Understanding Prejudice
Understanding Prejudice
Return Home

Reading Room

Exercises and Demonstrations
Multimedia Center
Teacher's Corner
Directory of Experts
Links on Prejudice
About Us
Privacy Policy
Contact Us

Teacher's Corner
Elementary School Classroom Activities

This page includes a variety of classroom activities that can be used to teach young children about prejudice, social justice, and the importance of looking at the world through the eyes of others. As the following exercise shows, teaching children about diversity does not have to be difficult or complicated -- it can be as simple as peeling a lemon.

 When Life Hands You a Lemon, Peel It


To show children that despite outside differences, people are often similar on the inside.


Gather a group of young children and give one lemon to each child. Then ask the children to "get to know your lemon." Children will examine their lemons -- smell them, touch them, throw them in the air, and roll them around. After a few minutes, collect the lemons in a big basket, and ask the children to find their lemons in the pile. Remarkably, most children will recognize their lemons at once. Some will even get protective of them.

Next, ask the children to describe how they recognized their lemons. "My lemon was big," one might say. "My lemon had a mark on one side." And another, "My lemon had dents and bruises." Then talk about how people, too, come in different sizes, different shapes, different shades of color, different "dents and bruises."

After exploring these ideas, collect the lemons again but this time peel the lemons before placing them in the basket. Then ask the children to again find their lemon. Presented with this quandary, children will usually exclaim, "But the lemons all look the same!" This reaction opens the door to discussing how people, like lemons, are often similar on the inside.

This 15-minute activity can have a long-lasting effect, especially if children are reminded of the lesson in times of conflict.


The lesson also works well with apples or potatoes.


Adapted from Stern-LaRosa, C. M. (2001). Talking to Your Child About Hatred and Prejudice, Anti-Defamation League.

 A Seat on the Bus: Reversing Musical Chairs


To show children how they can turn exclusive situations in inclusive ones.


Begin with a classic game of "Musical Chairs":

  1. Place chairs in a circle with one fewer chair than there are students.
  2. Play music and have the children walk around the chairs.
  3. Tell students that when the music stops, they should quickly find a seat.
Once they have done this and one person has nowhere to sit, challenge the group to find a way for everyone to have a seat. Children can sit on each other's laps, stand on the rungs connecting chair legs, or squeeze next to someone else on the same seat.

Continue with a few successive rounds in which an additional chair is removed each time. Every time the group accommodates someone who would normally be excluded in a traditional game of Musical Chairs, compliment the students on their creativity.

With each new round, the students will have more contact with each other and will be challenged to work even harder to find ways to be inclusive. You may also wish to connect this activity with historical information about Rosa Parks and the importance, literally and figuratively, of everyone having "a seat on the bus."


Adapted from Activity #17 of Partners Against Hate Program Activity Guide, Ant-Defamation League.

 Color Matching


To show every child that their skin color is unique and beautiful.


Have the children paint self-portraits, mixing colors to match their skin tone as closely as they can. When they are finished, ask them to think of a name for their color, such as "coffee," "peaches," or "olive."

What they will see is that everyone has a unique color, and that no one is truly "black" or "white." Then make a rainbow of colors drawn from everyone in the class. Emphasize that there is nothing wrong with noticing someone else's color, because everyone's color is unique and beautiful.

Point out that color is a good thing, because it makes life interesting and fun to look at. Without color, we wouldn't have as much fun watching the leaves change during autumn, and all our cartoons and paintings and TV shows would be in black and white.


Adapted from What Makes People Different Colors?, Teaching Tolerance.

 People Tags


To show how labels can influence our judgments about people, and to recognize the importance of getting to know people before making judgments about them.


Labels are a useful way to organize information about people and events, but they all too often become substitutes for thought and experience. When labels are used as the sole source of information about other people, they limit our understanding and describe only one aspect of a person. "People Tags" is an activity that illustrates how misleading labels can be when applied to people.


  1. Prepare the lesson by printing one copy of the People Tags page for every four students. Cut up the page so that there are 4 people cards (Uncle Frederick, Aunt Mina, etc.), 8 object cards (dictionary, clock, etc.), and 4 fact cards in each set.

  2. Divide students into groups of four. Give each group a set of 4 people cards and 8 object cards. Do not give out the fact cards yet.

  3. Tell students to imagine they are doing holiday shopping for 4 relatives:

    • Uncle Frederick, a motorcycle rider
    • Aunt Mina, a librarian
    • Cousin Wei, a Navy recruit
    • Great-Aunt Keesha, a senior citizen

  4. Ask students to choose a gift for each relative from the 8 object cards.

  5. Then, after a few minutes, ask students:

    • Who gave Uncle Frederick the leather jacket? Cousin Wei the tattoo? Great-Aunt Keesha the rocking chair?
    • How did you decide who would get each gift?
    • How did labels like "motorcycle rider" and "senior citizen" influence your choices?

  6. Pass out the fact cards and give students time to use this information in making their final gift choices.


After students have finished deciding on gifts, ask the following questions:

  1. What were the final gift choices you made, and why?

  2. How did the new information change your gift choices?

  3. What happens when we rely too much on labels?

  4. If you had to choose a gift for someone you didn't know well, what could you do to make a good choice?

  5. If someone new joined our class and we wanted to make that person feel welcome, what could we do?

  6. Are there any other times when it would help to learn more about someone before making a judgment?

Adapted from Looking at Ourselves and Others, U.S. Peace Corps, and Common Threads (International Solidarity Program of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation).