Dominant Narratives Activity

Topics and Competencies

Knowledge of Identity-General Characteristics of Inequality, Dominant Narratives

Grade Level

High SchoolCollege/Adult

Subject Area Integration



Christy M. Byrd


Adapted from Dominant Narratives by Inclusive Teaching at U-M

Date Created/Most Recently Revised

June 2021


60 minutes


Type and Level of Engagement

Group Work, Low Engagement


Learning Objectives

  • Analyze dominant narratives
  • Appreciate how dominant narratives contribute to structural inequality


  • Internet access


  • Introduce the idea of dominant narratives: A dominant narrative is an explanation that serves the interest of the agent group. They seem straightforward and obvious but in reality contain hidden assumptions that perpetuate privilege and oppression.
  • Divide students into groups and have them read the major pros and cons, such as those concerning immigration from (you might assign the reading before class if you are short on time).
    • Have students identify the major themes and narratives in the pro position and the con position. Try to identify which side is more “dominant” by asking which seems more normal, accepted, and commonsense. For example, in the immigration debate, a dominant narratives is “Everyone should follow the law, so those who came illegally should be punished or have to go to the back of the line.”
    • For the dominant narrative, ask:
      • Whom does this narrative benefit? Whom does it harm?
      • What assumptions are being made?
      • Why do you suppose this narrative has power?
  • In the large group, have each group share their analysis. Discuss:
    • Who have you heard repeat this narrative and what was the context?
    • Thinking back to the cycle of socialization, what are the enforcements that support this narrative?
    • How has this narrative impacted you? How do you benefit from it? How
      does it harm you?
    • How have you participated in/resisted this narrative?
    • What alternative or marginalized narratives get silenced by these narratives?
  • Emphasize that dominant narratives:
    • Serve the group in power
    • Ignore the perspectives of groups with less power
    • Are often taught as “the truth”
    • Are commonly heard and taken for granted
  • For homework, have students privately identify a dominant narrative related to the topic that they believe in and have them research alternative viewpoints. For reflection, have students write about how their views have (or have not) changed.


Show videos of broadcasts repeating dominant narratives and include a discussion of media influence in perpetuating dominant narratives.



Evidence of Effectiveness


Related Activities

Cycle of Socialization

Ratings and Reviews

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