Making Generalizations Activities

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been part of the whirlwind world of teaching middle school for 20 years. She has a Master of Education degree in instructional design.

Help your students make generalizations based on both their own knowledge and based on text by engaging them in these activities. These exercises are most appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students.

Making Generalizations Activities

Making generalizations is not only an academic skill but a life skill, as well. Therefore, it's important to incorporate activities that foster development of this important skill. Learning how to make generalizations will help your upper elementary and middle school students understand text on a deeper, more complete level. In addition, this skill carries over to enable students to comprehend more than simply a text-based activity.

Making generalizations involves taking a look at all the parts of a text, multimedia clip, math problem, or even a life experience, and simplifying to glean an overview of the information. In so doing, they must first identify the essential information and then summarize it in a way that provides an overarching explanation of the concept.

In these team activities, students create generalizations based on both common knowledge and reading passages. They will also differentiate between generalizations and stereotypes and how to apply making generalizations to life outside the classroom.

What's the Big Idea?

Students have been practicing their generalization skills for a long time, and they may not even realize it. When students identify the main idea or big idea of a passage, they are making a generalization. Help students make this connection using the following team activity.

Provide students with a one to two paragraph passage that has a clear main idea. Put students into small groups and have each group analyze the passage and come up with the big idea, or the generalization. Discuss as a class to ensure the students understand and point out that this skill is important because it helps them to identify the essential message when they are reading.

Now, provide students an opportunity to practice this skill. Give each group three additional passages, sentence strips, and markers. Students should read each passage, identify a generalization, and write each generalization sentence on a sentence strip. Provide them with a list of generalization signal words, such as 'overall', 'for the most part', and 'typically'. Circulate to ensure students understand and are completing their generalizations properly. Assist as needed.

When the groups have finished their sentence generalizations, combine groups together so they can share and compare their answers. Ask each combined group to share with the class similarities or inconsistencies they found in each other's generalizations.

  • Materials: four short reading passages, sentence strips, markers

Generalization vs. Stereotype

It's easy to move from generalizations to stereotypes. Students must be able to distinguish between these two concepts. In this activity, students work together to identify similarities, make generalizations, and identify potential stereotypes.

Separate students into physical similarity groups. For example, a group of all girls, a group of students with white shoes, or a group with brown hair. Do not tell the groups their similarity.

Now, have groups brainstorm and identify their physical similarity. Then, group members will ask questions of one another until they identify a similarity that cannot be seen from the outside, such as a music artist they all like. When all groups have identified both their physical and their unseen similarity, move onto the whole class portion of the activity.

Have groups stand at the front of the room, one at a time. They will tell their classmates the physical similarity and the unseen similarity. The classmates will then take that information and make a generalization statement, such as ''Many people with brown hair enjoy listening to country music''. Point out that when making generalizations, it's important not to tread into the territory of stereotypes or incorrect, invalid generalizations. Explain and discuss the difference between the two.

  • No materials needed.

Generally Speaking, Except For…

This activity will help students to differentiate between valid and invalid generalizations.

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