This lesson is part of my “From the Archives” series: 20 lessons in 20 weeks from 20 years of teaching. Enjoy!
I originally taught this lesson in my first year of teaching to 10th grade students. As part of a longer investigation into a “Teaching Tolerance” unit, I found my students were interchangeably using the words: “stereotype,” “prejudice,” and “discrimination.” This lesson was designed to help them build a conceptual framework around these words so that they could pay attention to and account for nuanced differences in language. Perhaps most importantly, I love the way this lesson is inductive. Rather than asking students to deduce a definition, it helps them learn how to construct a conceptual understanding about a word.
All that said, explaining this lesson on paper is kind of tricky, so I opted for a video version this week to show how the lesson evolves. If you listen to the video, you’ll also hear me talk about a lot of the “instructional moves” going on in my head when I use concept attainment lessons. I hope that “transparent talk” is helpful as you think about creating a concept attainment lesson of your own!
How I Used It Then
Originally, I used this lesson strictly to help students understand these words so they could start to apply them more effectively to the other work we were doing. Following this lesson, I expected to see these words in their writing and to hear them in discussion. It absolutely served that purpose!
How I’d Use it Now
In addition to the variations I offer at the end of the video, here are a few other ways I’d think about using this kind of a lesson in a sequence of learning.
- Variation PRE-READING: I can see so many applications for this kind of a lesson as part of a pre-reading strategy, especially for complex texts. It resonates as a pre-reading lesson because so rarely do the vocabulary lists of “words you’re about to encounter in the reading” actually work for me or my students. What they really need is a reservoir of background knowledge to become more careful readers. If this lesson is done slowly and with lots of conversation and examples, readers can certainly build that background.
- Variation WRITING PROMPT. Usually after the days when we do these kinds of lessons, students have a lot to say. They’ve just spent an entire class period working through some pretty interesting ideas and I often want them to capture that thinking before it leaves them. How about turning this into a writing prompt? Maybe something like…
- Write a letter to your parents explaining the difference between these three concepts.
- Write a letter to someone you’ve personally seen has being impacted by stereotype, prejudice or discrimination. What what would you say to that person today?
- Take one of the texts we’ve read so far this year (your choice!) and respond to a moment in it, using your new understanding of stereotype, prejudice or discrimination. What new insights do you have about the text today?
- Variation PRODUCTIVE GROUP WORK. Instead of making this a whole class lesson, create enough sets of “cards” for students to do a lot of this together in their small groups. Yes, you’ll still do the think alouds and I would probably have a version on our whiteboard that we’re coming back to as a whole class. HOWEVER, I think it’s far more powerful to have students be able to manipulate and move the cards into columns with a small team where they can delve more deeply into discussion and have more opportunities to verbalize their rationales and thinking.