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
OVERVIEW OF LESSON PLAN
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
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.
MATERIALS AND PREPARATION
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
- 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?
2. 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
- 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
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.
FURTHER QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
- 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
- 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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