People’s values, norms and assumptions can often influence and explain their behaviors. This activity offers the opportunity to self-reflect on one’s own values and how these are reflected in one’s behaviors and beliefs.
20-30 minutes depending on the number of prompts given
Masking Tape, Permanent Marker, a large empty space for students to move about freely, Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions for AFS and Friends Handout Sheet (1 per student)
Applicable Content Areas:
Any content area that requires students to think critically and see different perspectives.
After this lesson, students will be able to:
- List at least three personal cultural preferences.
- Describe from where at least one personal cultural preference/belief originates.
- Explain the importance of being skeptical of stereotypes.
In a large empty space, use masking tape to put a wall-to-wall straight line on the floor with the center clearly indicated by permanent marker.
1. Share with students that a variety of cultural concepts can be viewed on a spectrum, where people from different backgrounds are likely to lean to one side over the other based on their values. Begin reading two statements aloud and ask students to place themselves along the tape line according to which statement they most agree. Be sure to indicate which side of the spectrum is which so that students can navigate easily to their chosen position. Students may stand anywhere on the line (i.e., closer to the middle or one end of the spectrum) based on their level of agreement but may not stand directly in the center.
- Statement #1: Planning in advance is important.
- Statement #2: Being spontaneous is important.
2. Once all students have settled on a position, explain that this set of statements corresponds to a monochronic vs. polychronic time orientation. Students who resonated more with statement #1 likely lean monochronic, meaning they tend to view time as a controllable commodity and emphasize time management, scheduling, and efficiency. They may also prefer doing one thing at a time.
Students who identified more with statement #2 likely lean polychronic, meaning they tend to view time as less rigid and as a more natural and cyclical phenomenon. They may also emphasize relationships over tasks.
3. Continue this pattern of asking students to place themselves on the spectrum as different sets of statements are read aloud. In no specific order, consider including as many of the below styles as time permits:
Short- vs. Long-term Time Orientation
Statement #1: Living in the moment is important.
- Short-term Orientation: cultures tend to view time as a limited commodity and prioritize opportunities for immediate gratification.
Statement #2: Preparing for the future is important.
- Long-term Orientation: cultures tend to consider the bigger picture and prioritize saving in anticipation for the future, even if it means missing out on present day moments.
Statement #1: Doing things quickly, but not perfectly, is important.
- Short-term Orientation: cultures tend to focus on quick resolve rather than traditional standards or expectations.
Statement #2: Doing things slowly, so they are perfect, is important.
- Long-term Orientation: cultures tend to focus on social relationships, quality instead of quantity, and doing things in a traditional way or to a certain standard.
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Statement #1: Doing what benefits me is important.
- Individualism: people tend to have an independent view of themselves, see themselves as separate from others, define themselves based on their unique personal characteristics.
Statement #2: Doing what benefits others is important.
- Collectivism: people tend to have an interdependent view of themselves, see themselves as connected to others, define themselves in terms of relationships with others.
Statement #1: Borrowing without permission is important.
- Collectivism: cultures tend to emphasize sharing and group ownership.
Statement #2: Asking before borrowing is important.
- Individualism: cultures tend to emphasize individual usage and private ownership.
Statement #1: Cooperation is important.
- Collectivism: cultures tend to emphasize teamwork and success of the group.
Statement #2: Competition is important.
- Individualism: cultures tend to emphasize working independently and individual achievement.
Interested in a quick and concise guide to these terms? Check out our Culture Points-Individualism vs. Collectivism page to learn more.
Indirect communication vs. Direct communication
Statement #1: Being polite is important.
- Indirect: communicators tend to use nonverbal behaviors and understated/implied speech because the goal of communication is to maintain harmony and avoid tension.
Statement #2: Telling the truth is important.
- Direct: communicators tend to say what they think because the goal of communication is to convey the message clearly.
Statement #1: Communicating with words is important.
- Direct: people tend to express their needs, desires and true intentions.
Statement #2: Communicating with body language is important.
- Indirect: people tend to hide/repress their needs, desires and true intentions.
Interested in a quick and concise guide to these terms? Check out our Culture Points-Direct vs. Indirect Communication page to learn more.
Task-oriented vs. Relationship-oriented
Statement #1: School is a place to study and learn.
- Task-oriented: cultures tend to emphasize achieving goals and responsibilities independently.
Statement #2: School is a place to socialize and make friends.
- Relationship-oriented: cultures tend to emphasize establishing and maintaining human relationships.
Emotive vs. Reflective
Statement #1: Showing emotion is important.
- Emotive: people tend to speak quickly and share their feelings/personal views openly—“I wear my heart on my sleeve”.
Statement #2: Not showing emotion is important.
- Reflective: people tend to speak slowly and hide their feelings/personal views.
Contact vs. Non-contact
Statement #1: Physical contact makes me comfortable.
- Contact: cultures tend to stand close together and touch frequently when they interact together.
Statement #2: Physical contact makes me uncomfortable.
- Non-contact: cultures tend to maintain more personal space and touch infrequently when they interact.
Egalitarian vs. Hierarchal
Statement #1: Direct eye contact is comfortable.
- Egalitarian (Low-Power Distance): cultures tend to view all members as equal, and everyone is expected to show respect and concern for everyone else.
Statement #2: Direct eye contact is uncomfortable.
- Hierarchal (High-Power Distance): cultures tend to have a clear social order, and lower status members are expected to be modest, respectful and have self-control.
4. Once you have read all of the listed statement pairs, or as many as your timing allows, call the students back together for a large or small group discussion.
The goal of this lesson was to highlight how students’ behaviors and beliefs are heavily influenced by our culture and background. Consider asking students the following question to prompt discussion:
- Which prompts were easiest to decide between? The most difficult? Why?
- Can you point to any experiences or people that influenced your preferences? Explain.
- How and when would you adapt your preferences based on circumstances, if at all?
- What does it say about US culture that all students were standing in the same location? Different locations?
- How could you incorporate the insights gained from this activity into your everyday interactions with others? How about with those from a different cultural background?
Lesson Plan Alternative:
Depending on space constraints, it may not be feasible to have students physically place themselves on the spectrum. Instead, consider using large pieces of Flipchart Paper to draw and label each spectrum you plan to use. Give each student a set of dot stickers and ask them to write their initials on each one. Then have students use these stickers to indicate where they would place themselves on each respective Flipchart paper. If you don’t have dot stickers, you can also have students use a marker to write their initials on the line.
This activity can also very easily be replicated online using Google Jamboard. Teachers would replicate each series of statement spectrums/labels in Google Jamboard prior to the beginning of the lesson. Then, each student would create a Post-it with their name or initials on it to drag and drop in real-time where they would place themselves on each spectrum.