Accepting Size Differences

Studies show that school environments are the most common settings for teasing, harassment and bullying of children who are overweight. In this lesson, students evaluate their own biases related to size differences.
Grade Level

  • read and understand a newspaper article;
  • understand and evaluate media messages;
  • identify and develop solutions to problems; and
  • act as agents of change locally and globally.
Essential Questions
  • How do the media contribute to opinions about being overweight?
  • Are television shows featuring the challenges faced by overweight characters inspiring or exploitative? Or both?
  • At the school level, what can be done to be inclusive and more supportive of students of all sizes?
  • At the community level, what can be done to encourage access to spaces that promote physical activity?

Handout: Big, Fat Stereotypes

News story:  “In TV Series, Some Reality on Weight.”

Access to television at home or school


(noun) a set of chemical reactions that provide energy for the activities and processes of the body

obesity |ōˈbēs -sitē| 
(noun) a medical condition in which an individual is at least 20 percent above the weight recommended for their height

overweight |ˈōvərˈwāt|
(adjective) having more body fat than is considered healthy for a given body type and height

(adjective) slim or thin


Studies show that school environments are the most common settings for teasing, harassment and bullying of children who are overweight. For guidance on what educators can do about size discrimination in their classrooms, read "Understanding Size Bias."


1. The New York Times story, “In TV Series, Some Reality on Weight,” discusses how overweight or obese people are shown on television. As a class, discuss some examples from television shows or movies you have seen. What roles do these actors usually play? How is their weight most often incorporated into their characters?

2. Do your own research by watching one or two of your favorite television comedy shows. As you watch, take notes on the handout, “Big, Fat Stereotypes.”

3. Back in class, compare your notes. What did you discover? Are overweight actors often given the same types of roles? How would you describe their characters? How do the storylines for overweight characters compare with storylines for other characters? How do they behave?

4. In pairs or small groups, create a proposal for a new show that you will “pitch” to a television studio. Within your proposal, develop positive characters who have backgrounds, talents or situations that lend themselves to an entertaining program. Include casting decisions in your proposal, focusing on actors who are larger than average size.

5. Share your “pitches” with the rest of the class. Which shows would you like to watch?



1. At school, overweight or obese students are just as likely to be marginalized as they are on television. As a class, discuss situations in the school environment in which heavier students are likely to feel uncomfortable. (These might include cafeteria settings or physical education classes.)

2. Consider your school’s physical education classes. What do physical education classes include? Are the activities accessible to all students, or are they just for athletes? In small groups, assess your school’s physical education program and how it contributes to student health.

3. Now, imagine that you can develop a new physical education program for your school. What activities do you enjoy that could be incorporated into a new program? (Activities might include rollerblading, swimming, rock-climbing or biking along with an outdoor environment depicted on a TV screen.)

4. Within your group, create a proposal for a new PE program. In your proposal, emphasize the importance of activities for all types of bodies and physical abilities.

5. Share your proposals with the class. Together, choose the best proposal for sharing with school officials.


Political Cartoon

Reprinted with permission. Teachers may purchase individual cartoons for other lesson plans at PoliticalCartoons.com.

In this editorial cartoon, the artist makes a point about the state of childhood obesity in America. In pairs or small groups, discuss:

  • What message is he trying to convey?
  • How does he use irony to make his point?
  • In addition to being larger than average, how are the children on the left depicted? Are they depicted fairly? Why or why not?

Individually or in small groups, brainstorm ideas for how you plan to create your own cartoons that address the issue of healthy weight levels without using ridicule to make your point. Then, draw and share your own cartoons with the class.

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