Overview: Do your students know if they belong to a “me” or “we” culture? This lesson teaches students about collectivist and individualistic cultures in a simple and digestible manner while prompting rich discussion. Lead into your next unit with this activity using the discussion prompts and teacher notes.

To access the video recording of the webinar detailing this lesson, please click here.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will reflect on how they view themselves and connect it to their relationships and culture. 
  • Students will reflect on how individualistic or collectivistic tendencies in societies are reflected in the ways that people describe themselves. 

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the activity, students will be able to… 

  • Describe the differences between individualistic and collectivistic cultures and identify behaviors associated with each. 
  • Identify their own tendencies toward individualistic or collectivistic culture and that of their home culture. 

Directions:

  1. Give worksheet (digital version or downloadable version to print) to students with the following instructions:
  • Please complete these 10 sentences as quickly as you can. 
  • Once you complete all 10 sentences, then decide which are your top 3 sentences (i.e. which are the 3 most important ways that you view yourself). 
  • Rank your remaining 7 sentences. 
  • Rewrite your 10 sentences in order (#1 is most important; #10 is least important). 

2. Have students share their work on the assigned online learning platform if delivering the lesson virtually.

3. Have students watch short video about “Individualism & Collectivism”

4. Lead students in discussion on the assigned learning platform.

5. Close with ‘Lesson Debrief’ (on p. 2).

6. Extension activity: Have students draw or illustrate their top 3 sentences. 

Discussion:

  1. How many of your sentences focus on your identity as it relates to personal characteristics such as your age, appearance, personality etc.? (ex: I am athletic, I am 14 years old, I am quiet, I am tall, I am funny etc.)
  2. How many of your sentences focus on your identity as it relates to your interpersonal characteristics, such as your roles or relationships with others and/or society? (ex: I am on the soccer team, I am a Texan, I am Asian-American, I am a student at Central School, I am a cousin/grandchild/sibling, I am a baseball fan, I am a Girl Scout etc.) 
  3. Looking at your top 3 sentences, how many are about your personal characteristics? How many are about your interpersonal characteristics?
  4. Describe how and why you view yourself as being more individualistic OR collectivistic*? *See Notes for additional details of each cultural value/characteristic. 
  5. Describe how your life and experiences may have influenced the way that you identify and view yourself.
  6. What similarities or differences did you notice about other students’ sentences?

Lesson Debrief: 

  1. It is important to remember that many people and cultures appreciate both individualistic behaviors (ex: respecting other people’s privacy) as well as collectivistic behaviors (ex: helping other people in your community).
  2. Of course, while we are all individual people/humans, we should also remember that all people and cultures are connected, both locally and globally.
  3. Individual and collective behaviors and decisions can impact both ourselves as well as other cultures and groups of people.
  4. This global pandemic has highlighted that we, as humans, are all interconnected in many hidden and complex ways.
  5. So, it is important that we respect, live and work with others collectively for society to function and thrive, with the hope of spreading global peace and understanding.

Notes:

  • Individualistic cultures tend to focus on “ME”. The value of ‘Individualism’ includes setting individual goals and actions that help individuals instead of the whole group; working independently and often competitively; making choices based on what you personally need, want, like, and dislike; and focusing on your personal needs first. 
  • Collectivistic cultures tend to focus on “WE”. The value of ‘Collectivism’ stresses goals and actions that benefit the whole group or society; collaborating and working as a team; making choices based on what the whole group needs, wants, likes, or dislikes – even if that might not be your personal preference; and focusing on the groups’ overall needs first. 
  • The generalized geographic clusters of individualism are often found in Anglo [i.e. English-speaking] countries (ex: the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. etc.), Germanic Europe, and Nordic Europe. 
  • Geographic clusters for collectivism are often found in Arab countries, Latin America, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Helpful Resource: Compare five countries’ cultural values at a time with this website

Extension in the content area:

Language Arts: After students have processed the activity and understand the behaviors of both types of culture, have them write a persuasive essay to convince people to move from one to the other. This could also be done in the form of a debate in class for a speech class. 

Social Studies: Have students consider what country/cultures they are studying (or have studied) throughout the year and provide evidence regarding which one is more representative of an individualistic or collectivistic culture. They will need to provide evidence from what you have studied in class and/or do research to learn more about that country. Students can share in small groups or in a whole class discussion/debate. 

Science: Pose a scientific situation that would span multiple countries across the world. Have students consider what approach an individualistic and a collectivistic culture would approach that situation. For example, if you select something like deforestation, extinction of a species of animal or clean water, as students are processing potential solutions, they can consider if they are approaching the solution as an individualistic thinker or a collectivistic thinker. Then ask students to revisit their proposals with the other cultural lens on! The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are a great place to find materials that support global challenges that tie to the sciences. Materials can be found in multiple languages in case you have English Learners. 

World Language: This activity can easily be done by novice learners in the target language using simple structures and is easily tied to the ACTFL Standards for interpersonal, presentational, and intercultural communication. The debrief of this activity could be done in the target language with some scaffolding and after the students have grasped the basics of the difference between the two cultures. [Here is a similar (more advanced) video to compare individualistic and collectivistic cultures in Spanish.] 

Family and Consumer Sciences: In their area of study (Consumer Economics, Child Development, Clothing and Textiles), have students consider the implications of doing business with or interacting with others from the other type of culture and what potential culture clashes could arise. Have students make a list of things to share with their future colleagues or employees who would need to understand how to accommodate others from the other type of cultural background that respects their background and culture. Another option would be for students to consider how the values system in their culture and of another culture impact one aspect of industry and what they would need to do if they went to work in that industry in the other culture to adjust. 

P.E. & Wellness: Have students interview someone from another culture and ask how they are graded in PE classes and celebrated after a “win” in a sports game. Have students reflect on how that would make them feel if they were to be celebrated in the same way that they learn from their counterpart. 

Mathematics: Have students find the statistics on the most popular sports or activities per country and compare that with whether they are an individualistic or collectivist culture. Correlation or Causation? 

For more lesson plan ideas, please visit the AFS-USA Teacher’s Toolbox.

For questions, comments or suggestions, please email us at [email protected]

Download Lesson Plan

Defining Myself 

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Ranking: 

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