by Felisa Tibbitts, Human Rights Education Associates



1. Select a general topic or theme.

The topic could be from a current event (such as a political election), a theme that is of interest to you (tolerance) or an issue required in the formal curriculum (civil society in modern democracies).


2. Decide what goals you have for your students, in the development in the cognitive (intellectual), affective (attitude and values-oriented) and skill (for example, listening skills or ability to see more than one side of an issue) domains. Write these down.


3. Choose your (inspirational) materials(s) or modes of instruction. It might help to focus on a core activity, around which the lesson will be built. This activity might involve conventional activities such as students reading text and responding to it in discussion and essays, or less conventional activities such as a research project, the use of newspapers, the organization of a debate, or the writing of a poem.


4. Write out in an outline form the activities that you would like for the lesson. As you develop the activities of the individual lesson, you might think about the following overall structure:


5. Add prerequisite knowledge, suggestions for evaluation procedures, and estimated time for each procedure.


6. When you are finished fleshing out the lesson, return to your list of original goals for your students to see if you have touched upon them all in the lesson or set of lessons. Think about having an overall balance between discussion, thought, and action in the classroom environment.

Sample lesson on stereotyping:


Learning objectives.

Students will distinguish between generalizations and stereotypes

Students will identify examples of stereotypes in their local media

Students will develop sensitivities for those groups that are negatively stereotyped

Prerequisite knowledge

Some general understanding of culture, and generalizations and stereotypes.


Blackboard, large sheets of paper (optional)

Newspapers and magazines

Learning sequence

The teacher writes on the blackboard certain categories of people (old person, girl, boy, handicapped person) and asks students to volunteer aloud adjectives that define these groups of people. Write these on the blackboard.

The teacher summarizes these views, looking for internal consistency within categories, and deciding with the students if the attributes mentioned are positive, negative or neutral.

The teacher makes the distinction between a generalization and a stereotype.

The teacher asks the students: where do you think that you got these views? From their own experience, or based on that they have read or seen in the mass media, or heard from family and friends?

Ask the students to break into groups of five or six. Each group can be given a newspaper and magazine, or groups can consider different mass media, including popular television shows or books. Students are to go through the materials, looking for representations of certain groups -- both textual and visual. The groups could be the ones used before on the blackboard, but also some other groups known to be discriminated against in that particular society. Stereotypes could be positive, negative or neutral in nature.

The class as a whole is asked to answer the following questions: What similarities did you find between the groups that were positively stereotyped? Between those that were negatively stereotyped? The teacher might take the opportunity to point out that (a) generalizations about certain groups are negative, and these can be called prejudices;and (b) negative generalizations about whole groups of people are often not based on actual, personal contact with the group.

What are the sources of these stereotypes?

What conclusions can be drawn about generalizations and stereotyped, based on the day=s exercise?

(For example, that generalizations and stereotypes are found in many parts of the culture, in mass media, in the opinions of friends and family. That negative stereotypes are based on fear, and positive ones on envy.)


As an assignment, students might write a short essay about an occasion when they felt that they were stereotyped in either a positive or negative way. How did this make them feel?

Sample evaluation criteria

- contribution of individual students to class discussion
- cooperative participation of individual students in group work
- result of group work (group mark)
- essay assignment

7. When conducting the lesson, be somewhat flexible in how you carry it out. Some aspects will excite students more than others; you might be surprised to discover certain discussions or activities much richer than expected in terms of student engagement and learning. A lesson should be designed as "an accordion" -- with individual parts able to be expanded or contracted depending upon the response of the students. After trying the lesson, make notes and adjustments for yourself so that these can be taken into account in the next round!


8. The above steps would be adapted if you were integrating a lesson into a preexisting curricular program (so that the lesson would need to be shortened to, say, 15 minutes) or if you had the possibility to developed a series of lessons on a particular themes.

If you are interested to integrate a human rights-related theme within an existing course, such as literature, science or history, you might develop a mini-lesson that would take up only a portion of the entire class period. For example, if you would like to address the issue of tolerance, in a literature class, a certain reading could be assigned that takes up this issue; you could then lead a discussion on this topic, ask students to write a reflection essay, and so forth.

In history, pointed question could be inserted. Do we know of any examples in modern history where tolerance has not been exerted? What are the results? Wars and genocide could be mentioned, and even ethnic or religious tensions within the country itself.

In science, when discussing the topic of the validity of scientific methods, you might mention times when questionable science was used to justify world views (such as the intellectual inferiority of the Negro and the emotional instability of women.

You can always be looking for opportunities in their curriculum to promote human rights ethics, highlighting for students situations involving justice, respect, tolerance, honesty, and moral courage.


Human Rights Education Associates

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