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Introduce what pronouns are, why they are important, and how to navigate pushback with a group!

Materials & Media:

Set Up:

  • N/a

Goals & Learning Outcomes:

  • Participants will be able to explain what pronouns are and how they help create more inclusive/affirming environments
  • Participants will be able to identify strategies for introducing pronouns to new groups
  • Participants will be able to describe how to correct themselves and others when someone uses the wrong pronoun


  • We are going to be talking about pronouns, why they are important, and how to correct ourselves and others if we are mispronouning someone

Process Steps & Talking Points:

  1. Introduce what a pronoun is and why they are important.

“Pronouns are words that function in the place of a name.  So instead of saying, “my brother Steve is coming to pick me up in Steve’s car and we are going to Steve’s favorite restaurant,” I could instead say, “his car/his favorite restaurant.”

In English pronouns we have two sets of gendered pronouns. “She/her/hers” and “he/him/his” are two sets of pronouns that are attached to a particular gender. Men/males have been typically referred to using he/him/his and women/females by using she/her/hers. We likely all grew up assuming we knew someone’s pronouns and that we can tell just by observing that person or knowing their gender. But this isn’t the case and in an effort to be more affirming of all it is important to get out of the habit of assuming pronouns.”

“If we want to get out of the habit of assuming pronouns, we need to learn and let people introduce their pronouns.”

  1. Ask the group if anyone has ideas on how they would ask a group of folks to introduce their pronouns?
  2. After anyone has shared their answer feel free to add additional thoughts or options.
  3. Role model your pronouns before inviting everyone to introduce theirs. “Hi, my name is Meg and I use she/her/hers pronouns. Could everyone please go around and share their name and pronouns.”
  4. Explain what pronouns are and why you’re asking people to introduce theirs before you do. “Hey everyone! So during introductions we are going to introduce our name and pronouns. Pronouns are words that we use to replace names, like she/her/hers, he/him/his, or they/them/theirs. I want to make sure that we are referring to each other in the way that feels most accurate, so we are going to be going around and if everyone could share their name and pronouns that’d be great!” (PAUSE) If you haven’t introduced pronouns with each other pauses here and invite folks to do exactly that! Have everyone go around the room and ask them to share their name and pronouns with the group.
  5. Share with the group, “A common question and fear that we may have when getting to know someone who uses pronouns we are less practiced using, who has recently changed pronouns, is using the wrong pronoun and misgendering this person.” Ask the group what do they think would be important to do if they misgendered someone?
  6. Share your some of these thoughts if the group didn’t cover these ideas.
    1. Apologize briefly and correct yourself. Ex. “And I was saying to someone that he’s a really good, sorry, she, that she was a really good painter.”
    2. Do not over apologize. Over apologizing could sound like, “Oh gosh I am SO SO sorry, I really am. I know it’s wrong and this must happen all the time. Gosh pronouns are so difficult!” You’re doing a few things when you over apologize. Instead of the moment being about them you’ve made it about you feeling bad.

“Pronouns are difficult and in particular challenging your lifelong habit of assuming pronouns is hard to break. It takes practice. But it is important to challenge yourself to keep trying, to do your best, and to not make the challenge part of the apology. Practicing when that person is not around is crucial, when you are talking about them to other people, is a really important time to constantly correct yourself to get yourself into a new habit.”



  1. Ask the group what they think they could do if they hear someone else getting misgendered? What are ways they could be an ally in that moment?
    1. Correcting in the moment: “Alex was talking to be the other day and he was saying…” “She was saying.” “Oh right, she was saying.”
    2. Role model the correct pronouns when you speak next: “Oh that’s really interesting about Alex, she was just saying to me the other day that…”
    3. Directly address the issue: “Oh that’s really interesting about what Alex was saying. Just wanted to let you know though, Alex uses she/her/hers pronouns, just wanted to remind you/let you know.”
    4. Ask if there are any additional questions about pronouns.

Wrap Up:

  • Now that we have a better understanding of pronouns and why they are important we encourage you to challenge yourself and to bring inviting people to share their pronouns into your new groups and experiences

What is Racism?

We are talking about more about racism, but have we actually stopped to define it in all its forms?

Materials & Media Required:

  • Flipchart, whiteboard, or other surface visible to the group
  • Sticky notes
  • Writing utensils

Set Up Required:

  • Pass out 3 sticky notes per participant

Goals & Learning Outcomes:

  • Participants will be able to define racism
  • Participants will be able to discuss and identify at least 3 examples of what racism looks like or how it is enacted
  • Participants will be able to identify and discuss the difference between internalized, individual, and systemic racism


  • While we may talk about the effects of racism, often we are having these discussions without defining what racism really is.
  • We wanted to start by talking about what racism is and exploring the different types of racism that exist

Process Steps & Talking Points:

  1. Write the word “racism” up on the board, and ask the group to list off other words that come to mind when they hear the word racism.  Take just a minute to do this and use this to start your definition portion and to reference back to later.
  2. Then, write the word racism on a new sheet or part of the board and ask if anyone is able to define the word racism.  (Refer to the instructor’s sheet at the end of this activity for a definition).
  3. After establishing a broad understanding of the word racism, ask participants to take out their sticky notes and to write down three instances, actions, and/or examples of racism: one per sticky note
  4. After everyone has written down at least one example of what racism can look like, add three more phrases to the board (or on three separate sheets of paper—and hang the papers up where participants can see them).  These three phrases are: Internalized racism, individual/interpersonal racism, and institutional racism.
  5. Review briefly the definitions for internalized, individual, and institutional racism.
  6. If time allows, ask participants to bring their completed sticky notes to the front of the room and to categorize their stickies under one of the three categories.  Participants should talk to each other when if they are stuck or unsure of what category to choose.
  7. If time does not allow, ask participants to reflect for a moment about the categories they chose for their stickies.
  8. Ask for participants to provide at least one example for each category; ask for one example for internalized, one for interpersonal, and one for institutional.
  9. Share with participants why understanding and seeing these three aspects of racism is important to consider when we are thinking about and working through our own understandings of racism.


When we think of racism, we often think of interpersonal racism: actions that one person does to another person or exchanges that take place between groups. Yet, in reality, the way that racism affects our lives is much more complex than that.

We can internalize racism, whether that is an internalized sense of dominance or of inferiority, and what is even more difficult about this fact is that we may not ever realize we have done so.

There is also systemic and institutional racism, which happens in such macro ways that no individual may feel they are doing anything wrong and yet entire systems may be set up for one group of folks (in this country, White folks) to be advantaged and privileged over others.

It is important to consider these three different ways that racism shows up because if we are truly working to educate ourselves and to unknot the effects of racism we must address all three ways that racism manifests.  Arguments against the importance of doing racial justice work are often rebuffs against one type of racism: by saying that you personally did not enact racism. And while that is an important aspect of what racism is, it is not the only thing that makes up racism.

Discussion Questions:

What comes to mind when I say the word racism?

What is your definition of racism?

What are the different ways that racism manifests in our lives?

Why is it important to consider these different ways that racism shows up?

Wrap Up:

As we move forward in our work around race and racism, please consider the following questions when we are talking. Are we including all of the different ways that racism shows up?  How does racism affect your life in these different ways?  How does it affect you intrapersonally, interpersonally, and on a systems level?  These are important questions to reflect on and consider when moving forward.

Bring Your Style:

There are many ways to shape this activity.  After all participants have written their examples of what racism looks like, you could ask the whole group to pile their sticky notes together and to then sort them into the categories as a group rather than individuals.

You could also prompt the group to write an example of each category of racism after you’ve introduced the definitions, rather than before.

You could break the participants into groups and assign each group a category of racism and challenge them to come up with as many examples as possible for that category.

Challenges & Tips:

This activity can very easily take longer—so pick and choose what elements you want to spend the most time on, and focus in on those aspects of the activity.

This activity was created for the University of Michigan’s Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) office in the summer of 2015 by Meg Bolger. 


An activity that highlights how different identities may be experience or differently salient for each individual

Materials & Media:

  • Identity signs
  • Clips, tape, or something sticky to hang the signs

Set Up:

  • Hang up the identity signs around the room—ideally, before the workshop begins so they are part of the space from the very beginning.  If you think they’ll be a distraction, hang another piece of paper in front of each one

Goals & Learning Outcomes:

  • To allow a space for participants to talk about their experiences and their identities in a more personal way and to provide an opportunity for others to learn from those personal stories
  • To highlight that people with similar identities can experience different levels of salience, self-awareness, and can be differently impacted by their intersecting identities
  • To talk about how we experience our identities on a day-to-day basis
  • To highlight how everyone may experience pain, ostracism, or discrimination, yet feel it within the context of different identities


“For this activity, we are going to be moving around the room in response to some questions I am going to be posing to the group.  The questions are going to be related to your identities, others’ perception of your identities, and your experience of your identities.  You can choose to share or not share after the questions. (During most rounds, not everyone will share after every question.) This activity is really about getting to know each others’ experiences and having time to reflect on how we all can have similar or wildly different experiences rooted in our identities or experiences of them.”

Process Steps & Talking Points:

  1. Ask participants to prepare themselves to move around the room. (Make sure that the room is set up in a way that will allow all participants to move around the room easily to be under or close to the different signs.)
  2. Give the directions for the activity:  “I am going to read a series of questions and would like you to choose an identity that you feel answers the question for you.  If you have more than one identity that could be true for that question, we encourage you to pick only one as a response.  We then will have time to talk about why we answered the way we did and to speak to what that experience was like.  After, I’ll read another question and we will continue the process like that.  You do not have to share at any point, however, and I encourage you to consider how much you are sharing in order to make space for others.  Does anyone have any questions about the instructions of the activity?”
  3. Read the first prompt, provide time for participants to move around and give time for sharing and processing.  Repeat.
  4. Depending on the time you’ve allotted for the activity, you may also want to debrief the activity after the fact.

Statements for the activity:

The part of my identity that I am most aware of on a daily basis is_________.

The part of my identity that I am the least aware of on a daily basis is_________.

The part of my identity that was most emphasized or important in my family growing up was _________.

The part of my identity that I wish I knew more about is _________.

The part of my identity that provides me the most privilege is _________.

The part of my identity that I believe is the most misunderstood by others is _________.

The part of my identity that I feel is difficult to discuss with others who identify differently is _________.

The part of my identity that makes me feel discriminated against is _________.

Debrief/Process Questions:

What was that activity like?

What did you notice about the way that people were distributed around the room that struck you?

Were there any identity categories that you wish had existed but were not options?

Anything else you’d like to add before we move on from the activity?

Wrap Up:

To close up this activity it is good to summarize some of the major points that were brought up in the debrief and/or to thank everyone for their honestly/vulnerability in what they were willing to name or share in the actual activity itself.  Even if some people don’t verbally share, moving under/near the signs may bring up a lot of emotion or may take a lot of courage; therefore, it is good to highlight your appreciation of the group’s participation.

Co-Facilitator Notes:

It is good to have a few moments to discuss which statements you want to read and which you want your co-facilitator to read.  You can also read all the statements and your co-facilitator can facilitate people sharing their thoughts/experiences or lead the debrief.

Bring Your Style:

You can orient this activity around a specific subset of identities so as to generate more in-depth discussion about one area or subset of social justice work.  You could do this activity around identity signs related to sexuality and include signs like: sexual history, sexual interest, sexual orientation, gender identity, attractions to others, etc.

This is also an activity that you can include your own participation or not.  If it is a small group and it would feel negatively voyeuristic to not participant, then you may want to consider answering the questions as well.

Challenges & Tips:

This activity is labeled as “high trust” because it provides a lot of opportunity for personal and deep sharing and participants often need to feel comfortable, safe, and ready to share personal stories and experiences with each other.  Without pre-established trust, participants may not be ready/willing to do this.

Depending on the group and the way folks learn/take in information, you may want project onto a screen the statements that you are asking as you go along so that participants can read them.  We would not necessarily recommend providing participants with the statement sheet because they may be distracted by thinking about the statements that come later.


An activity that provides a meaningful opportunity to connect and spend some time appreciating a group in a meaningful way

Materials & Media:

  • (optional) Bandanas or pens for folks to hold who do not want to be touched

Set Up:

  • All participants should be seated in a circle (either on the ground or in chairs).  We recommend having everyone facing each other and then having folks move to tap each other on the inside of the circle.

Goals & Learning Outcomes:

  • To allow for anonymous encouragement, checking in, thank yous, and appreciations.
  • To close out an activity on a note of connection, meaning-making, and appreciation.


  • this activity is a way for all of us to take some time to appreciate each other, time we’ve shared together, and the inspiration that we feel from one another
  • is going to be silent to allow for everyone to have time and space to reflect and be present.

Process Steps & Talking Points:

  1. Provide directions for the activity, “In a moment I’m going to ask everyone to close their eyes and/or keep their heads down.  A few folks are going to start as tappers.  I am going to read a statement and then folks who are standing will go around and “tap” folks to which they personally feel that statement applies.  We will continue like this for 3-4 statements and then I will pull up the next group of tappers.  I will pull on your bandana or on the corner of your shirt to indicate it is your opportunity to stand up and tap folks.  Everyone will have a chance to both give and receive taps.”
  2. Clarify that everyone understands the directions.  It is particularly important that folks understand directions before this activity begins as it is silent and will break up the flow/feel of the activity if they ask questions once you have started
  3. Ask everyone to close their eyes and/or lower their heads
  4. Pull a few folks up to be the first tappers
  5. Being to read the prompts—go slowly enough so that the tappers can make it once around the circle prior to reading the next prompt
  6. After a few of the prompts, indicate to those tappers to sit down and pull up the next group
  7. Continue until everyone has had a chance to tap—even if you have to repeat prompts

Sample Prompts:

Tap someone who….

you believe is a quiet leader

you’ve learned something from this weekend

you would turn to for help

you want to get to know better next semester

you’ve gotten to know better this weekend

you wish you had gotten to know better this weekend

has done something that has inspired you

you’d like to thank for something that didn’t know they did

you consider to be a strong person

you wish to continue to get to know after the retreat

you think has showed integrity

has taken a risk this weekend

you think helped you to be comfortable this weekend

has challenged you this weekend

you believe was very honest this weekend

you think is a kind soul

has made you think this weekend

you would want to hang out with for fun

you believe to be thoughtful

you believe to be caring

you’ve learned something about yourself from

made you laugh this weekend

said something that inspired you

you are proud of

showed courage

showed you a new perspective this weekend

has motivated you

impressed you with their willingness to simply be themselves

you expect great things of

let someone know that you are committed to supporting them and their causes

Wrap Up:

This activity is often done at the end of a workshop/training; therefore, transitioning into a larger discussion for the entire workshop/activity/class may be most appropriate.

Co-Facilitator Notes:

If you’re working with a co-facilitator, consider together who will read what prompts and when you will sit in order to be a participant.  If there is someone who is able to read the prompts (and understands the activity) who is not a facilitator (like an event coordinator) who can read the prompts, that person may also read the prompts in order to allow the facilitators to fully participate—however, you can also trade off.

Challenges & Tips:

Tailor  the prompts to your specific audience. Discover the things that you would find most meaningful and important, and ensure those are included.




An activity that highlights racial microaggressions using a short satirical video and then discussion

Materials & Media Required:

Set Up Required:

  • Set up the video and do a visual/sound check

Goals & Learning Outcomes:

  • Participants will be able to identify and describe at least one type of racial microaggression
  • Participants will be able to discuss at least three ways that Asian Americans are often stereotyped and discussed within the context of race and racism
  • Participants will be able to identify one reason why folks often perpetuate microaggressions
  • Participants may be able to identify the ways that their racial group or groups perceive or stereotype the Asian American community


  • this activity is about microaggressions and the ways that Asian American individuals are stereotyped and perceived
  • we will start with a sketch comedy clip
  • from there, we will be having a short discussion about different elements in the clip
  • we encourage you to take notes on what you notice or what stands out to you in the clip

Process Steps & Talking Points:

  1. Watch the Youtube video.
  2. Lead a discussion (suggested discussion questions below) after finishing the clip.  The discussion could have many different focal points, and not all need to be covered in order for participants to get a lot out of the activity—so pick and choose what questions resonate with you or would resonate with the group.

Discussion Questions:


What are the first things that struck you about the clip?

Have you heard some of these types of interactions happen between folks before?

What is going on in the video?

What are the things that you heard that you felt were problematic or possibly racist?

Why do you think the man made the comments that he made? What was he trying to accomplish?

Do you think that connecting with others or wanting to relate is often behind microaggressions?

How do these microaggressions perpetuate or not perpetuate racism?


What things did you hear that you feel were related specifically to how Asian Americans are perceived and stereotyped?

Do you think this is different than how we often talk about race or racism?

Are there other populations that face similar stories and assumptions made about them?

How does your racial community perceive Asian Americans? Is this perception different or similar to the dominant White lens used in this video?

Wrap Up:

As we move forward with the workshop (and also in our daily experiences), it is important for us to continue to consider how our small actions and assumptions of folks can impact them.  It is also important for us to consider that when we talk about race and racism, particularly within the US, that the conversation often centers around Whiteness and blackness and that it is important to consider how other people of color are also affected by racism.

Co-Facilitator Notes:

If you are going to be facilitating different sets of questions, it might be good to trade off with your co-facilitator on who facilitates what section.

Bring Your Style:

Since this activity can go in a lot of different directions, be choosy about what direction you bring, especially if you are time restricted.

Challenges & Tips:

When asking folks to talk about the biases of their racial group towards Asian Americans, this may be challenging. Some people might feel that they need to represent the ideas of their entire group.  Be tactful in how you present this and be able to explain why it is important to highlight the fact that different racial groups view each other differently.  It should be clearly communicated that no one person should be seen as a representative of their entire racial group.  Additionally, different racial groups may have different sets of assumptions or biases against each other.


This activity write-up is contributed by Meg Bolger, but she by no means to take credit for the creation of this activity. Meg has experienced this activity a number of different spaces, mostly to close a longer workshop or retreat experience.  Meg believes the first time that she ever remembers being introduced to this activity was the Posse retreat at Hamilton College in 2009. 

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