Understanding and Fighting Stereotypes through Words and Images

Lesson Plan


Students will identify stereotypes about a specific group of people, and then create pamphlets with written and visual information that combats those stereotypes.

Intended Age Group

Secondary (grades 6-12)

Length of Lesson

One 50 minute lesson

Standards Area

Social Studies


Students will be able to:

  • explain why Melanie Yazzie made Indian Look-Alike;
  • discuss the power of visual imagery to communicate important messages;
  • identify different stereotypes and discuss their impact; and
  • feel comfortable taking creative risks to combine imagery and words to convey a powerful message.


  1. Warm-up: Have students brainstorm stereotypes held in the United States about the cultural group to which they belong. Ask them to share how these stereotypes make them feel. Make sure to help students maintain a positive atmosphere without joking or making fun of others. This topic is very sensitive and can be hurtful if not managed carefully.
  2. Watch the video with Melanie Yazzie talking about experiences that led to the creation of Indian Look-Alike (found in the Teaching Resources section of the Indian Look-Alike object page). As a class, read about Indian Look-Alike and what the artist says about her motivation for the piece. Facilitate a discussion about why such stereotypes evolve and persist.
  3. Instruct students to create pamphlets, either by hand or on the computer, with information that combats stereotypes about either Native Americans or one of the other groups represented in the class. Students may work individually or with a partner. Criteria for the pamphlet should include: 1) identification of a particular stereotype about Native Americans or another group that students want to combat; 2) factual information from at least three sources that refute the stereotype; 3) at least three visuals to support what the students are trying to convey in writing; and 4) at least one quotation from Melanie Yazzie.
  4. Give students time to critique and peer-edit their rough drafts before submitting final drafts. They should make sure the pamphlets meet the criteria and use visual imagery effectively to convey a message.
  5. Call on volunteers to share their pamphlets, and then display all of the pamphlets so that the students can learn from each other.


  • Paper and pencil or pen for each student
  • Internet access
  • Access to a printer to print pamphlets made on the computer
  • Magazines, glue sticks, scissors, and colored pens/pencils for students to make pamphlets by hand
  • About the Art section on Indian Look-Alike
  • Color copies of Indian Look-Alike for students to share, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Social Studies
    • History
      • Understand the concept that the power of ideas is significant throughout history
      • Analyze the concepts of continuity and change and effect
      • Analyze the concept of complexity, unity and diversity
      • Become familiar with United States historical eras, groups, individuals, ideas and themes
  • Visual Arts
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
  • Language Arts
    • Research and Reasoning
    • Writing and Composition

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Indian Look-Alike

Indian Look-Alike


Melanie Yazzie, Navajo/Diné, United States

Who Made It?

Born in 1966, Melanie Yazzie grew up on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Arizona State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she is now an associate professor of art. Yazzie works in a variety of media including printmaking, painting, sculpture, installation art, and ceramics, and has led several collaborative international projects with artists in New Zealand, Siberia, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Germany, and Japan.

Yazzie’s artwork explores themes of childhood memories, travel and transformation, the role of women in Navajo culture, post-colonial dilemmas, and her personal health. “The work I make is about my personal experience as a Navajo woman in today’s society,” she says.

What Inspired It?

The overall concept of this piece was inspired by Yazzie’s work with the community and her efforts to educate students about Native American stereotypes. She was shocked when she went to speak to a school class and saw that the children were given a worksheet with stereotypical images of Indians under the same prompt that appears at the top of her print:

Circle the Indians in each row that look the same. Color the pictures.

“I looked at [the worksheet] and thought I do not look like these [nor does] anyone I have ever known. I decided to take the art project and make one of my own, inserting my own childhood image,” Yazzie explains.


The Title and Prompt
The Title and Prompt

The title of the print and the instructions at the top are exactly the same as those on the worksheet that was given to the elementary school children.

Childhood Image
Childhood Image

The image of Yazzie as a girl doesn’t resemble the cartoonish Indians at all. By inserting her image into each row, Yazzie makes it obvious which “Indians” look the same and makes the point that Native Americans are individuals, not types.

Background Color and Pattern
Background Color and Pattern

According to Yazzie, the background color and pattern resemble a turquoise stone. Turquoise plays a large role in Navajo religious ceremonies and is prominent in Navajo jewelry. It is thought to promote healing and good luck.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.