Responding to Microaggressions

Empower students to be an upstander when they witness a microaggression.
Ages 8-14 / 30
min Activity
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  • Learn about microaggressions and strategies for responding to unkind treatment of others 
  • Reflect on their personal values, and how they can align their actions to their values to be an upstander in challenging situations

Supporting Research

Bullying is a serious problem, leading to consequences such as mental health problems, damage to self-esteem, academic problems, and depression. Although most students recognize that bullying is harmful, they might not know how to respond or lack the courage to act. This activity aims to equip students with kindness and collaboration as they learn strategies for responding to microaggressions and helping people who experience them.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners


  1. Begin the activity by asking students the following questions: 
    • What is a microaggression? 
    • What does it mean to be an upstander? 
  2. Use this slideshow to explain microaggressions to students. During the slideshow, they will learn: 
    • The definition of a microaggression 
    • Examples of what a microaggression might sound like 
    • Strategies for being an upstander when they observe a microaggression 
    • Ways they can make amends if they commit a microaggression 

    Be mindful of students’ feelings, especially if they have experienced microaggressions directed towards them in the past. If you notice students experiencing distress or discomfort during this discussion, create a safe space for them. Encourage them to share their feelings, and reassure them that their feelings are valid. Let them know that you are there to support them and that they are not alone in facing these challenges. If needed, allow students to step away from the conversation.  
  3. After the slideshow, remind students that being an upstander can be difficult sometimes, especially if they’re standing up to their friends. Emphasize that it takes courage to speak out against injustice, but doing so helps to build a more compassionate world. 
  4. Finally, ask students to write about the following questions: 
    • What are some of your values around the type of person that you want to be?
    • Imagine that you witness a friend saying something hurtful to another classmate. How would you feel? How do you think your classmate might feel?
    • Now, write down something that you could do to be an upstander in this situation. How could you act in a way that’s aligned to your values? How would you feel after supporting your classmate? How might they feel to receive this support from you? 
  5. Continue reinforcing the strategies from this activity by periodically checking-in with students.

    For example, ask them to write about any instances of microaggressions that they noticed or experienced (or when they were unkind themselves) and share how they felt, how they reacted, and anything they would have done differently. Foster a growth mindset by reminding them that they can always learn and grow from their experiences.

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.