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Classroom Activities Appropriate for Response to September 11, 2001

These activities are geared at enhancing racial, cultural, and religious understanding and are adapted from our teachers' resource manual, CELEBRATING RACIAL DIVERSITY.  We hope you find them helpful.

#1: Activity For Older Students


The questions below refer to your own racial experiences and background. After the questions have been answered, use them as a basis for group discussion.

  1. What is the racial composition of the people with whom you go to school?
  2. What is the racial composition of the neighborhood in which you live?
  3. What has been the racial character of your educational experience(Racial identity of fellow students, teachers, etc.).
  4. Have any previous living or working experiences put you in contact with a significant number of people from a racial group other than your own? (If there are many of these experiences, list just the last three.)
  5. What notable African American person do you admire the most
    a. in your own area/city
    b. on a national scale
  6. Answer question #5 in terms of:
    -Hispanic   (local; national)
    -Native American   (local; national)
    -Asian  (local; national)
    -Jewish   (local; national)
    -Arab   (local; national)
    -Muslim   (local; national)
    -Caucasian   (local; national)
  7. Name one experience that has had a positive impact on your racial attitudes.
  8. Using the scale below, how would you assess your own racial experiences background?

Totally your own race                                     Totally multi-racial


l           2            3           4           5            6            7            8              9              10

    9.    Where would you like to be on that scale 5 years from now?
   10.   What one thing can you do now to move yourself toward that point?

#2: Activity for Older Students


Instructions: Ask students to write the appropriate number indicating their level of acceptance of that particular group in the space provided. For example, before Chinese, they may wish to write the number 7 if they would be willing for their sister or brother to marry (or date) a Chinese person. They should write only one number before each group.


l.    I would not let them in my country.
2.   I would let them in my country but only as visitors.
3.   I would let them become citizens in my country.
4.   I would welcome them as classmates in my school.
5.   I would welcome them as neighbors on my street.
6.   I would let them in my club as personal friends.
7.   I would be willing for my sister or brother to marry (or date) them.


______ Arabs                  ______ Italians
______ Blacks                 ______ Japanese
______ Canadians           ______ Japanese-Americans
______ Catholics             ______ Jews
______ Chinese               ______ Mexicans
______ Chicanos             ______ Muslims
______ Indians (US)        ______ Puerto Ricans
______ Indians (India)     ______ Russians
______ Irish                    ______ Whites

(Adapted from Gary E. McCuen's THE RACIST READER, Anoka, Minnesota: Greenhaven Press, l974. Found in THE PREJUDICE BOOK by David Shiman and used with the permission of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith).

#3: Activity for Middle Grade and Older Students


Teacher Background

"Africans are cannibals". "Blacks are lazy". "Chinese have slits for eyes". "Indians wear feathers". "Jews are avaricious." "Arabs are terrorists." Educators and parents have been dealing with these familiar statements for many years. The statements uttered by both children and adults are examples of stereotypes or stereotypic thinking. A racial-cultural stereotype can be defined as "an untruth or oversimplification about the traits and behaviors common to an entire people." Stereotypes tend to screen out perceptions which run counter to the oversimplification.

Besides giving an impression about people that is inaccurate, some stereotypes are used to keep people in subordinate positions. For example, the stereotype "Blacks are lazy" translates into "they can't be counted on to do certain kinds of work." Therefore, "we won't hire them," and, therefore, African American people remain unemployed. Or...."Indians are not capable of handling money" which translates into "we must handle their money for them, run their schools, administer their grants, etc." And, therefore, Indian people continue to remain in a dependent, and extremely vulnerable, position.

Or, especially because of current happenings, thinking that all Arab people are terrorists has tremendous implications in terms of their civil liberties, as well as in terms of U. S. foreign policy.


1.  Using a list of cultural, racial and/or religious groups, ask students to write the first few words that come to their minds as you read off the words. Examples of words: Jew, Mexican, Chinese, Apache, Polish, Indian, Arab, British, Black, Nigerian, Muslim. (Any groups could be used.) Have the students read their lists to the class. Then talk about where we get our ideas about other people. How many of our ideas are stereotyped?



I. Utilizing the lists of stereotypes:

A. Identify with an X all of the stereotypes on the list that you have believed in the past, but no longer believe today.

B. Identify with a check ( ) all the stereotypes that you now believe, or are unsure about.

II. Look at those items marked as something you believed in the past, but no longer believe today (e.g., Africans are cannibals). Then answer these questions:

A. What caused my original attitude? For example:
l. television
2. comic books

B. What caused me to change my attitude? For example:
l. meeting an African person
2. travel

Discuss your answers with one other person and then with the entire group or class.

III. Discuss the following questions:

A. Are there common sources for stereotyped attitudes once held by class members?

Post these.

B. Are there common ways in which these attitudes have changed? (Post these).

C. After discussing the two previous questions, devise strategies about how to change our own attitudes or those of others.

IV. Look at the attitudes that you now believe. Answer these questions:

A. What factors make me think this may be true?

B. Are there any factors that make me doubt that it's true?

C. What information do I need to know?

D. Where can I obtain this information?

Discuss your answers with one other person in the class, and then with the class as a whole

2.  Set up situations, learning activities, reading assignments, guest speakers, field trips, visual displays, etc., that will directly counter stereotypes. For example, have a guest speaker come to class to share with the students different facets of technological development in any one of a number of African nations, or someone who could talk about how important peace and non-violence are to people of the Islamic faith.

#4: Activities for All Ages


Teacher Background

Teachers and parents need guidelines that are applicable to written and visual material. To multiculturalize a school or home library means more than stocking it with books that deal with a variety of racial groups. The quality of multicultural literature is the important factor. What kind of image is portrayed by the various racial groups in these books?

Young people's books should be allies in the struggle to promote the rights of all people. They need to look ahead to a world where all people are respected and affirmed for who they are. We would suggest the following criteria as guides in selecting books that are a part of a "multicultural" library. The books may contain all of these elements, or only one or two. The books should:

  • Present authentic information about different cultures.
  • Counter racial stereotypes.
  • Depict people of different racial/cultural groups in non-stereotypic ways in everyday situations and settings.
  • Offer positive role models or heroes from different racial/cultural groups.
  • Explain racism and its effects and show examples of people working against racism.


l. Criteria or guidelines to be used in the selection of books are an important aid. The guidelines on the student worksheet entitled "Critiquing Children's Books" can be used by students in evaluating books. Students could evaluate books for younger students as well as for themselves.

2.  Writing letters to publishers of books, as well as to curriculum and library selectors, is a good way for students to get some practice in dialoging with people in power, and in clarifying their own views.



I. Check the visuals

a. How many of the pictures are of people of color?
b. Are there pictures of people of color helping Whites?
c. Do any of the visuals reflect stereotypes?

II. Check the language

a. Do the words themselves reinforce stereotypes and build negative images of people?  (e.g., "savage hordes of Indians", "inscrutable Chinese").

b. Do the characters' names reflect a variety of racial cultural backgrounds? (e.g., Ms. Gonzalez, Mr. Ogura, Ms. Ortiz, Mr. Walkingstick, Ms. Kaminski, etc.)

III. Check the lifestyles portrayed

a. Are the lifestyles of people of color portrayed only in a very narrow scope (e.g., Blacks|and Puerto Ricans living in poverty, Native Americans dealing with alcoholism, Chicanos as migrant laborers, etc.)?

b. Are there lifestyles presented which would act as counterforces to stereotypes (e.g., African American families with two parents, strong Asian women who are neither "China dolls" nor "sexy dragon-ladies", African people who have advanced artistic and intellectual capabilities)?

c. Are the lifestyles and situations of people of color presented as inferior to Whites?

IV. Check the heroes and other role models

a. Are people shown who have worked and are working for the rights of their own racial group? (e.g., Paul Robeson, Cesar Chavez, Julius Nyerere, Patsy Mink, Mahatma Gandhi, etc.)

b. Are people of color shown in positions of authority?

V. Look at the relationships between people

a. Do the people of color function mainly in roles that put them in a position of inferiority with regard to Whites?

b. Are people from different racial/cultural groups shown working together toward common goals?

VI. Consider institutional racism

a. Is there any indication in the book of the problems that people of color face in this society?

b. Does the story tend to "blame the victim"; in other words, does it leave the reader with the impression that victims of racism can get out from under oppressive situations if only they work hard enough?

c. Is there any indication that solutions to racism demand more than individual good will, that structures must change?

(Adapted from Council on Interracial Books for Children, "l0 Quick Ways to Analyze Children's Books for Racism and Sexism", reprinted with their permission).

#5: Activities for All Ages


Teacher Background

Following is a list of suggested ways to multiculturalize the overall educational programming in an individual classroom or in a school. Some of them are general suggestions or guidelines, while others are specific activities. Classroom activities could flow from each suggestion. Examples are noted after each suggestion.

A. Use primary sources/people whenever possible.

This applies to materials, speakers for class and assemblies, etc. The best situation is to have people explain themselves, rather than be interpreted through the eyes of another. Activity: Invite a speaker to your class who is a member of a specific racial group to talk about something which involves that group, eg. a Native American speaking about the Columbus Day observance.

B. Look for opportunities to introduce the richness of other cultures.

Avoid the exotic approach. Be constantly looking for ways to help the students see other groups, as well as their own, as people with many resources. Activity: Consciously use resources and/or speakers who counteract the exotic stereotypes of some groups of people, eg., materials on Nigerian or Japanese business people.

C. Present positive role models from varied cultural racial groups.

Be constantly looking for ways to expose the students (in person and through materials) to resource people from a variety of racial/cultural backgrounds. Activity: Each quarter, introduce the story of a person of color who has worked for the rights of his/her people.

D. Celebrate differences within the classroom

Look for ways that the students can comfortably share their own cultural heritage.  Activity: Ask students to share a family cultural celebration or a special food, at least to tell the class about it.

E. Cultivate resources in your own school community and beyond your school community.

This necessitates knowing your own school community and the community beyond your school. Activity: Invite a speaker in to the class to talk about his/her own racial or cultural group.

F. Be aware of and utilize language differences.

Students who have a second language are a real asset in the school. Learning other languages should be seen as enriching. Bilingual education programs must respect the primary language. Activity: Even a simple activity such as introducing other languages through one word, eg., "hello" or "peace" can be enriching.

G. Involve students in the broader community.

Students should have opportunities to learn from the community beyond their school. Activity: Visit a museum or a cultural center that focuses on one specific group's heritage.

H. Present opportunities to look at issues from varied perspectives.

Discuss current events from different perspectives. Activity: A simple question like "How do you think______________ feel/s about that?" can begin a good discussion.

I. Set workable goals and evaluate those goals regularly.

It is important in multicultural education to take some action immediately, while at the same time beginning to formulate more long-term goals. Activity: Formulate a simple checklist for yourself, with questions like, "What have I done this quarter to further my students understanding and respect for _______group of people?"

#6:  Some Points for Discussion:  Fight Fear with Facts

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