prejudice has always been present in the world and challenges us to practice ways to show acceptance of differences.
- Other questions to discuss might include:
- Why do people sometimes show prejudice toward a group of people? (learned at home, follow the crowd, etc.)
- Why is it important to discuss prejudice?
- Review the concept of prejudice from Activity 2. Divide the class into small groups. Prepare each card with a different topic using characters from the following: movies (Shrek [physical appearance], The Hunchback of Notre Dame [disabilities], Aladdin [social class], Mulan [gender] or student choice), fairy tales (Cinderella, Tortoise and the Hare, etc.), music, TV (cartoons, sitcoms, etc.), historical times (the Holocaust, Native Americans, etc.), the present (school violence at Columbine, new students, new minority populations in a community, etc.).
- Give each group a card. Each group will identify a character from their topic and brainstorm all the ways that the character was put down or discriminated against. They should identify personal injury or prejudice for each situation and how it was handled by the character.
- Whole class discussion might include categorizing the prejudices noted on the cards such as position in the family (Cinderella), handicap (tortoise), racial (integration), socioeconomic (poor/rich), etc. Questions for the students could include:
- How do the people feel when they experience prejudice?
- How did they handle it? Why?
- How can you apply the character’s successful strategies (on cards) to present day situations?
- Does this remind you of anything in your own life? How?
- This is a nonverbal activity. Students work in pairs to create a “freeze frame” or statue that conveys two people in a situation of opposite intention/feeling using only body language. One student wants something and postures in a positive, requesting way. The other student postures in a negative/hostile rejecting way.
- Student discussion of each presentation follows (briefly or at length), giving feedback to what they see, interpreting how each person in the frame might feel. Actors then tell the class what the specific situation was which they demonstrated. Teacher can ask how reactions based on respect, kindness, and tolerance rather than rejection would make a difference.
Rejection dialogue scenes
- This is a role-playing activity. To get started, teacher should ask students for suggestions of “rejection” situations that may occur in school, reminding them of the earlier activity, “What’s your Bias?” Teacher divides class into groups of 3 or 4. Using the 5 Ws as a planning guide, have each group design a scene to act out about a person who is rejected by a peer (For examples, “Could I join you for lunch?” “Can we shoot some baskets?” “Want to go to the mall?”) when the answer is “no,” verbally, physically, or both).
- The scene should be 2-5 minutes long and should clearly communicate what each person wants and how each feels. Students should plan a beginning, middle, and end and make the scene believable, interesting, and relevant to their experience.
- The teacher should review the rubric after the activity is explained but before the planning begins.
- Follow-up: Teacher invites feedback on each scene, e.g. How did you (each character) feel and why? If you could rewind and replay your role, what could have been done differently to provide a more positive outcome? Where could traits such as tolerance, respect, and kindness be demonstrated?
- Writing follow-up (optional): Students are asked to write (rapidly and descriptively) their responses to the scene they just acted. The teacher gives students these writing prompts:
- The first prompt is “I just came from the ___________. (location of scene student played in). Describe the place, how it looked, felt, sounded, smelled, etc. Draw a picture of that place with words.”
- The next prompt is “Describe what happened. Include both points of view, what occurred between the two people, who wanted/did not want what, and why.”
- The last prompt is “How did you feel about your role and what happened to you and why? How did you feel about the other person and the outcome of the situation? Why did you think you were right?”
This writing activity could be expanded in a descriptive, expressive, or argumentative manner according to the teacher’s wishes.
Culminating evaluation activity
Each student will chose, plan, and present one of the following activities to express what has been learned about differentiating legitimate dislike from prejudice and how choices determine one’s behavior and others’ responses to them.
- Write a letter to your child explaining why you want him/her to make choices based on positive character traits rather than negativity and prejudice.
- Create a video, poster, rap, or rock song (words required, music optional), short story, series of cartoon strips, creative movement story or a three-scene performance (scripted or improvised and based on 5 Ws), which demonstrates learning from this unit.
- Re-administer the initial personal survey. Attitudinal changes will be evidenced between the pre/post survey. Through class discussion and group work students will be able to identify examples of prejudice and tolerance.
- Students in Freeze Frame activity will know how effective and clear their presentation was by the verbal response of the class and teacher.
- Use the rubric for the Rejection Dialogue Scenes.
Using the 5 Ws guide, have students (groups of 3–4) act out a scene from the Diary of Anne Frank (or a piece from the literature text book), which demonstrates the rejection/acceptance theme and exemplifies one or all of the character traits of tolerance, respect, and kindness. The same activity could be applied to numerous examples of literature or film, (e.g. Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, King and I, Intolerance) in which prejudice/rejection is a theme.
- Gardner, Howard. Frames Of Mind: The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books, 1983.
- The cornerstone supporting the rationale for arts integration in the curriculum and interdisciplinary learning.
- Kelner, Lenore Blank. The Creative Classroom. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann, 1993.
- An excellent guide for using creative drama in the classroom.
- Lewis, Barbara A. What Do You Stand For? A Kid’s Guide to Character Building. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., 1998.
- An excellent resource containing activities exemplifying character traits ready to usefor Middle Grade students.
- Nobleman, Roberta. 50 Projects For Creative Dramatics. Charlottesville, Virginia: New Plays, 1980.
- Good introductory exercises organized according to topics and easily accessible; an old stand-by.
- Renard, Sue and Sockol, Kay. Creative Drama: Enhancing Self-Concepts And Learning. Minneapolis, Mn.: Educational Media Corp., 1987.
- Easily accessible drama activities for K–8. Interdisciplinary units include language arts, theatre arts, social studies, science and health.
- Salazar, Laura Gardner. Teaching Dramatically, Learning Thematically. Charlottesville, Va.: New Plays Inc., 1995.
- Taking her inspiration from Dorothy Heathcote, Salazar structures thematic lessons for K–12. Her use of drama as a teaching tool is shaped by current research about multiple intelligences.
- Spolin, Viola. Theater Games For The Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook. Evanston, III.: Northwestern University Press, 1986.
- Improvisational drama games for teachers and students.
- Stanistreet, Grace. Letters To A Young Teacher. Charlottesville, Virginia: New Plays, 1984.
- This remarkable collection of letters reveals the fertile imagination and dedication this exceptional, pioneering drama educator who was a forerunner of the MI A+ Schools concept. Required reading for any teacher.
- Stewig, John Warren and Buege, Carol. Dramatizing Literature In Whole Language Classrooms. Williston, Vt.: Teachers College Press, 1994.
- Useful resource for integrating drama across the curriculum.
- Teaching Tolerance (magazine). 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery AL 36104; Tel: (334) 264-0286. On the Web.
- A National Education Project dedicated to helping teachers foster equity, respect, and understanding in the classroom. TT Mag is available free to teachers.
Read the fairy tales aloud; show cartoons and excerpts from other videos; provide knowledge of American culture; pair ELLs with other students to help complete surveys and activity cards; simplify the language and plot in the fairy tales.
ELLs should be allowed to create a poster depicting how feelings change about prejudice as a final product rather than write an essay.
Critical vocabulary should be taught through modeling and/or pictures and synonyms.
Because respect for differences is crucial to work and personal success in our changing world, our hope is that this unit will provide a tool for opening class discussions and individual perspectives on celebrating the differences in our classrooms, communities and the world. This unit is subjective, dealing with attitudes. Students must be led in the process of discovering their own viewpoints and broadening their understandings of diversity. They will ultimately be the teachers in the lesson, posing the questions, setting the pace, and reaching the conclusions.
Our concern about negativity among students based on prejudice and differences triggered the idea for this unit as well as the belief that a Multiple Intelligences approach to problem-solving can create student awareness and sensitivity and clarify their responsibility for their actions.
We would really like to hear your comments if you use our unit, which we created at NCCAT. Suggestions would be welcome. Thank you!
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Guidance (2010)
- EI.SE.2 Understand the relationship between self and others in the broader world. EI.SE.2.1 Exemplify respect for individual and cultural differences. EI.SE.2.2 Understand the importance of dependability, productivity, and initiative when working with others....
- P.SE.2 Understand the relationship between self and others in the broader world. P.SE.2.1 Interpret the meaning of self-concept. P.SE.2.2 Explain how understanding differences among people can increase self-understanding. P.SE.2.3 Use responsible risk-taking...
- Healthful Living (2010)
- 6.ICR.1 Understand healthy and effective interpersonal communication and relationships. 6.ICR.1.1 Classify behaviors as either productive or counterproductive to group functioning 6.ICR.1.2 Implement verbal and non-verbal communication skills that are effective...
- Theatre Arts Education (2010)
- 6.C.2 Use performance to communicate ideas and feelings. 6.C.2.1 Use improvisation and acting skills to role play various scenarios and given situations. 6.C.2.2 Interpret various selections of literature through formal and informal presentations.
- 7.C.2 Use performance to communicate ideas and feelings. 7.C.2.1 Use acting skills, such as observation, concentration, and characterization, to perform original scenes. 7.C.2.2 Interpret a character from literature through formal and informal presentations....
- 8.C.2 Use performance to communicate ideas and feelings. 8.C.2.1 Use acting skills, such as observation, concentration, and characterization, to perform original, written scenes. 8.C.2.2 Interpret multiple characters from literature through formal and informal...
- Guidance (2010)
North Carolina curriculum alignment
English Language Development (2005)
- Goal 7: Acquire the attitudes, knowledge, and interpersonal skills to help understand and respect self and others.
- Objective 7.11: Respect alternative points of view.
- Objective 7.12: Recognize, accept, respect, and appreciate ethnic, cultural, and individual diversity.
- Objective 7.13: Respect differences in various family configurations.
- Objective 7.15: Understand that communication involves speaking, listening, and nonverbal behavior.
Theatre Arts Education (2001)
- Goal 1: The learner will write based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history.
- Objective 1.02: Create written dramatic material based on original or established interdisciplinary prompts, personal experiences and historical events.
- Goal 2: The learner will act by interacting in improvisations and assuming roles.
- Objective 2.03: Utilize acting skills to study human behavior and conflict resolution.