What is Body Image?

This is the first lesson of the series, I See You, You See Me: Body Image and Social Justice, which helps students think about their bodies and body image as related to broader issues of social justice and the harm caused from stereotypes.
Grade Level


Students will:

  • be able to talk about how they feel about their bodies;
  • understand the term body image;
  • reflect on who or what influences the way they think about their bodies; and
  • recognize difference and celebrate their uniqueness.
Essential Questions
  • What is body image?
  • Which different sources influence how we feel about our bodies?
  • What helps people feel good about their bodies?
  • chart paper
  • markers
  • body outline chart

This lesson part of the series, I See You, You See Me: Body Image and Social Justice, which helps students think about their bodies and body image as related to broader issues of social justice and the harm caused from stereotypes.



In its simplest term, body image is the way we think about our physical appearance. Having a healthy body image means that most of your feelings, ideas and opinions about your body and appearance are positive. They allow you to feel comfortable and confident about your body. It means accepting and appreciating your body and feeling mostly satisfied with your appearance.

Children will look closely at who and what influences the way they think about their bodies. They will think about and process what it is they think and feel about their own bodies, and why having those feelings is a step towards allowing them to build their self-esteem.



body image [BOD-ee IM-ij] (noun) how someone thinks about his own body and the way he thinks it looks to others



1. Prior to class, draw a large outline of a body on chart paper and hang it on the board. Introduce the lesson by saying, “Today we are going to be discussing our bodies and what it is we like about our bodies. We will start off working in pairs and then come back together to discuss what we shared as a class.”

2. Have students form pairs (or small groups). Ask each student to think about what her favorite aspect of her body is. Partners will then explain why they chose this particular characteristic. What is it about that aspect of her body she likes?

3. Gather together as a whole group. On the easel, there will be a large piece of chart paper with an outline of a body on it. Randomly pick students to share with the whole class which part of the body corresponds to their choices. As the students share their answers, use a marker to highlight the areas in the appropriate places on the body mentioned, making sure that different parts are chosen. Ideally, every student should share. If time does not allow for this, have students add to the body chart in the days following this lesson. This chart will serve as a visual reminder that not everyone likes the same thing about her or himself.

4. Ask students: “How many of you have ever heard of the term body image? What do you think it means?” Elicit some responses, writing down key words and phrases, then use that language to define body image. See glossary for a suggested definition.

5. Then, facilitate a discussion on body image and our thoughts on how others perceive us. It might help students if you provide an example:

“My freckles are my favorite thing about my body. I’m happy when people see my freckles first because I think they are unique! But, I also think people see that my ears stick out, and that makes me less happy. I don’t really know if they notice, but I feel like everyone is staring at them.”

Begin with the following questions:

  • What do you notice in others when you first see them?
  • What do you think others notice about you when they first see you?
  • Which aspects of your body, when you think others are looking at them, make you feel good?
  • Which aspects of your body, when you think others are looking at them, make you feel bad?

6. Complete the discussion by focusing on positive messages: What do people say about people’s bodies that can make them feel good or bad? (For example: messy hair, long legs, beautiful smile)

Ask each student to come up with a positive message about himself. (Note: It might also be beneficial to have students create positive messages about others’ appearances.)



Activities address the following Common Core State Standards



CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.8 With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question. 


Speaking and Listening

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.



CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.


Extension Activity

Using Wendy Ewald’s book, The Best Part of Me, as the primary source, have students choose and photograph what they like most about their bodies. They should then write a small paragraph, explaining why that particular aspect of their body is special to them. Their writing should be displayed alongside the photograph in a gallery fashion on a bulletin board.

Teaching Tolerance collage of images

Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

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