Recognizing Discrimination

People sometimes look the other way when they see an act of discrimination because they do not know how to stop it. This lesson provides students with real-world examples to help them identify peaceful ways to respond.
Grade Level


Activities will help students:

  • identify acts of discrimination
  • explore ways to stand up against discrimination
  • encourage others to take action against discrimination
Essential Questions
  • What does it mean to be discriminated against?
  • Why do people discriminate?
  • What can we do to stand up against discrimination?


discriminate [dih-skrim-uh-neyt]
(verb) to treat a person or a group of people differently than other people, often because of traits such as race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation


People sometimes look the other way when they see an act of discrimination because they do not know how to stop it. By providing students with real-world examples, we can help them identify peaceful ways to respond.


  1. Pretend your teacher made the decision that everyone who is wearing blue today will not be allowed to go to recess. Discuss your answers to the following questions with a partner:
    • In this situation, how would you feel if you were wearing blue?
    • Do you think it’s reasonable for your teacher to decide who can go to recess based on what they’re wearing? What if your teacher decided that only students who were wearing green shirts could go to recess?
    • How would you feel if you were wearing a green shirt and were allowed to go to recess when your best friend, who is wearing blue today, is not allowed to play?
  2. As a class, discuss the following:
    • Who is being treated unfairly in this situation? These people are being discriminated against.
    • If you were the one being discriminated against, what would you do?
    • What would you do if you saw a classmate being discriminated against?
  3. Now read Don’t Discriminate to learn about real-life examples of discrimination and how people stood up against it. Answer the questions provided.
  4. Use the board or chart paper to create a “graffiti wall” of reactions to what you just read. As you think about the examples of discrimination you read about, go up to the “wall” and write down your thoughts, feelings or questions. More than one person may write on the wall at a time.
  5. As a class, look at the “graffiti wall” and discuss Don’t Discriminate. What are some reasons the people you read about were being discriminated against? Why else might people be discriminated against? (Note: Record student ideas, such as race, religion, appearance/attire, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. on the board or chart paper.) How did these examples of discrimination make you feel?
  6. List all the ways the people you read about safely stood up against discrimination. What are some other ways you could safely stand up against discrimination? (Note: Emphasize peaceful strategies like the ones included in Don’t Discriminate, such as telling an adult, contacting a civil liberties group or organizing a boycott or protest. Record student ideas on the board or chart paper.)
  7. With a partner or small group, create a poster that illustrates one of the ideas your class came up with for standing up against discrimination. Hang your posters around school to encourage schoolmates to take action against discrimination.
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