Lesson plan - culture, race & ethnicity


Understanding concepts: reading, recording and reassessing – Students are introduced to these concepts and how they differ from each other, then apply them to their own experiences.


To help students differentiate between the concepts of culture, race and ethnicity.


  • Copies of the definitions and questions sheets for students.
  • Butchers’ paper and felt pens.

What to do

  1. Prior to distributing the sheets, divide the class into three groups and allocate one of the concepts to each group.
  2. Have students brainstorm words and phrases associated with their concept and record on butchers’ paper.
  3. Ask a representative from each group to present their ideas to the whole class.
  4. Hand out the definitions sheet and work through the definitions with the class.
  5. Review each of the brainstorming sheets in terms of these definitions.
  6. Hand out the questions sheet and have students complete them and compare with classmates.

Culture, Race & Ethnicity definitions

These concepts are complex and are often confused or thought to mean the same thing – but they do not. Many different definitions of these terms exist, and the following are examples:


Culture is not about superficial group differences or just a way to label a group of people.

  • It is an abstract concept.
  • It is diverse, dynamic and ever-changing.
  • It is the shared system of learned and shared values, beliefs and rules of conduct that make people behave in a certain way.
  • It is the standard for perceiving, believing, evaluating and acting.
  • Not everyone knows everything about their own culture.


The term ‘race’ is not appropriate when applied to national, religious, geographic, linguistic or ethnic groups. Race does not relate to mental characteristics such as intelligence, personality or character.

  • Race is a term applied to people purely because of the way they look.
  • It is considered by many to be predominantly a social construct.
  • It is difficult to say a person belongs to a specific race because there are so many variations such as skin colour.
  • All human groups belong to the same species (Homosapiens).


Ethnicity is a sense of peoplehood, when people feel close because of sharing a similarity. It is when you share the same things, for example:

  • physical characteristics such as skin colour or bloodline,
  • linguistic characteristics such as language or dialect,
  • behavioural or cultural characteristics such as religion or customs or
  • environmental characteristics such as living in the same area or sharing the same place of origin.

Culture, Race & Ethnicity questions

  1. How does culture define who a person is?
  2. What is your culture?
  3. Is this the same as your ethnicity?
  4. What is a common belief about race and how is it untrue?
  5. Identify some stereotypes you know of about a particular group of people.
  6. List some of your values, beliefs and customs (3 of each).
  7. What are some of the things from your culture that you are proud of?
  8. What are some of the things about your culture that you don’t like?
  9. How would you describe Australian culture?
  10. What are some cultural issues in Australia today?

The observable aspects of culture such as food, clothing, celebrations, religion and language are only part of a person’s cultural heritage. These things make up how you live and what makes you accepted in society.

Fill in the table below with information about your own culture. Compare your information with that of your classmates.

Cultural featureWhat is acceptableWhat is not acceptable
Non-verbal communication
People’s names

Adapted from a Living in Harmony Funded Project, ‘Culture & Colour’, Northern Beaches Neighbourhood Service, NSW, 2005