"The Danger of a Single Story"

I turned this TED Talk into a mini unit on empathy and how stereotypes can be dangerous.

Photo of Mattie Talbert
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk about the dangers of stereotypes is nothing short of life changing. My English I classes really enjoyed watching Adichie talk about her experience with stereotypes and they were blown away by how much she had encountered. After watching the video, I did an activity where they thought about different stereotypes that they see in school today. We gathered about 6-7 different stereotypes and I wrote them on a piece of printer paper. Then, students had each paper for 1 minute and they had to write down adjectives that described that stereotype. After everyone was finished, I read some of the adjectives out loud. While students were not shocked, I believe their eyes were opened to how dangerous stereotypes can be and that not all stereotypes are necessarily 'bad'.  Ever since, they have had to catch themselves when they find each other stereotyping and it's so amazing to see them do that! 

However, I want to do more with this. I originally had thought about having students make a sign that said, "I don't [instert stereotype here]" and I would take a picture of them holding the sign. After thinking about it, though, I thought it might be too controversial and I didn't want to upset anyone. I would like to adapt this somehow so that the idea is still the same but without offending anyone.

Evaluation results

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This is the collaboration document that my coach and I have been working on.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Donna Teuber

Hi Mattie Talbert So great to see you at the Build workshop! I'm looking forward to how you build this idea out. Be sure to create a collaborative Google doc and include the link on your collaboration page. I would love to see the steps that a teacher could follow to implement this in a class.

Photo of Paloma Nikolic

I love this idea! There is so much more to do with it! It reminds me of a teacher I had in middle school who did a short unit on finding reliable sources for essays by having us find everything we could on the internet about MLK. It was a huge eye-opener to find how much was published online and how perspectives can color storytelling and historical writing. I wonder if there could be a connection here, with finding ways to compare the single-story challenge to a conversation about fake news or even freedom of speech. Could be too much, but fun to think about!

Photo of Mattie Talbert

Thanks! One of my coaching teachers during my student teaching showed this video to her creative writing class and it stuck with me and I got the stereotype activity from online and adapted it. I think that's a great idea to incorporate fake news and freedom of speech! Thanks for the ideas!

Photo of Michael Schurr

Hi Mattie,

Sounds like a great hook, students love learning through digital media. What was the video? Can you share a link? I'm wondering what you would do next. If the students could have one big take away, one big "Ah-ha" moment from this activity, what want it to be?


Photo of Mattie Talbert

Here's the link: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

I want them to know that they are more than the stereotypes society groups them into and that not all stereotypes are bad.

Photo of Marjorie Rehlander

I LOVE this ted talk! It is so powerful!... I am not sure what age group you are working with, but I find getting children to share thier own story.. and putting them all together shows the power and kindness in a group or community. Even if it is only I statements.

Photo of Mattie Talbert

Me too! I'm working with high school freshmen. We talked about different stereotypes in school and which stereotypes they fit into based on what they had heard about them. They were engaged and seemed to enjoy the activity!