Tried and Tested - World of differences

24th April 2009 at 01:00

Subject: Personal, social and health education

Lesson: Life chances

Ages: 14 to 16

Supplied by: Sheila Mazzotti, a supply teacher in Ebbw Vale

1. What is it?

A lesson looking at different life scenarios that helps to challenge preconceptions.

2. Who is it aimed at?

Pupils aged 14-16 studying PSHE, but could also be used in GCSE sociology.

3. What do you want the lesson to achieve?

The sting in the tail is that the details of the characters are identical, but have different names in each group's case: one Anglo-Saxon male, one Anglo-Saxon female, one Caribbean male and one Indian subcontinent male (or vary as you wish). The groups will plot differing futures for the same characters. There is a tendency to stereotype along gender and ethnic grounds. This is a tool for revealing preconceptions.

4. What happens in the lesson?

Split the class into groups of four or five. Give each group narratives about three or four young people from a range of backgrounds. The narratives should detail family type, household incomejob background, housing, access to schooling and some description of the person's personality. Ask each group to discuss and project "life chances" for each of the characters: what will they be doing at the age of 30? Each group gives its presentation of each character.

5. How do you know it has been successful?

There is a stunned silence at the end.

6. Why would you recommend this to other teachers?

I would recommend this exercise to other teachers because it is a powerful tool for them to confront and challenge stereotypes and become more self-aware of their own tendency to stereotype. It also encourages pupils to be sensitive to other members of their group.

7. Give us three top tips

- Try to get a diverse mix of pupils within each group.

- Keep the groups as separate as possible.

- Do a follow-up lesson on social mobility.

8. Useful resources

The Equality and Human Rights Commission's website can be useful for follow-up work and statistics. Visit


Title: Challenging stereotypes

Age group: 11-16

Subject: PSHE

What is it? The exercise is based on pairing a job or activity with a person (eg, a woman born with spina bifida is paired with an elite athlete with a string of world records and medals). The purpose is to encourage pupils to question the assumptions we make about people when we hear a brief description. This task could be set as written homework or contribute to a class discussion.

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