Stereotypes of the French
Lesson 2: Stereotypes of Americans

Submitted by Written by Pam Wesely. Updated by Laurent Cammarata and Diane J. Tedick, with additional updates by Pam Wesely.


Students will:

  • define and demonstrate understanding of the difference between cultural myth, generalization, and cultural reality through examining foreign stereotypes of Americans

Students will:

  • recognize and identify the distinctive viewpoints of other cultures

Language: Content Obligatory
Students will:

  • understand and use vocabulary to organize and categorize stereotypes: positif, négatif, neutre, produits, perspectives, pratiques
  • use the present and past tenses to discuss American stereotypes as presented in the text
  • use the present tense (1st person singular) to express opinions with verbs like croire, penser, etc.
  • use parce que and form complex sentences (with 2 or more clauses) to provide reasons to back up opinions
  • understand and use words related to describing stereotypes like les mythes culturels, les généralisations, les vérités culturelles

Language: Content Compatible
Students will:

  • use prepositional phrases such as “according to the text,” “in paragraph 3 on page X of the text,” etc. to refer back to the text during discussion using phrases/expressions such as d’aprés le texte, dans le premier/second/ troisième/etc. paragraphe de la page…, “cette idée est exprimée dans le texte à la page…, cette idée est formulée dans le premier/deuxième/etc. Paragraphe,  ce concept est développé dans la première/deuxième/etc. partie du texte, cet argument a été développé précédemment, “comme le texte le souligne, page…, ainsi que nous pouvons le lire, page..., pour de plus amples détails, se reporter page..., etc.
  • practice structures for expressing agreement/disagreement - Je suis d'accord and Je ne suis pas d'accord.

Learning Strategies / Social and Skills Development:
Students will:

  • further develop and demonstrate their abilities to see cultures from different perspectives
  • develop an ability to read negative material about Americans without taking offense and while still maintaining a healthy distance
  • cooperate and approach problems collaboratively
  • develop ways to approach and address critical opinions with which they may not agree

Time Frame:

One or two class periods of 40 minutes each.

Materials Needed:

  • Internet access and sufficient computers for all students
  • excerpts from Xenophobe's guide to the Americans (2008) (or similar text)
  • Guide d'analyse des stéréotypes handout (see "Attachments" below)

Description of Assessment (Performance Project):

Notes to teachers
Mature students, regardless of French proficiency, can have many different capabilities and challenges than the younger students for whom this unit is written.

Some issues are addressed below:
In Lesson 2, more mature students might be able to start this lesson with a generating idea similar to that used about the French in Lesson 1 "Stereotype simulation." I do not recommend this for younger students because they are probably not aware of these stereotypes of Americans and would find this activity frustrating.

This lesson will begin with a collective reading of excerpts from the book Xenophobe's Guide to the Americans (2008). An English work, this book is one of a series that claims on the cover to take "an irreverent look at the beliefs and foibles of nations, almost guaranteed to cure Xenophobia." Nonetheless, the book does reflect some common stereotypes about Americans, without being overly negative or disparaging. In beginning this lesson with a group reading, the teacher will be able to steer students in the direction of constructive commentary. The sections on "Attitudes and Values," "Eating and Drinking," and "Leisure and Pleasure" would all elicit appropriate reactions. Of course, if this book is unavailable, other similar documents may be used. The first link of the TrackStar on French Stereotypes listed below can be a suitable replacement.

To create a constructive commentary, the teacher will ask students to read excerpts silently and without reaction. They will mark on the excerpts with oui! items which they largely agree with, and non! with things that they do not see as true about Americans. Silence is very important to this exercise (and in a class of young students, physical separation might be necessary to maintain this), so that students do not share their impressions and/or their violent disagreement and thus impact each others' readings. If appropriate, this can instead be given as homework on the night previous to the next task.

Focused Learning
After students are done reading, the class should collectively discuss their impressions of the text and the stereotypes described within, such that each student can express themselves and share their thoughts in French. Students will need to express agreement/disagreement and give reasons for their opinions related to what was read. This initial guided discussion should adjourn to the computer lab, where the students should log on to TrackStar Lesson #28811 on French Stereotypes. The teacher should instruct the students to log on to: where they should type in track id 28811.

The first link is a set of instructions given to foreign students planning to study in the United States. This is also a very unbiased and fair document, and it is included to reinforce (or replace!) the Xenophobe comments. After students have looked around that site, they should (on a cue from the teacher) move on to the second link in the TrackStar lesson. This link is much more controversial, and students may have more of a reaction to it. At this point, the teacher should hand out another Guide d'analyse des stéréotypes to the students and encourage them to fill it out from the stereotypes of Americans that they see at this second link. Once they have finished that, they should continue with the third link, which is another set of stereotypes of Americans (and French and Australians), which they can also add to their chart. By the end of the class time, they should try to have every box on the chart filled with at least one stereotype. Even though they will be reading and watching material in English, they are to use French to fill in the accompanying handout.

The final task in this lesson is a discussion of stereotypes and their relationship with truth. Once all students are back in the classroom and away from other sources, they should look at the American Guide d'analyse des stéréotypes which they just filled out. They should then attempt to categorize each stereotype into one of three categories, based on their interpretation of its relationship with the truth: cultural myth (it is not true at all, or it is no longer true), a generalization (it is true maybe for some members of the culture but not for all), and cultural realities (it is pretty much true for all members of the culture). The students should underline or highlight the stereotypes in three different colors to reference the three categories. Again, discussion should be around expressions of agreement/disagreement with categorizations, and students need to refer back to the text during discussion and provide reasons to support their opinions. At the end of this lesson, this sheet should be collected, graded, and kept by the teacher.


Students will be assessed on the thoughtfulness of their responses, as well as the accuracy of the organization of the stereotypes. Comprehension and language use will be assessed informally during the course of the lesson.

References and Resources:


NOTE: some attachments are in PDF form (get Acrobat Reader)

Guide d'analyse des stéréotypes - chart for organizing stereotypes