This semester a colleague and I started a cross-cultural conversation hour on campus to provide a space for English learners to practice their conversational skills and for everyone who participates to share and learn different perspectives on the topic of the week. We surveyed to see what topics students were interested in discussing, and the topic of stereotypes was voted as a top choice. We came up with this sequence of activities to give students a chance to think about stereotypes, how they affect us, and what we can do to counter them. Whether you lead a conversation hour or are looking for an activity to do in your class, these activities are relevant and can help give students a chance to share their experiences and learn about the experiences of others.
Our conversation hour only runs for 50 minutes, so we were a bit limited on time. If you’re in a class, you could expand these activities. Even with only 50 minutes, students were able to engage in this activity, and many of them thanked us after. They found it to be a meaningful discussion Below is a description of our activity sequence and links to handouts.
1. Vocabulary – 5 minutes
- Ask if there are any vocabulary words they would like explained more and go over these.
2. Brainstorm – 10-15
- Put students into groups and hand out the stereotypes brainstorm sheet. Ask them to think of stereotypes they have heard about these different groups.
3. Adichie’s Single Story – 5-10 minutes
- Tell students about Adichie’s talk and explain that we are going to watch a part of her talk. Ask them to listen for her main idea.
4. Brainstorm Counter-Stories – 10-15 minutes
- Debrief Adichie’s talk. Surface the ideas of single stories and how it’s important to not just have one story.
- Ask students to turn over the original brainstorm sheet to the one that says “counter stories.” Ask them to share and write down counter stories that go against the stereotypes. For example, when we did this activity, one stereotype that had surfaced was that older people can’t use technology, but I gave the example that my grandmother who is well into her 70s uses Facebook, email, word processors etc. She’s quite proficient. That is a counter story. In the face of that counter story, it’s impossible to make the generalization that old people don’t know how to use technology.
5. Discussion Questions – Rest of time
- Finally, we talked about the discussion questions in small groups.
If you want to extend this activity sequence, a great followup is the stick figure activity. You can learn more about it here.