The Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes Experiment (Advanced Lesson)

ESL/EFL Level: Advanced (C1/C2)
Lesson Topics: discrimination, education
Skill Focus: Reading, Speaking, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 1.75 hours
Lesson Plan Download: elliott-discrimination-experiment-advanced-052024.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • After warm-up questions, students read a 298-word passage about Jane Elliott's famous brown eyes/blue eyes experiment which she conducted to teach her grade class about discrimination. After a recall activity and comprehension questions, students match vocabulary from the video to definitions and then form discussion questions using the target vocabulary.
  • There are two debate topics related to discrimination, and then a Day in the Life activity in which students create a fictional narrative for people with and without social privilege.
  • Next is a fun activity that has students consider the inferiority and superiority of certain items (not directly related to discrimination but connected to the concept of superiority).
  • This is followed by a roleplay that has a teacher explain a unique class experiment to a concerned parent.
  • After some famous quotations about discrimination, the lesson ends with a review of vocabulary and collocations before presenting some final discussion questions.

A black and white image of a teacher in class

ADVANCED (C1/C2) Lesson on Jane Elliott’s Experiment


  1. Did you have any memorable teachers when you were in school?
  2. Do you remember any unique lessons from your schooldays?
  3. In your opinion, is discrimination a natural tendency or a learned behavior?

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This lesson plan was created by Matthew Barton of (copyright). Site members may photocopy and edit the file for their classes. Permission is not given to rebrand the lesson, redistribute it on another platform, or sell it as part of commercial course curriculum. ChatGPT was used to generate answer keys and some famous quotations. For questions, contact the author.

Comprehension Question Answer Key

  1. ...
  2. Jane Elliott was motivated to conduct this experiment following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She wanted to give her students a firsthand experience of discrimination.
  3. Elliott likely chose eye color because it is a visible, arbitrary characteristic that does not have any actual bearing on a person's abilities or worth, thus illustrating the absurdity of discrimination based on superficial traits.
  4. Brown-eyed people are required to wear collars. This is done so that their eye color can be easily identified from a distance. Unconsciously, it might have also made students feel like they were ‘marked’ or chained.
  5. The children’s behavior changed significantly; normally cooperative, wonderful, and thoughtful children turned nasty, vicious, and discriminatory once they were deemed superior based on their eye color. When roles were reversed, those who were initially discriminated against exhibited similar behaviors towards the now inferior group, demonstrating how quickly power dynamics can influence behavior.
  6. Elliott hoped her students would learn the arbitrary and unjust nature of discrimination. She aimed to show them firsthand the hurt and injustice that discriminatory practices can cause, hoping to foster empathy and a deeper understanding of equality.
  7. Parents might have had mixed reactions; some could have been supportive, understanding the value of the lesson, while others might have been concerned or upset about the emotional impact on their children, questioning the ethics of inducing such feelings in a classroom setting.

 Vocabulary 1-k, 2-b, 3-a, 4-j, 5-e, 6-m, 7-l, 8-g, 9-c, 10-h, 11-f, 12-d, 13-i

Collocations 1-c, 2-d, 3-f, 4-a, 5-e, 6-b

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