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By Mike Koren, Maple Dale School, Fox Point, Wisconsin

I. Overview of the Lesson

A. Concept: Discrimination

B. Definition: Discrimination is behaviors which lead to groups or individuals being treated differently due to racial, ethnic, religious, gender, or social class factors.

C. Grade Level: This lesson is specifically designed for sixth grade students. However, it could be used with students in grades four through eight.

D. Previous Study: After completing a unit on the Middle East, students will be taught this lesson on discrimination. Since the Middle East has examples of discrimination, this is a good starting point for this lesson. However, the lesson won't specifically focus on the Middle East. By the end of the lesson, students will be able to relate personal examples of discrimination.

E. Time Frame: Three to four days

II. Students Examine Teacher-Given Examples

A. Tell the students: "Today and tomorrow in class, I am going to do several things. I am going to read to you parts of two separate stories, give you some pictures to study, provide you a chart to look at, and show you a video. As we do this today and tomorrow, I want you to try to see how the story, the pictures, the chart, and the video are similar."

B. Before moving on, check the students for understanding of the activity.

C. Look in the bibliography for sources of the story, chart, pictures, and video.

D. After hearing the stories, viewing the video, and looking at the pictures and the chart, place students in groups of three or four. Tell each group: "Write down the ways each item was similar. Be prepared to eventually share these with the class."

III. Students Share Similarities

A. "Ask each group to appoint a spokesperson. Then ask each group's spokesperson to share all of the ways the group found these items similar." Possible responses include: People receive unequal treatment. They are showing discrimination. The situations aren't fair or right. There is disliking of others.

B. The teacher will write the student responses on the board.

C. Praise the students for their work. Say "I can tell you worked hard on this. Well done!!!"

D. The teacher will say "Now, let us look for similarities in all the ideas you have generated. Discuss in your groups, and then we will share our ideas." The teacher will write student ideas on the board as they are given. Possible answers include: dislike, not fair, and unequal treatment.

IV. Identification of Critical Attributes/Key Similarities from the Examples

A. Tell the students: "Look at the list on the board which we just completed. There is one idea which is really important. In your groups, would you choose the one similarity which is really significant to the concept we are developing."

B. The teacher will underline or circle the key idea. The key idea is: "different treatment of different groups".

V. Students Conclude About the Key Attribute

A. Tell the students: "The pictures, stories, chart, and video were all similar in some ways. We will label these items as examples of the concept."

B. Tell the students: "I am now going to write a sentence on the board telling how each example is alike." Please write it down at your desks." The sentence is "These are all examples which show _______________________." Tell the students: "Be sure to use one of the similarities from the list on the board when completing your sentence."

C. The teacher will check to see students are doing this. Offer praise to those who working well.

D. Students will read their sentences to their group members and then to the class. Possible answers include: "These are examples which show unfairness." "These are examples which show different or unequal treatment." The teacher should try to focus sentences toward different treatment of groups of people.

VI. Students Label the Concept

A. Tell the students: "Look at your sentence and then circle the word from your sentence which best sums up these examples." Show students how to do this if necessary. These are all examples which show _________________.

B. Tell the students: "I will call on you to share your idea."

C. Praise the students for their answers. "These are very nice answers." Tell or reemphasize: "The key word is discrimination." The teacher will write this word on the board.

D. Have a discussion of the examples by asking the following questions:

  1. Have you or your family members ever experienced discrimination?
  2. In this situation, how did you feel? Describe your feelings.
  3. Has your experience affected how you treat others who are different from you? How do you treat people who are not like you?
  4. Is it ok to be different? Why or why not?

VII. Students Examine Non-Examples of the Concept

A. Tell the students: "Now I am going to present five examples which don't show discrimination. These will be known as non-examples. As you see or hear these, look to see how they are different from the examples you have just studied.

B. The teacher will hand out copies of the non-examples. Tell the students: "Look at these handouts and discuss in your groups the ways these examples are different from the situations you have studied."

C. The non-examples are found in the bibliography.

VIII. Students Share Differences Between the Examples and the Non-Examples

A. Tell the students: "The groups need to be ready to share how the non-examples are different from the examples. When your group is ready to do this, give me the thumbs up sign."

B. As each group shares, the teacher will write the responses on the board. Possible answers include: "They show people getting along." "They show group membership or composition not mattering how people are being treated."

C. The teacher should praise students for their responses by saying "Great job!!!" or "You've really put in a lot of effort on this task!!!"

IX. Students Conclude the Main Difference Between the Examples and the Non-Examples

A. The teacher will review with the class the differences between the examples and the non-examples. Tell the students: "Look at the list on the board."

B. Tell the students: "I will now write a sentence on the board showing how the nonexamples are different from the examples. Please copy down this sentence: "You can tell an example of discrimination from a non-example of discrimination by _________________________."

C. Tell the students: "Please complete the sentence. You also need to be ready to share your responses. Give me a thumbs up sign when you are ready."

D. Ask the students to share their responses. Possible responses include: The non-examples show people getting along, even if they are different. They show fair treatment of different groups. They show people being kind to people of different groups.

E. Closure-Ending Ideas

  1. The teacher will ask: "Who can recall what the meaning of discrimination is?"
  2. The teacher will ask the students to write their definition of discrimination on their paper.

X. Summary

Middle school students feel a great deal of pressure to be like everybody else. Consequently, toleration of differences often suffers with the resulting behaviors leading to discrimination. This lesson focuses on the idea that being different is very acceptable. It strongly suggests discrimination is not ok, and that students and people should not act in discriminatory manners.


  1. A child is picked on because of his religion. (Story from the book, Chernowitz.)
  2. Women earn less pay than men, given similar comparisions. (See the chart.)
  3. In Germany and German-controlled lands, Jewish people had to wear yellow stars to identify themselves as Jews. Later, the Jews were placed in concentration camps.
  4. Japanese Americans were held in detention camps during World War II because we were at war with Japan. (See story and picture from the book, Baseball Saved Us.)
  5. The video, "The Immigrant Experience-A Long, Long Journey," shows a Polish child being harassed as he tries to assimilate into U.S. culture.


  1. An African-American man and a white child become close friends while stranded on an island.
  2. Israeli and Palestinian/Arab leaders shake hands after signing peace treaties. (Show the picture from the book, Rabin.)
  3. People with disabilities are have similar opportunities as people without disabilities. (See the handout on "American With Disabilities Act".)
  4. Children from different backgrounds work cooperatively on a sports team. The Japanese child is congratulated after making the game-winning hit. (Show the picture from the book, Baseball Saved Us.)
  5. Two men from different ethnic and racial groups become best friends, despite competing for the same job. (Show the pictures from the book, Brian's Story.)


"Americans with Disabilities Act. Report 93-4." State of Washington Legislative Budget Committee, September 10, 1993.

Arrick, Fran. Chernowitz. New York: Bradbury Press, 1981.

Bernstein, Vivian. America's Story Book 2. Austin: Steck-Vaughn, 1995.

Blinn, William. Brian's Song. New York: Bantam Books, 1972.

Curtin, Merle and Todd, Lewis Paul. Rise of the American Nation. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1982.

Mochizuki, Ken Baseball Saved Us. New York: Lee and Low Books, Inc., 1993.

Rabin, Lea. Rabin. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1997.

Taeuber, Cynthia. Statistical Handbook of Women in America. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1991.

Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.

Taylor, Theodore The Cay. New York: Avon Books, 1970.