Discovering the Globe

Human Tendencies When Interacting With Other Cultures

Emily Hicks, M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language, Penn State
Emily Hicks is a former 7th and 8th grade ELA instructor. Emily has taught and tutored English and ESL in K-12 and university settings.


  1. Given an example of one of the psychological tendencies, the students will be able to  identify the errors in the person’s thinking and explain how this error could relate to a cross-cultural interaction.
  2. The students will be able to define and explain each of the psychological errors and provide a theoretical example of someone making that error
  3. The students will be able to define “empathy” and explain the importance of empathy in cross-cultural interaction
  4. The students will be able to provide theoretical solutions to a problem and view that problem from an empathetic point of view.

Standards (using PA Common Core History Standards for grades 9-12)

  1. CC.8.6.9-10, 11-12.C: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience
  2. CC.8.6.9-10, 11-12.I : Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
  3. CC.8.4.12.D: Evaluate how conflict and cooperation among groups and organizations have impacted the development of the world today, including its effects on Pennsylvania.

Lesson Overview

Option 1 (Anticipatory Set)

The day before, have students complete the discrimination survey via Google Forms.

Option 2

Create a poll on that asks the following two questions. Have students respond using their cell phones, and discuss the results:

  1. How comfortable are you interacting with people from different cultual groups than you?
    1. Have I ever been discriminated against?
    2. Have I ever discriminated against someone else?
  2. Address the following questions as a class. Depending on classroom routines, can be done as a bellringer, journal entry, think-pair-share, or whole class discussion.
    1. What is discrimination? What are some examples of discrimination?
    2. Go over the definition on the PowerPoint
    3. Go to the next slide and ask students if they can come up with any other examples of discrimination. Point out the examples that go beyond racial or ethnic differences.


  1. Explain that our brains and our cultures make it difficult for us to ethically interact with people who are different than us.
  2. For each of the following slides, there will be an example of the psychological or cultural difficulty and then a definition.
    1. For the pictures, ask the students to think-pair-share about the question and to answer it as a class.
  3. Go over the definitions as a class.
    1. Note: as you discuss these, be careful in your examples. Good examples could relate to your students’ view of their school rival, stereotypes about white people, or students’ view of teachers.
    2. See notes below individual slides for more examples and explanations.
  4. Watch the empathy video and view the empathy graphic. Discuss the concept of empathy vs. sympathy with your students. Ask them what they’ve typically used when relating to people who are in situations who are struggling. Connect this to thinking about issues connected to other countries, particularly countries in the third world.

Guided/Independent Practice

  1. Have students read “Diary of a Teenage Refugee” and work on the writing assignment. As you introduce the assignment, discuss some elements that you would include in a letter you would write.
  2. Have students work either individually or in small groups on their letters.
  3. If students have not finished them, have them work on them for homework. Length can be determined based on your classroom expectations.

Next Day Extension

Provide students the opportunity to share their letters. Highlight any examples of empathy you observe.


    1. PowerPoint
    2. Directions for Writing Assignment
    3. “Diary of a Teenage Refugee”