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Handout
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First Impressions

Lesson Plan [pdf]

Learner objectives

As a result of this presentation, participants will:

  • Appreciate that first impressions based on a person's outward appearance - including body or shape - can be very misleading
  • Gain skills to counter impressions and prejudice based on a person's body size or shape

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What you need
  • Handouts
  • Small Victories CD with "First Impressions" presentation (PowerPoint)
  • Laptop computer (with CD drive) and multimedia projector
  • Pencils or pens
  • Flipchart paper and marker
  • Optional:
    • Small prize(s) for "Name That Person" winner(s)

Remember

Insert your information on the presentation title slide before teaching the lesson.

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Time Content/Suggestions Learning Reinforcer
5 min. Introduce the lessonThis is a group activity focused on how we judge people when we see them for the first time.

Distribute handout.  Think about question #1 - a person you like or admire now but whose body shape/size really doesn't fit the ideal image in media or society and who didn't seem appealing when you first met or saw him/her.  Write the name down or keep it in your head.  This individual could be a friend or family member or a well-known figure in the new or on TV or in the movies.  We'll come back to this in a while.

Have people work individually to complete the handout during the CD presentation and question #2.

 

 

Handout:  "First Impressions"

20-30 min. "Name That Person" Activity

I'm going to share with you clues about 9 people.  All are national or world figures.  All are fairly well-known people, but some are talented, and some are notorious.  The clues are observable characteristics and photographs with parts blacked out.  Based on the clues, if you know the person's name, write it in the appropriate space on the handout.  Please keep your guesses to yourself until we've finished with all 9 people.

Additional points:

  • Think about what society's standards of appearance would tell us about each person
  • If participants don't know exactly who a person is but want to guess, they should go for it.
  • Characteristics will be shared as if all mystery people were alive, but some are and some aren't.
CD:  "First Impressions"

Slide #1:  Title

 

Person A is a male.  He is described as homely and gawky.  Sometimes even the word grotesque is used in relation to his looks.  He is 6'4" tall, weights about 180 pounds, and has an unusual beard.  Who is he?

Slide #2:  A's characteristics and photo

 

Person B is a woman.  She has a prominent nose and is very wrinkled. She is quite short, almost shrunken.  Apparently, she doesn't have much fashion sense because she wore the same clothes every day.

Slide #3:  B's characteristics and photo

 

Person C, a man, is shorter than average - about 5'7".  He is trim with deep blue eyes and straight, dark hair, and he has an unusual mustache.

Slide #4:  C's characteristics and photo

 

Person D was also a man.  He, too, is shorter than average, but he is very heavy, weighing about 225 pounds.  His mouth was somewhat disfigured.  Here's one person's observation when D was a young man:  "Everything he has on is too small for him.  His atrocious tie dangles over his protruding stomach."

Slide #5 - D's characteristics and photo

 

Person E is a woman with dark hair and dark eyes.  Strikingly pretty, she was the winner of a city-wide beauty pageant in the 1950s.  She dresses in the latest fashions and loves shoes.

Slide #6 - E's characteristics and photo

 

Person F is a man, 5'6".  He was balding and, as one person described him, "rotund."  He has a bulbous nose and often walked with a cane.

Slide #7:  F's characteristics and photo

 

Person G is a man.  He has ears that look too large for his head, and his eyes droop.  His hair doesn't have much gray, but he is very small.

Slide #8:  G's characteristics and photo

 

Person H is a woman.  She dresses stylishly, but she's heavy, fairly short, and somewhat wrinkled.

Slide #9:  H's characteristics and photo

 

Person I was a man, 5'10".  He weighed 140 pounds, had blue eyes, and was often described as handsome.

Slide #10:  I's characteristics and photo

 

Discuss the answer to each question, using the italicized information below and the following common stereotypes related to appearance, including body size and shape:

  • small = powerless
  • heavy = lazy
  • handsome/beautiful = happy, good
  • wrinkled = old, not worth listening to
  • other stereotypes generated by the group?

Optional:  Time permitting, the group can develop the above list in a short brainstorming session.

Slide #11:  Stereotypes

Optional:  Stereotypes listed on flipchart paper

 

Who is...

A = Abraham Lincoln - Even though he was often described as gawky, homely, and grotesque, he was one of our greatest presidents and a remarkable human being.

Slide #12:  Who is A
Slide #13:  Lincoln

 

B = Mother Teresa - Described as "one of the world's most celebrated and beloved humanitarians."  When she died in 1997, at the age of 87, her possessions were a pair of shoes, a wash bucket, a Bible, and 3 saris worth about $1.50 each.  She championed the dying in the worst slums of Calcutta.  She built more than 550 hospices in 120 countries to make the end of life easier for those for whom living has been so hard.   Winner of the Nobel Peace prize in 1979, hard work and time bent her already small frame to just over 4 feet tall, but she is one of the giants of the century."

Slide #14:  Who is B
Slide #15:  Mother Teresa

 

C = Adolf Hitler - Although moderate in his physical appearance, Hitler was one of the most cruel and ruthless people ever to have lived, responsible for the torture and destruction of over 6 million people in death camps and the deaths of millions more as a result of World War II.

Slide #16:  Who is C
Slide #17:  Hitler

 

D = Louise Armstrong - One of the all-time great jazz musicians, and some would say the greatest.  As noted by one biographer, "Armstrong defined what it was to play Jazz.  His amazing technical abilities, joy and spontaneity, and remarkably quick, inventive musical mind still dominate Jazz to this day."

Slid #18:  Who is D
Slid #19:  Armstrong

 

E = Imelda Marcos, wife and confidante of Philippine dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, was chosen Miss Manila in the early 1950s.  "The Marcos regime was marked by corruption, political repression, and gross financial shenanigans.  The Marcoses were finally deposed and fled to Hawaii.  After her husband died in 1989, Imelda returned to the Philippines.  Later she was arrested and charged with corruption and amassing wealth during her husband's regime."  She is credited with saying, "Doesn't the fight for survival justify swindle and theft?  In self-defense, anything goes."

Slide #20:  Who is E
Slide #21:  Imelda

 

F = Sir Winston Churchill - He was rotund in much of his adult life, but he has been recognized - more than anyone else - as "saving the world from Hitler.  In the summer of 1940, it was above all thanks to him that Britain did not surrender in the face of Hitler's onslaught.  Had that come about (and the possibility seemed very close at hand), the U.S. could not have launched a D-Day invasion from American shores, 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, and we would all be living in a very different world, dominated by the heirs of the Nazis."  "Churchill mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."

Slide #22:  Who is F
Slide #23:  Churchill

 

G = Stephen Hawking - suffers from a devastating neurological disease, but he is one of the foremost mathematicians and theoretical physicists in the world today.  He is able to move only in minor ways, for example, eye and finger movements, and he speaks through a synthesizer.

Slide #24:  Who is G
Slide #25:  Hawking

 

H = Madeline Albright - was the Secretary of State in the last half of the Clinton Administration and the first woman to hold that position in the history of the country.  She has been described as "an advocate of democracy and human rights and a promoter of peace among nations.  She is a brilliant and witty woman who has been at the center of major world discussions and who has helped to forge America's alliances around the world."

Slide #26:  Who is H
Slide #27:  Albright

 

I = Ted Bundy - has been described as the most unlikely looking serial killer in America.  He eventually confessed to the murders of 28 young women and was executed in 1989.

Ask for questions or discussion, including whether anyone got all 9 right.  If you have prizes, give as appropriate.

Slide #28:  Who is I
Slide #29:  Bundy

10-15 min. Countering prejudice. Ask participants to return to question #1 on the handout.  Divide participants into groups of 2-4.
  • Ask if one person in each group would be willing to describe the individual they had misjudged upon first meeting or seeing.  Important:  Unless the individual being described is famous, participants should not feel obligated to name or specifically identify the individual they have in mind.  A general description is sufficient for the activity.
  • Working within their groups, participants identify some of the stereotypes and negative statements that could be made about the individual.
  • Based on their own insights and what they may have learned from the "Name That Person" activity, have the group develop and practice responses that could be given to counter the negative statements that could be made about the individual.
  • Time permitting, groups can share some of their key insights and effective responses with the larger group.
Handout:  "First Impressions"
5 min. Overall comments, questions, discussion.

Reinforce the bottom lineJudge individuals on who they are as people, not on their appearance - including their body size or shape.  Encourage others to do likewise.

Evaluation form

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References for photos (all copyright-free) and text about individuals in "Name That Person":
Developed by Suzy Pelican, Darlene Christensen, Debby Johnson, and Peg Cullen Pasley for Small Victories, a mini-lesson series promoting positive food, physical activity, and body image attitudes and behaviors.  Small Victories reflects the mission and principles of WIN Wyoming, a multi-agency, multi-state network that promotes healthy lifestyles instead of a specific body size, shape, or weight.  WIN Wyoming is coordinated through Department of Family & Consumer Sciences, University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service.  www.uwyo.edu/winwyoming  0203; slightly revised 0706
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Glen Whipple, Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.  Persons seeking admission, employment, or access to program of the University of Wyoming Shall be considered without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, political belief, veteran status, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.  Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication or program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact their local UW CES Office.  To file a complaint, write the UW Employment Practices/Affirmative Action Office, University of Wyoming, P.O. Box 3434, Laramie, Wyoming 82071-3434.  The University of Wyoming and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperate.
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Updated on 10/20/2006