Stereotypes refer to recognizable, yet inaccurate views of a particular group of people. Young children learn stereotypes from what they see on television, as well as attitudes they experience at home and with peers. Cooperative games and roleplaying activities help young children learn the meaning of stereotypes and how to avoid them when dealing with peers.
Roleplaying with Primary Students
Young children have very defined ideas about gender roles, such as girls can do certain tasks and only boys can do others. Roleplaying games help children identify stereotypes and realize that boys and girls can both be good at many things. In this activity, the teacher or leader reads a story card where kids are being stereotypical. For example, "Max says that he will not let Sally play soccer because she is a girl." The group then discusses why people in the story are or are not being fair to each other. The teacher leads students to discuss why these stereotypes are inaccurate and how they can avoid making assumptions about people when interacting with peers.
This activity is done with older children after they have a basic understanding of stereotypes. Use balloons to "burst" stereotypes that unfairly label people. The teacher or leader starts with pre-inflated balloons, sentence strips and markers. Students sit in a circle and receive a prepared sentence strip. Going around the circle, each student reads the stereotype written on his sentence strip and tells the group why it is unfair. A sentence strip might read, "Only girls can do gymnastics well." After refuting the stereotype, the student uses a pin to "burst" his balloon, figuratively eliminating it from existence.
In this activity, elementary school students learn how the concept of making assumptions can be unfair to people. The teacher or group leader writes "boys" and "girls" on the board. As a group, students brainstorm adjectives that go with each group, such as "athletic" or "strong" for boys and "soft-spoken" or "crafty" for girls. After making this list, the group discusses the word "assumption." Students decide if any of their adjectives are assumptions. Then, they write about a personal experience when someone made an assumption about them based on their gender. As an extension activity, students can create a magazine collage that represents their story.
Roleplays With Older Children
Older children benefit from roleplaying, as well, when learning about stereotypes. The teacher or group leader allows students to act out scenarios where stereotyping is evident. First, students are divided into small groups. Each group is given a card explaining a scene. One scene might be, "A group of girls are playing hopscotch and Mike wants to play. His friends laugh at him for wanting to play a "girly" game." Students are given time to practice and then present their scene to the whole group. After each group performs, the group discusses how the scene shows stereotyping and how they might act in the same situation.