Deconstructing Normal

For the final presentation of our fifth grade lesson series, we worked to further explore the concepts we had already discussed; prejudice, oppression, empathy, and privilege. To do this we selected a word to deconstruct with the students:“Normal”.

What does it mean to be “Normal”? How does this word shape all of our lives? With this lesson we wanted to address two main points. The first is that society pushes this idea of “normal” onto people which impacts everyone—but particularly people of color and other minorities—negatively. The second is that “normal” doesn’t actually exist and that we are stronger as a people when we reject limiting stereotypes and embrace our authentic selves.

We want students to leave with these two points in mind, and begin to further contemplate and question how this limiting term has hurt them and those around them.

In order to spark this process, we asked the fifth graders to reflect on what they see in the mainstream media. This segued into a discussion about stereotypes and representation. It became clear to the students that even though nobody can clearly define “normal”, there is an idea that is being pushed on all of us. This concept is limiting for everyone: it pushes toxic masculinity onto males, unrealistic and racist beauty standards onto females, and leads to internalized hatred for many people of color. In every classroom, the discussion looked a little bit different but always ended with a gained awareness of the pervasive negative impact of the term “normal”.

For the second part of this lesson, we wanted to show the strength that can be discovered when we celebrate our unique selves. We have a class-wide discussion about intersectionality and invited each student to draw their own “intersectionality map”. This activity allowed students to reflect on different aspects of their own identity and visualize how these identities shaped their own experience in the world. This realization and celebration of diversity was a powerful way to end our three-lesson series with the fifth graders.  

If you would like to hear a more in depth description of our curriculum or have any questions, please reach out to us!