Lesson Plan for two texts on discrimination

by Esther LucasGISIG Newsletter No. 16

The following two exercises are samples from the teaching work of Dr. Esther Lucas (1918-2011), one of the founding members of IATEFL GISIG. Esther was also a member of the Global Issues SIG Committee and Newsletter Editor for the Newsletters No. 14 – 19. The exercise comes from issue No. 16.

It is a prime example of her teaching style and on the ways she always employed open-ended methods to make things adaptable for all levels and for nearly all audiences. Esther was a lifelong member UNICEF whose educational aspects she furthered all her life. In 2009 she was awarded the special lifelong achievement award of the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet), given in recognition of Esther’s contribution to the promotion of education, in favour of a “culture of peace, non-violence and international understanding“. It was a pleasure and a great priviledge to have been able to work with her as a colleague and to promote GISIG’s aims in the teaching world.

Wolfgang Ridder 


(Esther Lucas) 

Questions for discussion before reading the first text:

  • You are going to read a short poem about discrimination. Do you know what discrimination means? Give an example.
  • What effect does discrimination have on the person discriminated against?
  • In the past, black people were officially discriminated against in America and in South Africa. What do you know about those periods?
  • Is there discrimination in your country? Explain.
  • Suggest ways of getting rid of discrimination.


(Countee Cullen, 1903 – 1946)

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee;
I saw a Baltimorian
Keep looking straight at me.
Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me “Nigger”.
I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.

Questions after reading the poem:

  • How soon after the incident, do you think, the poem was written? Is the writer a boy or girl or man or woman. Why do you think so?
  • A Baltimorian is a native of the city of Baltimore. Where is this city? What was the writer probably riding in? What makes you think so?
  • How did the writer feel about visiting Baltimore?
  • How did you feel when you finished reading the poem?
  • Why is the poem called “Incident”? How is it connected with discrimination?


Find a word or phrase in the poem similar in meaning to the following words:

a) happiness         b) directly    c) not at all     d) stuck out       e) all        f) till


Imagine you are the black boy’s father or mother. Write a letter to a friend explaining what you said to your son when he told you about the incident.


Write a dialogue between father or mother and their son after the incident.

VESNA’S STORY          

Vesna is a Roma (Gypsy) girl. This is her story:

“I saw a job for a sales assistant advertised in the window of a clothes shop. They wanted someone between 17 and 20. I’m 18, so I went in and asked about the job, but was told by the manageress to come back in two days because not enough people had applied.

I returned twice, and was always told the same thing. Nearly a week later I went back to the shop. The job advertisement was still in the window. The manageress was too busy to see me, but I was told that the vacancy had been filled.

After I left the shop I was so upset that I asked a non-Roma friend if she would go in and ask about the job. When she came out she said that she had been asked to come for an interview on Monday.”

After investigation, this was the manageress’s response:

“I felt that Vesna would find it difficult to work here, because of the distance she would have to travel to work each day. It would be an eight-mile journey on two buses; it makes it very difficult to run the shop if staff are always late. I’d much prefer to appoint someone from this area. The person to whom I offered the job seemed just right.”

Points for discussion:

  • Do you think Vesna was right in turning to her non-Roma friend? Why?
  • What do you think about the manageress’s response?
  • What do you think happened in the end?

This is what happened:

Many countries have laws against unfair discrimination. Vesna took her case to a special European court that enforces the law about discrimination. The court agreed that she had been discriminated against. Several other people who lived far away from the shop had been interviewed. The girl who got the job was only 16, white, and lived the same distance from the shop as Vesna. The shop had to give some money to Vesna for the injury to her feelings.

Further discussion:

  • Was Vesna unfairly discriminated against because she was a woman or because of her ethnicity, or both? Explain.
  • Could this kind of discrimination happen in your country? What groups of people might be discriminated against?
  • How do you feel about this kind of discrimination?
  • “Ignorance encourages prejudice and makes discrimination possible”. Do you agree with this statement?

(Adapted from: First Steps, Amnesty International 1997)

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One Response to Lesson Plan for two texts on discrimination

  1. Bill Templer February 4, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

    In a lesson plan, this recent video on educating Black boys in Baltimore could be included, watched & discussed in connection with C. Cullen’s poem:

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