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McREL Standards Activity

Walking Around in Another’s Shoes

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will be able to 1)understand and explore what it is like to be a member of another social group, and 2)understand what stereotypes are and analyze the accuracy with which they are used to represent groups of people.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
Behavioral Studies
 Standard 2.Understands various meanings of social group, general implications of group membership, and different ways that groups function
   Level III [Grade 6-8]
   Benchmark 4. Understands that people sometimes react to all members of a group as though they were the same and perceive in their behavior only those qualities that fit preconceptions of the group (i.e., stereotyping) which leads to uncritical judgments (e.g., showing blind respect for members of some groups and equally blind disrespect for members of other groups)
Student Product:Creation of a list and class discussion
Material & Resources:No special resources required for this activity.
Teacher's Note:No supplementary notes for this activity.
Discuss with the class some examples of how various social groups (e.g., formed by gender, ethnicity, race, age, ability) are stereotyped. Ask the class the following questions: Why does stereotyping occur? How do generalizations about one person or one quality of a person grow into cultural stereotypes? What are some of the different ways in which stereotypes affect people (e.g., emotionally, socially, economically)? Have students brainstorm examples of stereotypes about age, ethnicity, gender, and so on. List these on the chalkboard. Have students create a list of what their daily life is like as a member of their age, gender, and ethnic group. This list will help them compare their real life to the imagined life of a different group. If possible, the teacher should have lists from other groups of people (perhaps other teachers of different ethnic or gender groups could create lists of their experiences to give to the instructor). After discussing stereotyping, ask the class to imagine that they are a member of a different social group. Assign some students the task of imagining that they are young women instead of men or young men instead of women. Others might imagine that they have a disability of some kind; perhaps they might be vision or hearing-impaired or do not have the use of a limb. Still others should imagine that they are a member of a different ethnicity or have moved to the region from another country or another part of the United States. When all the students have been assigned a "new identity," ask students to go through a day thinking about all of the ways in which their lives would be different if they were a member of this different group. Tell them to write a list of all of the things that would be different throughout the course of this day. This list should focus on every detail of their day, from getting up in the morning and preparing for school to going home and going to bed at night. How would they behave differently under these conditions? Would they behave differently at all? A few days later, once all of the lists have been completed, have a discussion in class about what the lists may reveal about the behaviors and social perceptions of different groups of people. What do these differences (or lack of differences) reveal about different social groups? What do these explorations reveal about the falsity of stereotyping groups of people? If the climate of the classroom allows for personal sharing, have the students compare their real life experiences (or the lists provided by the teacher) to the perceived experiences of their peers.