Culture Iceberg Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

What is culture and how is it learned? This lesson plan uses a text lesson to introduce the culture iceberg theory of Edward T. Hall. An activity leaves students with a tangible model of the theory.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define 'culture'
  • explain Edward T. Hall's theory on culture
  • list examples of cultural nuances


60 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


  • Paper copies of the text lesson Culture Iceberg: Theory & Model
  • A worksheet created using the quiz from the associated text lesson
  • Styrofoam blocks
  • Plastic cutlery
  • White and blue acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Toothpicks
  • Permanent markers


  • Begin by writing the following term on the board: 'culture'.
    • What is culture?
    • Let's work together to synthesize our ideas about culture into a definition.
  • Pass out the paper copies of the text lesson, one per student.
  • Ask students to read the introduction and 'The Culture Iceberg' section of the text lesson.
    • Who is Edward T. Hall?
    • What is meant in the text lesson when it states that we can usually only see 10% of a culture?
    • What do icebergs have to do with culture?
  • Tell the class to read 'The Top 10%' section of the text lesson.
    • What types of things are included in the top 10% of cultures?
    • What does the term 'fluid' mean in relation to culture?
  • Have the students read the 'Just Below the Surface' section of the text lesson.
    • What are some examples of the unspoken rules in our society?
    • Why is the below the surface aspect of culture somewhat challenging to figure out?
  • Ask the class to read 'The Core' section of the text lesson.
    • What types of things lie in the core of culture?
    • How can a cultural element be subconscious?
    • Why does it take a long time to understand core cultural nuances?
  • Have the class read the remainder of the text lesson.
    • How are the three aspects of culture related according to Hall's theory?
    • Let's revisit our definition of culture for a moment. How did we do?
  • Pass out the worksheet to the students, one copy each.
  • Allow the students to use the paper copies of the text lesson as a resource in completing the worksheet.
  • When all students have finished the worksheet, review each question and answer with the class, allowing students to correct any mistakes on their papers.

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