A Single Story

This task aims to have students explore and reflect on stereotypes. The task begins with students listening to Chimamanda Adichie&#39 s very popular TED talk, students are then asked to write their own &#39 single story&#39 and share this with their peers.

Though the talk is actually in English, it has been translated into many different languages so could actually be used in lingua franca or bilingual exchanges which involve languages other than English.

Institution reporting the task:

University of Padova

Language of task instructions:


Target Group:




References and acknowledgements:



Comparison & analysis

Estimated Duration:

3 sessions


stereotypes, storytelling, Africa,




Based on Chimamanda Adichie&#39 s TED talk: The dangers of a single story

Language Configurations:

Lingua Franca
Expert peers

Language(s) that the task can be used in:


Dominant language production:

Writing/reading asynchronous

Target Competences:

Language competence
Intercultural skills

Specific pedagogical objectives:

Suggested Communication Tools:

Asynchronous text
Real time conferencing

Suggested Resources:



Students first of all watch and listen to the video: The danger of a Single Story, either in their respective classes or at home.
(See pre-listening and comprehension questions below).

Students then write their own single stories and share them with their peers by publishing them either on a group blog, wiki or other collaborative space.
Students then read and discuss each others&#39 single stories either synchronously through Skype sessions, or through asynchronous discussion via forum or comments to blog.

[[{ type : media , view_mode : media_large , fid : 453 , attributes :{ alt : Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story , class : media-image }}]]
What is a story teller?
What kind of stories did you use to read?
Do you remember any of them in particular?
What is raffia? A roommate?
What do the followng verbs mean? to patronize, to pity, to assume

Read these comprehension questions before you watch the video, and then try to answer them:
What was Adichie’ s single story about books when she was a child?
How did this change?
What was her single story about Fide, their domestic helper?
How did that change?
What was her university room mate’ s single story about Africa?
What is the origin of this single story about Africa that permeates the US, according to Adichie?
When did she begin to identify herself as African?
What did the American professor say about her novel?
What was Adichie’ s single story about Mexicans? Where did it originate?
” nkali” is an igbo word which relates to power. How does &quot nkali&quot relate to a single story?
Why does she imply the American student seemed to think that all Nigerian men are physical abusers?
What is the problem with stereotypes?
What are the consequences of a single story?
How does she suggest we can reject the single story?

Learner Texts:

My single story is about the stereotypes of one of my Norwegian family about the Italians.
I lived one year in Norway and there I had two host families. This summer one of them came to visit my family and me.
They lived in my house for five days, they tried to live as if they were Italians, they strongly wanted to try this experience but they came here with a single story of ” the Italian family and the Italian way of live” . They thought that Italian children where spoiled and not able to think by themselves. They believed that all the Italian women were submitted by their husbands, that all the Italian men were totally dependent from their mothers also when they had left their family houses and so never ready to become good fathers or responsible mates.
I could perceive that they felt pity for my mother just because she used to cook dinner and to wash the dishes, they were abrupt with my father and they were unable to see that he helped my mom in many other ways. They were angry with my brother because in their opinion he was spoiled just because my sister and I like to play with him and to cuddle with him, he is just ten years old and we are over twenty both so for us its normal to take care of him in Norway parents don’ t have much physical contact with their children and they not use to hug or kiss them so they believed that to receive hug for my brother meant to never became a strong man.
They were surprised because I still lived with my parents and they found in it a confirmation of their single story about me! In their view I was a little girl unable to think with my own head, not self confident and not able to become an adult! I tried to explain them that I can think with my own head, that in Italy things are not like in Norway, we don’ t receive any salary because we are students or any loan from the state, I tried to tell them about how expensive is the university and to rent a room here in Padua but everything was useless. It was not important if I had always worked from when I was 18, also if doing little jobs, for them I was just spoiled as all the Italian young people.
When people have they own story about someone or something it’ s difficult to make they open their mind. I think that we all have stereotypes about what we don’ t know, this is normal, like it’ s normal to judge the unknown world with the eyes of our culture and not with the eyes of the culture we come to know. The important thing is to never forget this and to always try to discredit our certainties.
I don’ t have a beautiful relationship with them like we had before now, but I hope one day they will understand that we are just different and not wrong.

My single story is about convicts.
Talking with friends about convicts and trying to explain that they are human beings just like us and they deserve to live a decent life in jail it’ s a real challenge. In some sort of way, I can understand their point of view, because I was like them a few years ago. Watching television and reading papers people are forced to believe that if someone is in jail it’ s only because he, or she, deserved it, violating the law.
The main consequence of this believes is that convicts have to be punished and they have no rights.
Another cause of this vision is the stereotype of the life inside jails and of prisoner’ s attitude that many films and TV-series spread.
Only two years ago, listening a speech of Marco Pannella, the leader of a small but historical party named Partito Radicale, in which he was describing the dramatic situation of jails in Italy I started to read more about this topic, and to delve into it.
What appeared to me was a totally different world, made of misery, rights violation and torture.
Italian jails are overcrowded and convicts live in cells where they can’ t move because they are too many inside of it. Only a minimum part of them can work during the sentence, the other ones have to live 22 hours inside their cells. Italy is condemned almost every month by the European Court of Human Rights for the jails’ conditions. Last year, 186 people died in jail, 66 where suicides, and 5 of them were Penitentiary Policemen.
There are 68.00 convicts, the 40% of them is waiting for judgments, and the real capacity of Italian jails is of 45.000 spots.
People who live in prison can’ t be identified only with the murderer who killed the family, the cheater who has stolen money from families or a great boss of Mafia, because all these examples are only an extremely small part of the prison population made of desperate people, immigrants, drugs addicted, and small drugs dealers. These people are not dangerous individuals and they have to be rehabilitated not punished.
Talking with them, I see only desperation and sufferance because they are treated like animals and almost nobody cares about them.

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