Use this lesson plan to help students distinguish the difference between stereotypes and generalizations, explore stereotypes that they may hold about others, and practice how converting stereotypes into generalizations can help promote a more inclusive and open-minded society.
Worksheet & Brainstorm w/ Discussion
20-25 minutes total.
Stereotypes to Generalization Worksheet (1 per person)
Applicable Content Areas:
The activity is applicable in a wide variety of content areas, especially those that require use of critical thinking skills to draw evidence-based conclusions.
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Describe the difference between stereotypes and generalizations.
- List at least 3 distinguishing characteristics of generalizations and stereotypes.
- Identify stereotypes and generalizations in their respective communities and cultures.
- Convert stereotypes into generalizations.
Distribute Stereotypes and Generalization worksheet to each student.
Part 1: What are Stereotypes and Generalizations and how can you tell the difference?
- Begin by asking students to describe the difference between stereotypes and generalizations aloud. After a few responses, explain that stereotypes involve categorizing all members of a cultural group as having the same characteristics. For example, people from country X are lazy. Whereas generalizations involve categorizing members of a particular group as having similar characteristics. For example, typically people from country Z keep their emotions to themselves.
- Elaborate on this distinction by sharing that stereotypes are beliefs about others that are fixed and rigid while generalizations are more flexible. Stereotypes are resistant to new information whereas generalizations allow for the incorporation of new information and often serve as a helpful hypothesis for what to expect when interacting with members of a cultural group. Though stereotypes can be about positive (i.e., Asians are good at math) or negative traits (i.e., Americans are unhealthy), they are often a reflection of bias or discrimination against others, intentionally or unintentionally, by those using them. NOTE: For a quick and concise guide to these terms, check out our Culture Points-Stereotypes and Generalizations page to learn more.
- Next, direct students to Part #1 of the Stereotypes and Generalizations Worksheet. Using the information gained in the preceding discussion, give students about 2-3 minutes to read through each of the statements and decide whether it is a stereotype or generalization.
- After time is up, bring students back together in a large group to review their answers before continuing to Part #2 of the activity.
Part #1 ANSWER KEY
|a)||I’m 100% sure that geeks who would rather sit and read a book than play a sport.||Stereotype|
|b)||Jocks usually don’t have the best grades.||Generalization|
|c)||There tend to be more LGBTQ+ men in theatre than straight men.||Generalization|
|d)||All popular kids are mean.||Stereotype|
|e)||Typically, people with blonde hair are less intelligent.||Generalization|
|f)||Women are terrible drivers.||Stereotype|
NOTE: The use of key words can be additionally helpful in identifying the difference between stereotypes and generalizations. For example, stereotypes use words like all and everyone, where generalizations use more open-ended language such as typically, most, or generally.
Part #2: Converting stereotypes into generalizations.
- Now that students have a better understanding of the difference between stereotypes and generalizations, ask them to share some stereotypes that they have heard about a particular group of people. You could do this aloud as a large group while you make a list on the board, or have students write their responses on post-its and stick them in a shared location for all to review. NOTE: Responses could be a cultural group that they belong or know about, a group in their community, or even a broader group like all men or all women.
- Choose 7-10 stereotypes from the generated list and have students write them on Part #2 of the Stereotypes and Generalizations Worksheet in the heard stereotype column.
- Next, allow 2-3 minutes for students to rephrase each statement into a generalization, writing the new phrase into the generalization column on the worksheet.
- After time is up, go through each statement pairing and ask for students to share their work aloud (or in pairs), offering any clarification or guidance where necessary to round out the activity.
The goal of this lesson is to highlight the difference between stereotypes and generalizations and demonstrate how challenging it can be to transition from one way of thinking to the other. We all use stereotypes at one point or another. The important thing is that we become more conscious of their impact on others and don’t fall into a pattern of using them on an automatic basis.
At various points, throughout or as a follow-up to the activity, consider asking students the following questions to prompt rich discussion:
- How are the use stereotypes (even positive ones) harmful?
- How can generalizations be helpful?
- When can generalizations also become harmful?
- What are some key words that can help distinguish between a stereotype and a generalization?
- Where do stereotypes come from? (i.e., family, friends, our personal experiences, the media, internalized cultural ideas and beliefs…etc.)
- What can we do if we observe stereotypes being used against us or against someone around us? (i.e., ask clarifying questions, inform on the negative impact of stereotypes, or even educate others about the group referenced).
This lesson can easily be replicated virtually by assigning the worksheet as an asynchronous assignment prior to a synchronous review and group discussion. In lieu of a worksheet, you may also present animated PowerPoint slides for Part #1 of the activity and use Google Jamboard or Padlet for creating the class list of stereotypes in Part #2 of the activity. You may also consider using Flipgrid as a place for students to post their reflections to the follow-up questions.
Content Area Extensions
Educators may choose to intentionally include different stereotypes and generalizations about their subject matter on the worksheet. For example, a math teacher might want to include statements like “All people of Asian descent are good at math” or “Typically people who like math are nerds”. An English teacher might include statements like “People who read have no social life” or “X group of people tend to have poor grammar”. And world language teachers could include statements about those who are good at learning languages, or about the target culture being studied.