ON ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION
(Duration: 2 to 2.5 hours)
- Lesson Overview (goals, skills, time, etc.)
- Materials and Preparation (allow 10 minutes)
90 minutes to 2 1/2 hours
· For a shorter lesson, do Activities 1-5 plus 8 and/or 9.
Activity 8 can be used as an assessment.
lesson explores discrimination based on ethnicity. The lesson is in
three sections, each framed by guiding questions:
A. Introduction to Ethnicity
(What is ethnicity? How is it different from nationality? What is
my ethnic identity?)
B. Ethnic Discrimination in the
Global Community (What are some of the causes and impacts
of ethnic discrimination?)
C. Positive Steps Against
Ethnic Discrimination (What is being done to address ethnic
discrimination? What can I do?)
The lesson begins by having students examine their own ethnic backgrounds.
Students interview family members to learn about their family histories
and cultures. This information is shared with the class with optional
In Section B, students examine the causes and impacts of ethnic conflict
around the world. First, students review current events stories to
gain a broad overview of the issue.
Next, students deepen their understanding of the economic, cultural,
and political aspects of discrimination by analyzing a case study
on Eritrea. Questions, concept mapping, and other analysis strategies
Section C presents ways to combat ethnic discrimination at the international,
local, and individual levels. A variety of activities and project
ideas are provided.
After this lesson, students will be able to
· describe their own ethnic identity.
· explain the economic, cultural, and political aspects of
ethnic discrimination, both locally and globally.
· provide examples of positive actions to combat ethnic discrimination
at the individual, community, and international levels
· plan, carry out, and evaluate their own actions to combat
ethnicity, nationality, culture; discrimination through economic,
cultural, and political means
discussing; active listening; respecting others; working in small
groups; self-evaluation; document analysis; planning, implementing,
and evaluating actions
students' previous knowledge
Students may be unclear
of the difference between race, nationality, and ethnicity. The activities
in section A (and handout of definitions) will help clarify these
· A journal rubric is provided to assess students' journal
responses throughout the lesson. You can give the rubric to students
ahead of time if desired.
· An optional poetry activity (Activity 3, Section A) provides
a creative way for students to demonstrate their understanding of
· In Section B, students analyze a case study through a concept
map, questions, and other strategies which yield products for evaluation.
· The activities in Section C provide opportunities for evaluation
through exhibit or portfolio. Opportunities for student self-assessment
are also included.
It is highly recommended that you do the activities in the order
A: Exploring Ethnicity
(30-45 minutes; optional extension)
Guiding questions: What is ethnicity? How is it different from nationality?
What is my ethnic background?
Students explore their ethnic backgrounds
Distribute the "Exploring Ethnicity"
handout to students before class and have them complete the
questions at the top. Have students bring their responses to class.
· To begin the lesson, give each student two small scraps
of paper and tape or push-pins. (Removable "sticky notes"
work well, too.) On each piece of paper, have students write their
name and the birthplace of one set of grandparents (or great-grandparents).
· Have students attach the papers to a wall map. Review the
· In pairs or groups of three, have the students discuss
the responses to the questions from the "Exploring
Ethnicity" handout. (Questions reproduced here):
- Where were your grandparents or great-grandparents born?
- What language(s) did/do your grandparents or great-grandparents
speak? What about their parents?
- What holidays did they celebrate? What special customs did/do
they follow? What foods did they eat?
- Does your family now speak these languages or continue any of
· Next, have all students sit in a circle and share some
of their responses as a class. Points to emphasize:
- Language, food, and other cultural practises are often passed
down from one generation to the next. Cultural practises are learned;
we are not born with a predisposition to any single language or
- When people come to a new country, they may adopt new practises
while keeping traditional ways. Have the class generate examples.
Help students see that ethnic identity is not an "either-or"
Using the "Introduction to Ethnicity"
handout, present the definitions of "ethnicity" and
"nationality." Draw examples from students' responses
to clarify the terms. Emphasize the following points, which are
included on the students' handout:
· Nationality refers to our citizenship -- in other words,
the nation we are a member of.
· Ethnicity, or ethnic identity, refers to membership in
a particular cultural group. It is defined by shared cultural
practises, including but not limited to holidays, food, language,
· People can share the same nationality but have different
ethnic groups. For example, citizens of the United States are
of many different ethnic backgrounds.
· People who share an ethnic identity can be of different
nationalities. Turkish citizens of Turkey and Turkish citizens
in Germany share an ethnic identity but are of different nationalities.
Once students are clear on the terms, have the class write a few
minutes about their own ethnicity and nationality as instructed
at the bottom of the handout. Or, continue with the poetry activity
(25-45 minutes. Some parts can be done as homework.)
In this activity, students create poems about their backgrounds;
each stanza begins with the phrase "Where I'm From." The
activity is adapted from "Where I'm From: Inviting Students'
Lives Into the Classroom." In Rethinking Our Classrooms: Teaching
for Equity and Justice, Volume 2. Edited by Bill Bigelow, Brenda
Harvey, Stan Karp, and Larry Miller. Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools.
· Distribute copies of the sample
poems to students. Have the class read one or both aloud.
· As noted on the handout, ask students to describe the significant
images in each poem (sights, sounds, smells, objects, people) and
how they help paint a picture of the author's ethnic background.
· As noted on the handout, have students generate a list
of significant images and metaphors that reflect their homes and
families. Have students include items found in the house, other
sensory images, family sayings or phrases, the tastes and smells
of important foods, names of relatives, etc.
· Have students incorporate these images into a poem. As
in the sample poems, each stanza should begin with "I'm from
· After the poems are done, have students sit in a circle.
Ask for volunteers to share their poems. After each poem is read,
have the class describe 1) what they liked about the piece and 2)
how the poem communicated information about the author's ethnic
· As an alternative to reading in a circle, have students
read their poems in pairs. Each student should write comments about
their partner's poems as described above. These comments can be
used as part of the overall assessment.
· Finish the activity by having students write about their
own poem as described above. This, too, can be used for assessment.
Create a class collage or "museum " of artifacts representing
students' ethnic backgrounds. Items could include foods, household
implements, clothing, pictures, and maps, as well as the poems from
the activity above.
· Have students use the information about their grandparents
to create a timeline of their family history. In a country such
as the US where many students' families likely originate from other
places, the timeline could include arrival of relatives to the US
and reasons for coming.
B: Ethnic Discrimination in the Global Community (45-60 minutes)Guiding
questions: What are some of the causes and impacts of ethnic discrimination?
Students review examples of ethnic conflict around the world and
throughout history (20-30 minutes)
To help students gain an understanding of ethnic conflict around
the world, have students identify relevant stories in the media.
Assign a few students to review other conflicts the class has already
studied, including examples from history.
· Students should write a brief summary about where the conflict
is happening, who is involved, why the conflict is happening, and
what is being done to address it. The research and summaries can
be done as homework.
(Note: The goal of this activity is to raise awareness of ethnic
conflict around the world and throughout history rather than to
engage students in a thorough analysis. The case study to follow
focuses on analysis skills.)
· Have students present their summaries and place markers
on a globe or map to show where they are occurring.
· After all summaries have been presented, ask the class
to identify connections among the different examples in terms of
time, place, causes, impacts, and solutions. These connections can
be graphed using a concept map or other diagram. Suggested questions:
What, if anything, is similar about these cases of ethnic conflict?
In which cases does the conflict center on land or other natural
resources? Which cases center on political representation?
- Are the cases similar or different in terms of how they are
being settled? Which cases are relying on diplomacy and peaceful
tactics? Which cases involve violence?
- Which cases are civil disputes (i.e., occur in a single country)?
Which cases involve more than one country?
- Can you draw any similarities between current conflicts and
those from the past?
As you discuss the cases, emphasize that ethnic conflict can have
economic, political, and cultural sides. Review examples of each.
Tell students they will look at these issues more closely through
a case study. Then continue with the next activity.
Case studies (30-45 minutes; some tasks can be done as homework)
Distribute the Eritrea case study.
The case study can be assigned for homework and/or read in class,
as a whole group, in pairs, or individually.
· After reading the case study, students will analyze it
using one or all of the five strategies provided: 1. writing directly
on the text, 2. organizing key points in a table, 3. creating a
timeline, 4. creating a concept map, and 5. answering questions.
These strategies vary in terms of difficulty, allowing the teacher
to choose appropriate tasks for learners of different abilities.
Choose one or two strategies that are appropriate to your students'
level and assign them to all students. Have students work individually
or in pairs to complete the task(s).
- Break the class into five homogeneous skill groups and assign
each group one of the analysis strategies appropriate to the groups'
level. The group is responsible for turning in the appropriate
document and for providing evidence of how everyone in the group
contributed to the task.
- Divide students into heterogeneous groups of five. Assign each
student one of the analysis strategies appropriate to his/her
level so that all five strategies are represented in each group.
The group is then responsible for turning in a complete set of
documents (a marked text, a concept map, etc.)
After students are done with the analysis, have them present their
work. Emphasize the following key points throughout the discussion:
On the causes of the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia: Eritrea's
location on the Red Sea and the resulting economic and political
benefits (trade, ports for military power, etc.) has made it a
target of colonizers throughout history. The control of Eritrea
by Italy, Britain, and then Ethiopia increased the people's desire
On the impacts: Discrimination of Eritreans under the rule of
Ethiopia happened through economic means (denying Eritreans property
and a right to make a living), political means (dissolving their
parliament and preventing self-determination), and cultural means
(prohibiting language, books, and education).
- On the responses to the conflict: The repression of Eritreans
under Ethiopia and Eritreans' desire for economic, political,
and cultural autonomy sparked the war. Many citizens were forced
to flee the country and withstood dangerous trips through the
desert to refuge camps in Sudan.
C: Positive Steps Against Ethnic Discrimination (45 minutes; optional
projects) Guiding questions: What is being done to combat ethnic discrimination?
What can I do?
This section provides ways for students to combat against ethnic
discrimination at three levels: 1. personal, 2. community, and 3.
international. The activities are described below; clicking on each
will take you to the relevant student handouts. The directions for
the activities are self-explanatory and are provided on the students'
handouts, as are websites for on-line projects.
1: Personal Actions: Students identify personal steps they can
take to address ethnic discrimination. Sample ideas are provided.
An optional set of project planning tools provide guidance for students
who would like to plan and implement their own actions.
Activity 2: Learning About Ethnic Groups in the Community: Students
use census data and other resources to learn about the experiences
of major ethnic groups in the community. Ideas for presenting information
in a website, newsletter, or exhibit are provided.
Activity 3: Learning About International
Policies: Students brainstorm ideas to combat ethnic discrimination
at the international level, and compare their ideas to a UN declaration.
Students then conduct research to determine if and how their country
has signed and/or implemented the UN declaration.