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Elizabeth Condray
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Lesson Plans

A Classroom Discourse on Diversity

A Classroom Discourse on Diversity

Elizabeth Condray of Salem High School in Salem, Mo.

Elizabeth Condray
Salem High School
Salem, Mo.

Title: A Classroom Discourse on Diversity

Unit Overview and Rationale:
Neither our school nor community is diverse in terms of race, religion, or ethnicity. However, as producers and consumers of news, journalism students need to be aware of the importance and impact of diversity in the newsroom. Students will therefore define diversity and stereotype. They will look for diversity in the media as well as their texts.

Unit Objectives: This unit will encourage journalism students to better describe themselves as members of a small, rural community, as citizens of the United States, and as part of the global village. They will look at progress made during the last several decades in encouraging diversity in the media. Samples of various print media should demonstrate successes and failures. The unit should last about five class periods.

Goals for Understanding:

  • Essential questions
    • What do we mean when we discuss diversity?
    • If we accurately describe our community‚Äôs makeup, what do we discover?
    • Can we understand diversity if we have always lived in this community?
    • When other cultures around the world think of an American, what image do they get?
    • Are publishers and the media helping us learn about other world cultures
  • Critical engagement questions
    • How has diversity been characterized and presented in America in the last two decades?
    • How well are newsrooms (local and urban) covering people of various ethnicities?
    • As a whole, how successful are news outlets at presenting stories with diverse ethnic, age, and gender components?
    • Can we recognize a stereotypes.
    • How do reporters use language that enables readers to understand and empathize with diverse cultures?


Activity # 1

  • Provide students with an assortment of picture/story books, young adult books, magazines, catalogs, TV guides, newspapers, etc. Be sure many of the Selections have copyrights dating at least back into the early 1970s; items ten or twenty years older would be even better. (Check school and public libraries for available materials.)
  • Students should be placed in groups and asked to examine the books and record the following:
    • races and cultures represented
    • how women were portrayed
    • how families looked
    • roles/jobs portrayed
    • how the elderly are portrayed.
  • After sufficient time, the groups are to share aloud their findings.
  • Categorize findings according to age of material and media.
  • Record information in journals for future activities.

Activity # 2

  • Distribute copies of both our local newspaper (more than one issue … multiple days) as well as a major metropolitan newspaper.
  • Students in groups should search for articles that portray different cultures, age, race, gender. Groups should then further categorize the information as presented as either favorable or unfavorable.
    • Have groups assign an overall rating for the amount of diversity, using a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being very little diversity, and 10 showing a great deal of diversity.
  • Each group is to compose a list of no less than five ways to improve and increase coverage in each paper with regard to diversity, giving specific suggestions. These are to be recorded in student journals.

Activity #3

  • Students are to spend the class period in the computer lab and work in pairs. They are to visit a minimum of eight major newspaper sites.
  • For each paper, they are to record the lead stories and what photos or graphics are included.
  • Students should note the number and type of article according to age, race, gender, and ethnic background. Information should be recorded in the journal.

Activity # 4

  • Discuss/define stereotype.
  • Students are to read and discuss the short story "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty. They are to write a news feature using information from the story as the nut graph, avoiding any stereotypes or bias regarding the character of Phoenix.

Activity # 5

  • Students are to read the short story "The Legend of Miss Sasagawara" by Hisaye Yamamoto.
  • Together the class will brainstorm possible news stories generated by the characters and situations in the story.
  • In pairs they are to pull important quotes and design possible sidebars and headlines. Students should note any possible stereotypes used in their writing.

Extension Activity

  • Students could be assigned a Media Journal for a week in which they record the number and types of diversity evidenced on the radio, TV, in newspapers, and in periodicals.


Students will receive points for daily participation in discussion groups and for work recorded in their journals. (Use a standard rubric.) Writing produced will be evaluated using an appropriate scoring guide.

Resources Recommended

  • Assorted picture books, young adult literature, and high school literature anthologies.
  • Search engines can be used when searching for news headlines.
  • Copies of the short stories mentioned herein will need to be located; they are available in many anthologies.

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