Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

by J. Thomas

A critical thinking and discussion activity for intermediate students. Students match unusual life stories and accomplishments to a collection of photographs. After discussing their decsion making process, students learn about the factual stories for each photograph. Finally students discuss and/or write about assumpitons based on stereotypic impressions. Additonal activites which target the power of stereotypes are also described.


Stereotyping others seems to be very common in our society today. Our media sources often seem full of stereotypical images of people. How can we learn to see (and help our students to see) people as individuals?

The Stereotype Game-Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

  1. The teacher prepares file folders with a picture of a person who doesn't fit a stereotype on the outside and an article about that person on the inside. (e.g."Whose father was an opera singer?-Bobby McFerrin, Who is a world famous physicist? Stephen Hawking")

  2. S/He holds up a few folders and asks the students to write 3 words to describe the person in the picture.

  3. Then, the folders are lined up around the classroom and the students are given a list of clues they have to match with the pictures. They work in teams and try to figure out who's who.

  4. After about 20 minutes, each student takes a few folders to read and the class goes over the "correct answers" together.

  5. Students discuss or write about the process.


Discussion Groups

Discussion about the nationalities/cultural groups in the students' cities and lives. Discuss how these groups are seen in the students' countries and in the US. Discuss the feelings about these ideas. Discuss how we find out about groups of people if we don't know them personally. How did the students form an opinion about the US before they came here? Where did the ideas come from? Have these ideas changed as a result of living here?

TV Log

Students keep a log of the types of people they see on TV, including frequency of appearance and types of roles. Students discuss the effects of TV on society's perception of different groups (e.g. some people are rarely seen on TV, some are seen only in certain roles).

Stereotypes to Genocide

The teacher writes words (stereotypes, prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, racism, and genocide) on the board. Students define and put them in order from "least" to"most" bad. Discuss societies like Nazi Germany and what is happening in the US today. Students write a letter to an elected official with ideas for improving the situation.

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