He looks like a thug sir

11th April 2008 at 01:00

To challenge stereotyping outside school, Adam Smith suggests a game of Guess Who? You'll be surprised at the results

My best citizenship lesson is about stereotyping and was inspired by a Prison! No Way! seminar I attended in the North East. At the start of the lesson I deliberately don't specify the lesson objectives as I feel this may give the game away.

I put the children into pairs and give each group 12 pictures of people who are in prison and 12 crimes. Their task is to match the person to the crime.

As I walk around the room I make a mental note of any sweeping statements or stereotypes mentioned. The pupils can be quick to make rash judgements based on people's appearance, such as choosing the skinhead for more serious crimes and the middle-aged woman for less serious ones.

After a quarter of an hour the whole class reconvenes and talks about who did what. I challenge all stereotyping used and encourage the children to do this as well. After a while I drop the bombshell - all these people are in jail because they work there.

This shocks the pupils, especially when I say: "Sheila is a hard working prison officer with three children, yet group six thought she was a murderer." I then get the pupils into groups of five and ask them to discuss when they feel they may have been labelled unfairly. Often groups talk about perceptions of teenagers in the media.

Then I ask the pupils to summarise what they have learnt and how they might think before they judge people by looks, age or gender in the future. I often refer back to the lesson when I hear the children making sweeping statements in class to each other.

Adam Smith is a citizenship teacher in Halifax.

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