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

  • understand the purpose of adjectives;
  • use adjectives to describe pictures of potential classmates;
  • compare the use and fairness of those adjectives; and
  • develop and commit to a classroom anti-harassment policy.
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: Letter to Our New Classmate

Two magazine photos, one of an overweight child and another of a slender child


(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."


Reading/Language Arts/ELL
1. As a class, discuss adjectives – “picture words” that are used to describe people, places or things. Looking around your classroom, offer some examples of adjectives you could use to describe your desks, your activity areas or the view outside.

2. Your teacher will show you a picture of a child your age. Imagine that he or she is a new student who is joining your classroom. Together, brainstorm adjectives you would use to describe the new student. Discuss: What adjectives did you choose? Why?

3. Divide into pairs or small groups. Within your group, study the picture as you work on the handout, “Letter to Our New Classmate.” Use the word bank on the handout to fill in the blanks.

4. Now, compare your letters. What words did you use to describe the students in your classroom? What words did you use to describe the new student? On what did you base your decisions? What do your letters tell you about the importance of describing others fairly?

Social Studies
1. Discuss the definition of the word “harassment” (or bullying). As a class, provide examples of actions that might be considered harassment. (Those actions might include teasing, name-calling, threats, physical attacks, damaging or stealing personal belongings, or excluding somebody from an activity.)

2. Now that you know what harassment is, discuss how it can affect social groups such as classrooms, schools and neighborhoods. What happens when a member of a social group is harassed? What happens to the group?

3. Your teacher will challenge you to make sure your classroom remains a strong social group by asking you to draft a “no-harassment policy.” A policy is a plan of action that is adopted by a social group. Your plan of action will make sure that all students in the classroom feel safe and included.

4. In small groups, discuss what might be included in the policy. What student “differences” would your policy cover? What actions would you prohibit?

5. As a class, compare your ideas and draft your policy. As a further commitment to your policy, have each class member sign it.


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.

Teaching Tolerance collage of images

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