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Writing for Change is designed to be a flexible teaching resource. With this tool, you as an instructor will be able to find and prepare writing exercises, relevant to a range of issues related to difference, power, and discrimination.

Using Writing for Change

Many of the writing activities  cover more than one “-ism.” Those that address a specific DPD topic include a variation that suggests how to adapt it to one or more other topics. Some of the exercises have special requirements--such as copies of a particular article or access to the Internet--but most can be completed with only pen and paper or copies of the relevant page, your guidance and your students’ ingenuity.

The writing exercises are grouped by the approximate amount of time needed to complete them. Skim the list of titles or check the index for keywords to find a specific topic. The exercises are presented in various formats that you can adapt depending on

  • what discipline or field you teach in,

  • how large your groups of students are,

  • how each exercise will be scored or graded,

  • where they will be completed,

  • how theoretical or “hands on” you want the assignment to be, and

  • how reluctant or enthusiastic your students are about the issue on which you are raising awareness.

Activity Time

 

5-10 min.

Activity Name and Objectives

Activity Type

Theme(s)

No. of Students

Materials

Appreciating Diversity

  • Create an awareness of the potential diversity in sexual orientation, religion, and age
  • Provide students an opportunity to appreciate their own attributes and those of others
Response, Discussion Sexual Orientation, Ethnicity, Culture, Age, Religion Individual, Pair Handout

Comparing Instead of Contrasting

  • Identify similarities between groups of people
  • Analyze the effects, as they relate to social justice issues, of emphasizing similarities between people rather than differences
Response General Individual Handout

Looking at Looks

  • Explore feelings and attitudes around discrimination based on appearance
  • Discuss strategies for dealing with this kind of discrimination
  • Discuss effects and outcomes of this kind of discrimination
Response, Discussion, Freewrite Ethnicity, Religion, Appearance Individual, Pair Handout

Questioning Order

  • Encourage students to develop an awareness of the effects of hierarchical ranking in
    language
  • Help them examine assumptions about the “natural order” in gender relationships
Response Gender Individual Handout

Rating Your Behavior

  • Explore the frequency with which students engage in behaviors that challenge or perpetuate “-isms"
  • Uncover attitudes and feelings that affect likelihood of engaging in such behaviors
Response, Discussion, Survey General Individual, Group Handout

Respecting Age

  • Identify attitudes, biases, or preconceived notions about the temperament, ability, and other characteristics of older adults
  • Understand the effects of disempowering language on this group of people
  • Examine assumptions about the definition of the “norm” as it relates to age
Response Age Individual Handout

Seeing the Whole Person

  • Create an awareness of ways in which language can reduce people to one aspect of their
    beings
  • Apply techniques of language to “put the person back in"
Rewording General Individual Handout

Talking About Being Out

  • Create an awareness of differences in sexual orientation
  • Analyze consequences of the presence of difference in this milieu
  • Explore feelings and attitudes around sexual orientation
Response, Discussion Sexual Orientation, Religion Individual, Group Handout

Treating People in Parallel Manner

  • Create an awareness of how groups and individuals can be elevated or disempowered by treating them in different ways
  • Discuss assumptions about the “norm” that affect how people are treated
  • Apply principles of parallel treatment to statements about various groups
Rewording General Individual Handout

Generating a Description

  • Specify the characteristics that learners think define a person as homosexual
  • Discuss and challenge assumptions about the components of that definition
Discussion, Write & Pass Sexual Orientation, Age, Religion, Disability Group

Handout

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10-20 min.

Activity Name and Objectives

Activity Type

Theme(s)

No. of Students

Materials

Adapting to Cultural Differences

  • Develop an awareness of certain cultural assumptions
  • Devise respectful responses to cultural differences
Response, Discussion Culture Individual, Group Handout

Analyzing Argumentation in Your Major

  • Develop an awareness of how arguments are constructed in professional journals in students’ majors or fields
  • Analyze the process of argumentation as it relates to social justice issues

Response, Discussion
General
Individual, Group
Handout, Article

Challenging the Pseudogeneric Man

  • Examine the use of male-gendered nouns as “generic"
  • Challenge the notion of the generic male as inclusive
  • Generate gender-free, inclusive nouns and pronouns
Discussion, Rewording Gender Individual, Group Handout

Challenging Your Assumptions

  • Identify and challenge assumptions based on factors such as age, ability, appearance, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status
  • Rewrite each sentence in neutral terms (to avoid the assumption)
Discussion, Rewording General Pair Handout

Changing Your Perspective

  • Stimulate an awareness of how people’s attitudes are affected by their perspectives on an issue
  • Increase ability to communicate with diverse audiences
Response, Discussion General Group Handout

Creating Gender-free Nouns

  • Examine the use of male-gendered nouns as “generic"
  • Challenge the notion of the generic male as inclusive
  • Generate gender-free, inclusive nouns and pronouns
Discussion, Rewording Gender Individual, Group Handout

Developing Definitions

  • Help students clarify their understanding and assumptions about various factors affecting people’s status and treatment by others
  • Establish common referents (consensus) for the terms listed
Discussion, Presentation General Group Handout

Interrupting Lesbian- and Gay-Baiting

  • Develop an understanding of the factors involved in lesbian- and gay-baiting
  • Explore feelings and attitudes around the cycle of oppression involved
  • Discuss ways to break the cycle
Response, Discussion Sexual Orientation, Ethnicity Individual, Group Handout, Article

Questioning the Norm

  • Create an awareness of the many social and political categories that define individuals
  • Discuss assumptions about how certain attributes define the “norm”
Response, Discussion General Individual, Group Handout

Re-conceiving Notions

  • Create an awareness of the kinds of assumptions or preconceived notions your students hold about people in ethnic groups different from their own
  • Explore the diversity of attitudes and behaviors within ethnic groups as well as between them
Response Ethnicity Individual Handout

Recognizing Slanted Words

  • Create an awareness of how the slanting of verbs and nouns can be used to depict people favorably or unfavorably
  • Practice casting negatively slanted words into favorable terms
Discussion, Rewording General Individual, Group Handout

Recognizing Slanted Words II

  • Create an awareness of how the slanting of verbs and nouns can be used to depict people favorably or unfavorably
  • Identify instances of slanting in online news media
Response General Individual
Handout, Internet

Seeing Racism as Systematized

  • Explore the concept of racism as systematized rather than random or individual
  • Discuss ways to challenge racism, including making it visible
Response, Discussion Ethnicity Individual, Group Handout, Article

Uncovering Attitudes About Sexual Orientation

  • Introduce the concepts of homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality
  • Analyze and discuss the effects these forces exert in students’ lives
Response, Discussion Sexual Orientation, Religion Individual, Group Handout

Uncovering Impressions

  • Explore feelings and impressions connected with various groups or categories of people
  • Evaluate the objectivity of these impressions
  • Analyze factors contributing to these feelings and impressions
Response, Discussion General Individual, Group Handout

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20-30 min.

Activity Name and Objectives

Activity Type

Theme(s)

No. of Students

Materials

Considering the Oppressor

  • Recognize ways in which even oppressed people can participate in oppression
  • Develop an awareness of how oppression can harm the oppressor as well as members of the oppressed group
Response, Discussion Gender Individual, Group Handout, Article

Examining the Mechanisms of Power

  • Refine students’ understanding of the concept of “power” by using certain definition techniques
  • Create an awareness of the mechanisms operating in their own lives
Response, Discussion General
Individual, Group
Handout

Identifying Euphemisms

  • Increase ability to identify euphemisms
  • Discuss how euphemisms can obscure oppression and distance agents (people or groups performing acts) from responsibility for their actions
Discussion, Rewording General Individual, Group Handout

Noting Variety

  • Investigate the number of people in students’ major classes, work environment, or professional organization who fall into various age, race, and gender categories
  • Analyze the findings as they relate to social justice issues

Response, Survey
General Individual Handout

Putting the People Back into Language

  • Identify passive constructions
  • Develop an awareness of how the use of passive constructions can obscure meaning, perpetuate oppression, deflect responsibility, or deprive people of identity or of agency (autonomy) in their actions
Discussion, Rewording General Individual, Group Handout

Responding to Bullying

  • Develop an awareness of the factors involved in bullying
  • Explore feelings and attitudes around expectations of the behaviors of people involved in such situations
  • Discuss ways to intervene safely in such situations
Response, Discussion General Individual, Group Handout

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30-60 min.

Activity Name and Objectives

Activity Type

Theme(s)

Students

Materials

Analyzing Assumptions in Academic Writing

  • Discover the assumptions about audience and subjects incorporated into professional or technical writing
  • Analyze the definition of the "norm"
  • Determine how the definition of the “norm” does and does not apply to the targeted audience and subjects
Response, Discussion General
Individual, Group

Handout, Article

Analyzing Audience in Academic Writing

  • Analyze the assumptions about audience and subjects in material from student textbooks
  • Discuss how the assumptions relate to social justice issues

Response, Discussion, Rewording
General
Individual, Group
Handout

Considering Body Size, Shape, and Movement

  • Engender an awareness of the assumptions about body size, shape, and mobility that are incorporated into the design of public facilities. Develop a profile of a “typical” user
  • Create an awareness of the access barriers that exist for people with vision, speech-hearing, or mobility impairments. Brainstorm solutions to certain access barriers and discuss ways to increase usability of selected facilities
Response, Discussion Appearance, Disability Group, Class Handout

Learning About Leaders

  • Encourage students to develop an awareness of the composition of the leadership in their major or professional field
  • Help them examine pros and cons of that particular composition for the membership
Response General Individual
Handout, Reference

Recognizing Social Justice Issues in Your Field

  • Develop an understanding of social justice issues affecting various majors
  • Analyze the forces behind the process of change in the majors

Response, Discussion
General
Individual, Group

Handout, Reference
Shedding Light on Color
  • Develop an awareness of the groups subsumed under the phrase "people of color"
  • Analyze factors that determine a person’s inclusion under that heading
Response, Discussion Ethnicity Individual, Group Handout

Thinking About Race in Academia

  • Analyze the influences of race as it relates to academia

Response, Discussion

Ethnicity, Gender

Individual, Group
Handout

Writing About Racial Identity

  • Develop a perspective on the role of racial identity in people’s self images
  • Analyze the influences of racial identity in various aspects of people’s lives
Response, Discussion Ethnicity, Religion Individual, Group Handout

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Hour+

Activity Name and Objectives

Activity Type Theme(s) No. of Students Materials

Abstracting and Synthesizing Information

  • Gain practice in abstracting and synthesizing information from a professional publication
  • Develop an awareness of social justice issues as they operate in a particular major or field
Response General Individual Handout, Journal

Dealing with -isms

  • Identify and interview another person who has had a direct confrontation with an "-ism"
  • Analyze and discuss factors that contribute to and that mitigate oppressive behaviors
Response, Interview General Group Handout

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Writing on Social Justice Issues

  • Increase understanding of social justice issues as they relate to a particular major or field
  • Develop ability to analyze and synthesize information relating to social justice issues

Response, Discussion
General
Individual, Group
Handout, Book

Examining Class

  • Develop an understanding of the term "class" as it relates to students’ majors or fields
  • Identify the relevant factors that affect students’ majors or fields
Response Class Individual Handout, Reference

Examining the Construct of Race in the Sciences

  • Explore the concept of race as applied to a particular field in science or social science
  • Analyze the effects of the construct on that field
Response Ethnicity, Gender Individual Handout, Reference

Formulating Your Stance on an Issue

  • Create a proposal in the IPOS (Issue, Purpose, Obstacle, Scope) format for a document addressing a particular social justice issue
  • Analyze the relevant factors as listed above
  • Synthesize information into a full report
Response General Individual Handout, Reference

Profiling Your Major

  • Describe the demographics of students’ majors (students and professional members)
  • Generate possible reasons for the composition of the membership

Survey, Presentation
General Individual Handout, Reference

Recognizing Achievements

  • Identify and analyze the contributions made to a particular field by a person of color
  • Develop an appreciation of the factors helping and hindering that person’s ability to achieve in the field
Response Ethnicity Individual Handout, Reference

Reporting on Religion

  • Create an awareness of societal assumptions about the “norm” in religion
  • Analyze effects of those assumptions, as they relate to a particular major or field, on a person outside of the religious "norm"
Response, Interview Religion Group Handout

Understanding Pejorative Terms

  • Identify and analyze pejorative terms
  • Explore attitudes surrounding the terms
  • Describe how the terms contribute to perpetuation of stereotypes and ineffective communication
  • Explore how and by whom meaning is determined
Response, Presentation General Individual, Group Handout

Thinking About Gender in Your Major

  • Develop an awareness of how a particular major or field is gendered
  • Examine gender roles as they relate to that major or field
  • Analyze factors affecting participation of women in the major or field
Response Gender Individual
Handout, Reference

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Hours

Activity Name and Objectives

Activity Type

Theme(s)

No. of Students

Materials

Acting on Your Agenda

  • Create an awareness of social justice issues operative in a particular major or field
  • Stimulate involvement in an activism project that addresses one of the identified issues
Response General Individual
Handout, Resources

Calculating Cash

  • Develop an awareness of the gap between wages at various levels in an organization
  • Analyze the financial benefits accruing to employees at the various levels
Response Workplace Individual
Handout, Reference, Resources

Comparing Benefits

  • Develop an awareness of the differences between benefits available at various levels in an organization
  • Analyze the effects of benefit availability on employees at the various levels
Response Workplace Individual
Handout, Reference, Resources

Exploring Your Mobility

  • Develop an awareness of the ways in which clothing can restrict or allow movement
  • Experience a different level of mobility based on clothing
  • Develop an awareness of the ways in which clothing can affect self-image
Response Appearance, Disability Individual Handout

Participating in a New Community

  • Develop and complete a “community participation” experience, designed to stretch the comfort zone and give students direct knowledge about ethnic, religious, or other groups with which they are currently unfamiliar
Response, Participation General Group Handout

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