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Implications of Labeling and Stereotypes Curriculum

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The Implications of Labeling and Stereotypes on Individual and Collective Identity: Curriculum for High School, Two weeks and Six, One hour Classes

This curriculum aims to help students think critically about the implications of labeling and stereotypes. Goals include creating a heightened sense of awareness of labels and stereotypes. Labeling in this curriculum refers to the ways in which we distinguish differences by putting a name on that “thing” or person. These labels carry deep meaning and are embedded in social context, as well as racial, gender and class hierarchies. For example, white are rich and powerful, people of color are not.

After reading Hill’s “Beats, Rhymes and Classroom Life” as well as Pinkert’s article “The Transformative Power of the Holocaust Education in Prison: A Teacher and Student Account”, the concerns around labeling people and music, inspired my thinking about the consequences of labeling on learning and buildings one’s identity and a group's collective identity. Through activities, conversations and assignments, this curriculum will challenge notions of labeling, identity construction and stereotypes in an attempt to build a collective school identity focused on community and trust.

This curriculum is designed for high school students particularly, 9th grade where I am currently placed. It could be set in the context of any subject matter, and could be used in an after school program as well. The curriculum has a lot of writing, so it would fit particularly well in an english classroom.  The labeling unit will run over two weeks, with 6 meeting times of 60 minutes The first 5 classes are filled with activities and writing tasks and the sixth class with culminate with presentations of an ad that challenges labeling.

It is important before the first day try to gain an understanding of what celebrities, political figures, historical figures, etc that are known to the students. As Jay Fluellen suggested, before creating curriculum it is important to engage with students to become familiar with their interests and passions. Aspects of this curriculum could change based on these conversations and observations and I challenge the implementor to change or adjust pieces of the curriculum to better serve their students. Engaging with students could shift curriculum that is  set in the pages that follow--and that is okay! Allow changes to happen if you believe certain examples with is crucial in creating a curriculum that is culturally relevant and interesting to students.



Heighten student awareness of the implications of labeling and stereotypes.

Establish a classroom community built on trust through conversations.

Challenge notions of personal identity and personal access.

Day 1 Introduction to Labeling (60 minutes)

Materials needed: Paper for labels, Pictures of people, black or whiteboard to write on.

On the first day, print 10 pictures of diverse people (race, ethnicity, sex, etc, these could be a mix of celebrities and non celebrities) and place the photos on a wall. Give each of the students  pieces of paper with different labels. These labels include black, white, hispanic, asian, rich, poor, intelligent, unintelligent. Ask students to place these labels under the picture of the person they believe the label identifies (there can be duplicates of the paper labels)

After all the photos are labeled ask the students to take out a piece of paper and write how they felt about this activity. Then ask the students to share with a partner how this activity made them feel and then ask them to share with the whole class.


Why do you think we did this activity?

Do you think these labels are fair and accurate?

Did the labels white, black, asian, and hispanic, cover all the people?

How would you feel if your picture was on the board and I asked the class to label you?

When is ok to label? and what is ok to label?

Assignment: Talk to you parents/guardians about the activity today. Write a paragraph answering the question “What are three words would you label yourself and why?”


“In Short” Rationale: Instead of introducing a new unit, I chose to start with the activity. To get students up and walking around and engaged directly with the material at the start. This choice is influenced by my placement, and other productive classes I have attended. Making time for conversations with peers and the class aims to begin to build trust, one of the central themes of my placement. The building of trust will allow students to take more risks and feel comfortable engaging with sensitive topics like race, gender, class, and the stereotypes associated with these. This idea draws from Hill’s book. The two girls in the classroom feel that they cannot engage with ideas of race. Allowing students to talk to each other and then to the class aims to validate all ideas as important no matter who you are.

Day 2 Complicating Race Labels and Stereotypes:

Materials needed: Paper for labels, black or whiteboard to write on.

Ask the students to write the three words they labeled themselves in their homework assignment on the board when they come into the classroom. Ask the students to talk with a partner for about 3 minutes about their observations about the words on the board.


What do you think of the words on the board?

If you had to pick a fourth way to label yourself from the ones on the board which label would you pick and why?

While students are talking, bring around a basket of words. This time the students will receive a one label, labeling them a certain race or ethnicity. The labels are (black, white, asian, hispanic, man, woman)

When conversation has ended ask the student to share any reactions to the labels or any reactions their parents had to the activity on the first day with the class.

Move on to the activity. Tell students that you have given them a label. For the next 10 minutes they are to get up and mingle with their classmates, they must talk to 5 different people about several current event topics (pull 5 top stories for the week to share). However, they must act like they believe their label would act in response to this news. They must take on the “persona” of the label when talking about the event. After two minutes read another news event and ask the students to switch partners.

After the activity has ended, ask the students to sit and take out a piece of paper. Answer the question “How did you feel acting like the label?” “Did you feel that you accurately portrayed label” “Is there an accurate way to ‘act like’ a race or gender” “Did this activity leave people out” (mixed races, people who don’t identify with one race?, people who do not identify with their sex?) After a couple of minutes, ask students to share any reaction as well as asking

Where and when are we pressured to “pick” a race or sex?

When have you had to label yourself?

Did you feel uncomfortable picking one label? Is it fair to ask someone to pick a label?

Homework Assignment: Write a page about a song, movie, tv show that stereotypes a person or group of people based on race, ethnicity or gender.

“In Short” Rationale: Using the slips of paper again is to further push thinking about labeling people. Asking students to mingle allows students to further get to know one another. Also, using current news topics as conversation starters alerts students to current events.

Day 3 Labeling and Stereotypes in the Media

Tools, texts, materials needed: Magazines, newspapers, laptops/computers if available

Ask students to share what they found for their assignment with their neighbor and then to the class.

Ask the students to form groups of 3-4 with students they don’t know well. Their task is to find 4 examples of labeling in the media. They can use the computer as well to search news sites. They will present one of their findings to the class ( allot about 40 minutes).

Introduce final project. Students will be asked to create a visual advertisement in groups of two, that addresses the implications of labeling. They can address any label and may create the visual on paper or on the computer.

Here are some examples:


Final assignment prompt for students : Create a visual advertising that addresses a label and the implications associated with the label. This ad may be created on paper or on the computer. Write a two page paper that explains the label you are addressing and why your ad will convince others to think before they label. Questions you could answer are “How does this ad address the label and why do you think this ad will challenge notions of what the label implies(stereotypes associated with the label)”  This paper must include a thesis (your main argument statement). You will present your ad on the last day of the unit to the class, about 3 minutes per person.

Homework Assignment: Write two paragraphs. 1) how you identify yourself? 2) what do you want to be when you grow up?  What did your parents/guardians want to be in high school? Did they reach their goals why or why not?

“In-Short” Rationale: This class is structured to introduce the final project, so that students begin thinking about the task. In addition, the activity allows students to engage with curricular material while looking for examples of labeling within their own interests. They are allowed to use magazines and the internet. The small presentation during this class is also a warm up for their final presentation upon the completion of the unit.

Day 4 Exploring Personal Labels and Stereotypes

Have students count off in groups of three. Give each group a label (white, black, asian, hispanic, male, female). Ask students to brainstorm in the group as many stereotypes as you can for the selected label. On the board write your stereotypes under the label. (about 20 minutes).

Now ask students to take out a piece of paper and write each label spaced out so they have room to tally under each label.


White        Black       Asian        Hispanic       Man       Woman       

III               I              I                                  IIII          I

Then ask a series of questions. They may place one tally under the races and one under the sexes for each question. Ask them to base their answers on the stereotypes on the board.


1)Who is going to college?

2)Who is a doctor?

3)Who is wealthy?

4)Who is in change?

5)Who is athletic?

6)Who is best at science and math?

7)Who is in a gang?

8)Who is american?


Ask students how they felt about having to place tallies under each label?

Why was this difficult?

Why is this problematic?


Now ask each of the students to share with their group their career aspirations (they wrote about this for homework).  


Who do you think of when you think of this job?

Do you fit the stereotype?

WIll it be hard or easy to get this job? Why?


“In Short” Rationale: Starting by asking students to come up with stereotypes leads into the activities for the class, based around stereotypes surrounding careers, it is also settling students up for their final project. Counting off to create groups mixes students up allowing them to gain additional trust for classmates. The stereotype activity also will allow students to begin thinking about their final project. The tally activity allows students to feel uncomfortable while trying to categorize people based one two labels (race and sex). By asking their career goals also allows the conversation to be personal and centered on student interests, giving legitimacy to their aspirations. This also brings up a conversation around access to jobs both for themselves and those close to them.


Day 5 Labeling Music, Art and Culture

Before class set up “Poll Everywhere” it is a website that uses text messages as a poll and students can see live results.

Tell students to take out their phones because they will be participating in a poll. The poll  questions can be (feel free to add additional questions)


Tupac is a real rapper (Yes, No)

Eminem is a real rapper (Yes, No)

Monet makes real art (Yes, No)

Graffiti is not art (Yes, No)

If you go to  a museum you are cultured (yes, no)

Labeling things or people cause narrow minded thinking (Yes, No)


Ask students to engage with the idea of labeling aspects of culture, real, not real, art or not art, cultured or not cultured. Tell them to pair up and address the following questions.

How do these labels on elements of culture narrow thinking?

Does this have to do with class and social structure, who is in charge?


Allow students the remaining time to work on their project, due the next class.


“In Short” Rationale: The exercise requests the use of phones. Phones are used in my placement classroom often and using them for an activity is a productive way to allow students to use their phones. This class activity builds off of ideas I pulled from Hill and Pinkert, both mention the effects of labeling on both people and rap music. The goal of this class is to challenge student notions of how they label then dismiss things such as music or art based on socially constructed labels.


Day 6: Final Presentations and Student Feedback

Students will present their ads.


Also, collect written feedback from students. You may create this yourself or use the suggested questions.


What did you learn during this labeling unit?

Overall Rationale:

The curriculum I designed was influenced by speakers, my placement at a local Philadelphia High School English Class and readings from Identity, Access and Education. The activities, assignments and culminating presentation, make students an active participant in their learning. Conversations with each other and the teacher allow each student to feel that they are a “knowledge creator” and not a passive recipient of information as Gerald Campano mentions. In addition, conversations between students help to deepen thinking and further get to know each other. By acknowledging experiences outside the classroom as a relevant text, allows students to feel that their experiences are valuable as well as helps build a classroom with trust between the participants. In addition, celebrities and figures that students know about also legitimizes their interests in the classroom space.  

The writing assignments each night extend the walls of the classroom and also include parents or guardians as a resource. This is also influenced by my placement in an English classroom, by encouraging students to write frequently, students will improve their writing skills. In addition, the prompts are “journal-like” allowing students to write from personal experience and thoughts.

The final project is designed in the spirit of my placement’s values that focuses on taking what students learn in the classroom and making  a difference with that knowledge. The advertisement project encourages social justice and taking what students learn and applying the knowledge in order to counter the question “what am I going to do with this?”.

The structure of this curriculum as well as the topics, aims to push students thinking about labeling and stereotypes. It uses innovative activities that push comfort zones and challenge hierarchies. Again, I advise teachers to get to know students before implementing any curriculum, whether it is using their idols or their experiences as important examples, students will feel that they are valued and curriculum will mean so much more.


Works Cited

Campano, G. (2007). Immigrant Students and Literacy. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hill, M. (2009) “Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity”. Teachers College Press.

Pinkert, A. (2013). “The Transformative Power of Holocaust Education in Prison: A Teacher and Student Account." University of Illinois Press.