Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan #8

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When Students Don't Clique:
Breaking Down Group Barriers in the Classroom

Grades 7 to 12

Language Arts, Journalism, Social Studies, History, Mathematics

Students examine the roles of cliques in schools and ways in which schools can foster tolerance among diverse groups of students. The class creates a survey addressing these issues to be distributed among a large portion of the student body, and students individually share their thoughts and experiences in personal reflective opinion articles.

Using SchoolNet News Network (SNN) with this lesson will provide teachers and students with online resource material, interaction with teachers/students throughout Canada and a safe, structured environment in which to publish their articles.




1. WARM-UP/DO-NOW: In the first five minutes of class, students respond to the following on a scrap piece of paper (written on the board prior to class):

  • List all the words and phrases you think of when you hear the word "clique."

Students then share their answers. As a class, review the list.

  • What positive words did students choose?
  • What negative words did students choose?
  • How did students group others by naming specific cliques?
  • What stereotypes did students acknowledge?

. As a class, read and discuss "Alma Maters: Two Words Behind the Massacre," focussing on the following questions:

  • What does the writer of this article assert does not change about high school, regardless of location or year? Do you agree with this assertion, and why?
  • What different aspects of society have been "blamed" for the school violence in the past few years?
  • When, according to the article, did high school cliques as we know them today come into existence? How might the structure of the school affect these cliques?
  • What suggestions for breaking down barriers among different groups and cliques in schools are offered in the article? What do you think about these ideas (e.g., smaller class sizes, team-teaching approach)?
  • Why does the article end as it does, with a past Columbine High School student's statement that "hiring more security guards will only limit the means by which kids can harm each other"? Do you agree, why? What other solutions do you think would effectively break down barriers and foster understanding among different groups?

3. Students gather in groups to brainstorm questions about cliques and tolerance of others to be posed on an anonymous survey. Suggested questions might revolve around the extracurricular activities that the school environment seems to most emphasize, the availability of clubs to meet different interests, the stereotypes that seem to exist about different groups of students, and the level of tolerance that students have for those they consider "different" from themselves. In developing the survey, students must consider the following guidelines:

  • For data collection purposes, it is best for students to not ask "yes/no" or open-ended questions. Better types of survey questions, from a statistical accuracy standpoint, are those to which participants respond "always, sometimes, never," rank comments in the order of importance, or answer close-ended questions by circling responses.
  • Determine how the survey will be analyzed. What mathematics will be necessary?
  • Students should consider asking the survey participants about their grade level, race, gender, and extracurricular activities to get the best "composite" of what types of students are responding to the survey.

After students formulate questions, survey should be typed up, photocopy it, and distribute surveys to other teachers interested in having their students participate. The survey should include directions that state that the survey is to be kept completely anonymous, thus encouraging honesty. In a future class, students should calculate and analyze the results, and post their findings and interpretations in a visible area of the school or in the school newspaper.

4. WRAP-UP/ HOMEWORK: Each student writes a opinion article, discussing their views about and experiences with cliques in school and suggesting ways in which the school environment could better foster tolerance among different groups of students. It should be understood that these articles will only be read by the teacher.

Their article must answer the 5 W's of News: Who, What, When, Where, Why (and sometimes How). Use the inverted pyramid style which means that articles should be written with the most important information first and the least important last. Use SNN's Writing Guide for further information on journalistic writing.



  • Why do cliques form among students?
  • What cliques exist in your school? What stereotypes are used to describe people who belong to those cliques? Is there tension between cliques in your school? If so, which ones? Why do you think this tension exists?


Students will be evaluated based on participation in class discussions, thoughtful assistance in brainstorming and analyzing the survey, and persuasive/opinion article about cliques and tolerance for others.



  1. Design posters to promote understanding among the student body of the great results that can come from diversity. Display the posters throughout the school.

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