Students guess the person pictured on their backs by the responses of others and face up to stereotypes.

Aims/objectives

  • to discuss the impact of stereotypes and labelling on individuals and groups of people
  • to understand the link between stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination
  • to analyse the role of the media in enhancing stereotypes and prejudice

Material needed

  • Pictures mounted on cardboard (collect images from magazines, travel brochures, calendars, Google images etc.). The pictures should include images of individuals and groups as well as a variety of origins, religions, colours, ages, cultures and abilities, rural and urban settings, sorts of work and leisure activities, etc.
  • Pins and sticky tape
  • Paper and pens
  • Flipchart and marker

Preparation

  • Collect a set of 25 pictures showing people in different countries and settings.
  • Mount the pictures on cardboard. Optional: Laminate cards with plastic.
  • Number the pictures.
  • Prepare a pin board with numbered sheets of paper (as many as there are pictures).

Step by step description

Explain the activity:

  1. Each of you will have a picture of a person taped on your back.
  • Everyone will walk around the room. When you meet someone, look at the picture and say some words that express the general opinion of society about a person like that. This is not necessarily your personal opinion but the labels or stereotypes that people use about this kind of person. These words might be positive or negative and even unkind.
  • Write down the words used for you and try to guess what kind of person you are.

2. Stick a picture on the back of every student without letting him or her see it. Give each participant paper and pencil to record the words used.

3. Start the activity, with the students mingling and giving each other words of description. After about ten minutes, bring the group together.

4. Starting with picture number one, ask each participant to guess the identity of the person in his/her picture based on how others have responded. Ask each student to explain their guess. Then ask everyone in turn what words were said about the picture and write these words on the correspondent sheet of paper on the pin board.

5. After sharing and recording the reactions, the participants are allowed to see the picture attached to their backs. The pictures are taken off and pinned next to the correspondent comments on the pin board.

5. Discuss each picture briefly:

  • Where do you think the person in the picture is?
  • What is the person doing?
  • Do you see this person enjoying any human rights?

Reflection with the students / questions for debriefing

General debriefing:

  • Were there any surprises when you saw the picture?
  • Was it difficult to find the right words to describe what people say about people like the ones in the different pictures?
  • Do you think the reactions you got were fair?
  • How does it feel to be treated positively/negatively?
  • How did you feel about saying some harsh or unfair words about the person in the picture?
  • How would you react if you would see the person in one of these pictures?

Link to human rights, stereotyping and labelling

Discuss the list of descriptive words on the pin board and make a link to human rights as well as to stereotyping and labelling:

  • What do these responses suggest about the different ways people see others? Should people all see things the same way?
  • Why are labels and stereotyping unfair?
  • How could labels and stereotyping lead to violations of human rights? Do you know any examples?
  • What is the relationship between our reactions and our values?
  • How do the media present people from other countries and cultures? How can media increase labelling and stereotyping?
  • Looking at all the pictures on the board: Do you see diversity?

Suggestions for adaptations and variations

  • The students can develop and carry out a survey of how other people, children and/or adults, in their community respond to the same pictures. Based on their findings, they can decide how to address stereotypes and prejudice.
  • Pick an example of a current event, especially involving people from other cultures and countries, and analyse how newspapers, radio and television present the issues and the people involved. Compare how different media deal with the same story. How are the related human rights issues presented?
  • If they have access to cameras, the children can create a photo exhibition of ‘Views of Human Rights’ or ‘Faces of Diversity’ in your community.

Reference / original source of the method

The activity is an adapted version of the method with the same name originally published in Compasito: Manual on Human Rights Education for Children. Council of Europe, 2007. It was facilitated by Gülesin Nemutlu-Unal during her workshop „Inside Out and Upside Down: Values, Diversity and Human Rights“at the aces Academy 2013 in Senec Slovak Republic and at the aces Kick-Off Meeting 2013 in Bucharest.

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