Sample Activities

This section catalogues resources that are appropriate for a variety of classroom settings. Each activity includes the overview, goals, and instructions for implementing the activity successfully and includes advice on how to best utilize it. Several resources fit into more than one category, so you may find them under multiple tabs. If you have any feedback about these resources or would like to have an additional activity included, please use our contact form to reach us.

Growth Mindset Activity for STEM

Previous research has shown that socio-psychological interventions are effective at mitigating some of the negative factors, such as stereotype threat, that result in racial, gender, and first generation achievement gaps in STEM classrooms. Growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be developed through strategic efforts and hard work and are not simply innate or fixed. Growth mindset is especially important for members of social groups that are negatively stereotyped by harmful and inaccurate messages about the innate intelligence or abilities needed to succeed in STEM disciplines. This activity has STEM students write or discuss the science behind intelligence and its development to instill a growth mindset in students.

Invisible Knapsacks

This activity has students read Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” to familiarize themselves with examples of oppression that they do not experience based on skin color. Students form small groups based on six types of privilege: ability, Christian in the U.S., cisgender, man, socioeconomic status, and U.S. citizenship. Students are asked to join a small group based on a privilege that they hold. This discussion-based activity guides students in understanding privilege as a concept and helps students recognize how their own privileges benefit them and impact daily life.

Dialogue Blocker Activity

In this activity, students analyze the dialogue blockers present in “Post Mortem: A Conversation Gone Wrong.” The instructor can use this discussion of dialogue blockers to guide students in constructing classroom norms and ground rules that will support an inclusive learning environment. This activity helps students recognize common dialogue blockers, consider why people use them, and become more aware of how they inhibit important conversations.

Group Process Activity

This page provides a collection of vetted activities that will assist instructors and students in developing group cohesion, thoughtful engagement, and reflective responses to challenging material. The activities are divided into four types: Icebreakers, Group Maintenance, Dialogue Starters, and Reflection. The activities are designed to help instructors and students build an inclusive classroom.

Dominant Narratives

This page provides a discussion-based lesson plan on dominant narratives. A dominant narrative is an explanation or story that is told in service of the dominant social group’s interest and ideologies. Dominant narratives usually achieve dominance through repetition, the apparent authority of the speaker, and the silencing of alternative accounts. In this activity, instructors ask students to analyze distant or contemporary dominant narratives as a class. Once students understand what a dominant narrative is and how it functions, they share additional examples of dominant narratives. This discussion guide helps students recognize dominant narratives, how they are perpetuated, and how and whom they benefit/harm.

Perfectly Logical Explanations

This discussion guide shows instructors how to engage with dominant narratives and “perfectly logical explanations” (PLEs). Dominant narratives are well-known and widely accepted explanations or narratives that are typically in service of the interests and ideologies of dominant social groups. Those who use dominant narratives employ PLEs to provide context and justify their perspective in order to avoid being judged. The guide below is focused on a discussion about video games, but it is designed to exemplify the types of questions that could be raised to critically interrogate any dominant narrative. This activity helps students recognize the weight and power of dominant narratives and teaches students how to rigorously interrogate dominant narratives.

Mapping Social Identity Timeline Activity

This activity asks students to create a timeline of their lives, noting particular lessons they have learned about some aspect of their social identity (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). When completing this activity, students can refer to the Cycle of Socialization handout, which offers a diagram to represent the socio-cultural construction of social identities. Both the timeline and handout allow students to reflect on the ways in which students reinforce or challenge the socio-cultural construction of identities.

School You, Inc.

This activity asks students to create an imaginary school designed to maintain oppressive norms. Students will consider what institutional oppression looks like and how it is perpetuated in subtle ways. A debriefing discussion will take place after the activity, encouraging students to compare their imaginary school to their own institution. Students will also brainstorm ways in which they can resist and challenge the oppressive norms they’ve identified.

Name Story

In this activity, students share the name they will go by in class and any history or story the name has for them. They might share the meaning of their name, who they were named for, why their parents gave them that name, or why they chose that name for themselves. Instructors should give students time to write down their thoughts alone, and then students will share their name story with the class. This activity helps students learn each other’s names and recognize the diverse group of students that make up their learning environment.

Icebreaker Grab Bag

This page provides a collection of icebreakers, which are quick, low-stakes activities that encourage students to become more familiar with their peers. Frequent use of icebreakers on a daily or weekly basis can assist in building community among students. Additionally, having all students participate at the beginning of each class can positively impact overall participation in classroom discussion. Some icebreakers include Blanket Barrier, Sun & Moon, and Zip Zap Zoom.

Web of Connectedness

In this activity, the class sits in a circle while the facilitator poses a discussion question. A ball of yarn, twine, or string is passed to each person who speaks. After a participant speaks, they hold on to part of the string and pass the ball to the next speaker. By the end of the discussion, the string will form a web between the students. This can be used as an icebreaker activity with a low-stakes question like “what is your favorite hobby?” or to track the discussion of more course-centric topics. The web in this activity represents the students’ collective understanding of the topic that is derived through the sharing of everyone’s perspectives.

The Five Minute Poem

In this activity, students spend five minutes writing a brief four-stanza poem about where they are from. Poems can then be shared in a large group, in pairs or small groups, or posted to a class website. This activity can serve as a starting ground for students to reflect on how where they come from impacts their learning experience in the classroom.

The Spectrum Activity, Questions of Identity

The Spectrum Activity uses the Questions of Identity to engage students in discussion or reflective writing. The Questions of Identity prompt students to critically consider their identities and the relationship between identity and context. Example questions include “What part of your identity are you most proud of?” and “What part of your identity did you struggle with most growing up?”. This activity can be done in conjunction with the Social Identity Wheel and Personal Identity Wheel to encourage students to think about their identity and the identities of their peers.

Social Identity Wheel

The Social Identity Wheel is a worksheet that encourages students to identify and reflect on the various ways they identify socially, how those identities become visible or more keenly felt in different contexts, and how those identities impact the ways others perceive or treat them. This worksheet asks students to fill in various social identities, including race, gender, sex, ability/diasbility, and sexual orientation. Students then categorize their identities based on which matter most in their self-perception and which matter most in others’ perception of them. The Social Identity Wheel can be used in conjunction with the Personal Identity Wheel to help students reflect on the connections and dissonances between their personal and social identities. The Social Identity Wheel and the Personal Identity Wheel can be used in small or large group discussions or as a part of the Spectrum Activity.

Personal Identity Wheel

The Personal Identity Wheel is a worksheet that encourages students to reflect on how they identify outside of social identifiers, such as gender, race, or sexual orientation. The worksheet asks students to list adjectives they would use to describe themselves, skills they have, favorite books, hobbies, etc. Unlike the Social Identity Wheel, the Personal Identity Wheel does not emphasize perception or context. The Personal Identity Wheel can be used in conjunction with the Social Identity Wheel to help students reflect on the connections and dissonances between their personal and social identities. The Personal Identity Wheel and the Social Identity Wheel can be used in small or large group discussions or as a part of the Spectrum Activity.

Who Owns the Zebra?

“Who Owns the Zebra?” is an activity involving a logic puzzle and a debrief discussion. For the logic puzzle, students are divided into groups, and the groups have to determine which of the fictional characters in the puzzle owns a zebra and which of them drinks water. Each student in the group is given a vital clue that is needed to solve the logic puzzle, necessitating everyone’s participation. During the debrief discussion, students reflect on the impact of individual behavior on group learning, thinking critically about participation and barriers to participation.

Core Values

In the Core Values Exercise, students will rank a list of values, such as self-acceptance, authority, health, stability, service, and belonging, from “always valued” to “least valued.” They will then translate their “always valued” category into a chart of their own core values. Students will share their core values with the rest of the group and generate a list of shared values together. This activity is designed to engage students in self-reflection and evaluation.

BARNGA

BARNGA is a simulation game that encourages students to critically consider normative assumptions and cross-cultural communication. BARNGA was created by Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan in 1980, while working for USAID in Gbarnga, Liberia. He and his colleagues were trying to play Euchre but all had different interpretations of the instructions. He realized that conflict arises not only from major or obvious cultural differences but often from subtle, minor cues. He created BARNGA to tease out these subtleties. In this activity, students play a card game silently, each operating with a different set of rules, unbeknownst to them. Following the game, there is a 3-part debrief: Descriptive, Applied, and Takeaways. Descriptive focuses on students’ feelings and frustrations throughout the game, Applied focuses on the real-life situations that BARNGA simulates, and Takeaways asks students to consider important lessons from the game.