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Activities to Promote Understanding of Stereotypes in Media

1. Teach the differences between generalizations and stereotypes.

Generalizations are not synonymous with stereotyping.  Students must first learn the difference and be guided to find examples of each. TV shows and movies, like books, are written and created by people with their own biases and understandings.  This can sometimes be a surprise to students.  Discuss the people behind media programs. Guide them to think about who created the show. Do they think the writers and producers portrayed groups and people accurately? 

2.  Recognize patterns of group treatment in the mass media.

Evaluate various kinds of media.  Not only should patterns be analyzed in movies and TV shows, look at advertising on signs, billboards, magazines, and newspapers.  How is a product glamorized and for which audience is it intended?

3.  After recognizing that some patterns in media treatment equate to stereotypes, spend time discussing these issues.

Also, find examples of programs that contradict stereotypes.  Mass media can also play a role in highlighting the cultures and talents of people from different races in a positive manner.

4. Have students participate in projects that attempt to examine and assess the mass media.

  1. Communicate the actual history behind popularized stories.  Compare the real-life story to the popular versions found in other movies and books.

    For example, compare accounts of the real Pocahontas to the Disney depiction of Pocahontas.
  2. Select one radio talk show host and listen to the program regularly over a two-week period to determine if the host uses a pattern of treatment when discussing a particular ethnic group or even individual members of that group.
  3. Collect all articles about women in one (or maybe two) daily
     newspapers over a two-week period to determine if there is a pattern of topic selection.
  4. Over a period of time, watch TV network national news shows to see if there is a pattern of treatment of religion.
  5. Read and collect movie reviews for one month to determine if there is a pattern of movies about ethnicity, a specific ethnic group, or a specific diversity-related topic.
  6. Look at a wide range of magazines to see if there is a pattern of adjectives being used when referring to or discussing a particular nation, culture, region, or religion.

Reference

        Corte¢s, C.E. (2000). The children are watching: How the media teach about diversity.  New York: Teachers College Press.