Lesson Plan for Avatar and Empathy

May 23, 2010

There has been quite a bit of interest generated amongst my colleagues for a lesson plan using Avatar.  I plan on using an activity this week for the movie Avatar that will develop Dan Pink’s aptitude of empathy, so I thought I would share it with you.

This lesson plan involves using Dr. Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity and applying the concept of intercultural competence to the movie Avatar.

According to Dr. Bennett, people go through a number of different stages as they learn about and hopefully adapt to different cultures.  Using the six stages from Dr. Bennett, I created this chart for students to complete during the movie Avatar.  I plan on discussing Bennett’s DMIS model for the first 30 minutes of class, and then have students fill out the chart as they watch Avatar.

It sounds like a pretty easy, clean-cut lesson plan for Avatar, and I always enjoy developing Dan Pink’s aptitude of empathy in students, especially with an activity over something the love.

But Milton Bennett’s model is complex, and my American History students do not have much formal training in cultural studies.  So I am preparing myself for a number of questions and some possible confusion in the beginning.

I may find that I will need to discuss some of the stages of intercultural sensitivity in more detail each day.  As an early thought, I may just discuss the ethnocentric stages (denial, defense, minimization) on day one.  Then I could focus on the ethnorelative stages from the model during the second day.

I think that there should be plenty of examples of ethnocentric and ethnorelative behavior during each day of Avatar.

I do think the students will have great results enhancing their aptitude of empathy.  I have used the model with my international studies students with great results, and I really think that my younger students will be similarly successful with the model.

I can see this lesson plan sparking interesting conversation and noticeable engagement even at this late point in the year.  After all, how can you beat a lesson plan that uses Avatar?


Update From Day 1:

First I would give the overview of the model and talk about cultural acceptance and the challenges of living in a different culture.  Just some general guidelines.

I would then divide the stages into ethnocentric (Denial, defense, minimization) for the first day.  You can focus more time on just these three stages, and it seemed to be a little easier for students to digest.

Then on the second day I would introduce the ethnorelative (Acceptance, adaptation, integration)  The movie progresses this way nicely, so you can really help the kids focus.

Just some advice for what it’s worth!


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2 Responses to Lesson Plan for Avatar and Empathy

  1. Lesson Upgrades
    May 24, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Blog post: Lesson Plan for Avatar and Empathy http://bit.ly/b9lK4H #danielpink #empathy

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