ESL Conversation Questions About Stereotypes

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Stereotypes are very common, and it is a topic that students can find funny but also as a way to expand their view of the world. This lesson gives you a list of questions to get your students talking about stereotypes.


You could begin your lesson with an example of a stereotype a traveler creates in their mind due to a bad experience. For example: 'John traveled to New York recently and he tried to ask for directions to a couple of busy New Yorkers. Both kept walking really fast while nodding and preventing John from even asking what he needed. When John went back to Florida, he told his friends that New Yorkers are really rude! After, John's friends tell others the same thing. So, even though they have never been to New York, they are convinced of this idea'.

Next, you would ask your students if the statement 'New Yorkers are really rude!' is fair or not and why, based on John's experience. A good idea is to ask students to imagine reasons why the New Yorkers did not want to stop to listen to John. Reasons include 'they had an emergency waiting, they thought John was a sales person, they don't speak English, etc.'

The next step would be to tell students that John is 'stereotyping' and ask the class to define the term 'stereotype.' After a few students define it, you can have one definition so the class has a clear understanding. The standard definition would include language similar to this: 'a stereotype is a preconceived idea or an idea that someone forms about groups of people based on very little experience or rumors.'

With this introduction, students would be ready to discuss the following questions. If you consider it necessary, you can include the sample answers so students know where to begin.

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