Caring for Hair


In this lesson, “Caring for Hair,” students will:

  • Draw on prior knowledge by writing a one-paragraph story about hair;
  • Examine informational text(s);
  • Conduct original research;
  • Synthesize information and teach it to others;
  • Identify similarities and differences in the information gathered across groups, and
  • Apply what they learn by writing new one-paragraph stories about hair.

Essential Questions: 

  • What can we learn from informational texts?
  • How does asking questions help us understand things better?
  • How can I present information so others will understand it?
  • Why is it important to try and understand other people’s experiences?
  • How can we be the same and different all at once?
  • How can new knowledge help us be more respectful of others?

Materials Needed: 

  • Approximately 90 minutes, across several days.
  • Before beginning this unit, teachers should identify four local hair care providers who are willing to be interviewed by students. Consider the cultural and ethnic groups represented in your classroom in making your selections; also consider tapping the support of parents or guardians who work as hair care professionals. Teaching Tolerance recommends the inclusion of a barber specializing in men’s hair, as well as a representative from a salon that primarily serves African Americans.
  • Brochures (or website addresses) for the hair care providers participating in the lesson.
  • To support technology standards, access to computers with Internet and email. In classrooms where this is not possible, interviews may be conducted by phone or in person.
  • Pens or pencils and notepaper.
  • Copies of a four-way Venn Diagram

In Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice, Dana Williams notes that the elementary-aged student not only recognizes differences, but also “is learning how such characteristics—and people’s attitudes about such characteristics—have the power to make him and others feel included or excluded among peers.” Among the characteristics that can take on meaning for young children is hair—hairstyles, hair texture and type.

Vocabulary will vary depending on the hair care providers selected. For a partial listing of hairstyles, see: For facial-hair styles, see:

Hairstyle | he(ə)r stīl | or haircut | heər kət |
(noun) A styling of head hair. Hairstyles often are selected based on hair texture, hair type and cultural preferences.

Hair texture | he(ə)r  teks ch ər |
(noun) The distance around (circumference of) a hair strand. Professionals classify the texture of hair as being "coarse,” "fine, or "medium.” Coarse hair has the largest circumference, and fine hair has the smallest. Medium texture indicates a middle-range of the size of the hair shaft and poses no special considerations regarding processing and chemical services. Coarse hair can be harder to process and can be resistant to hair coloring services, perming and straightening. Fine hair, conversely, is often very easy to process, but can be easily damaged.

Hair type | he(ə)r tīp |
(noun) The degree of curl in hair. Generally speaking, there are four types: 1) straight hair with no curl or wave, can possess any texture, 2) wavy hair with an “S” shape, which tends to be coarse in texture, 3) curly hair, usually fine in texture, can appear straight when wet, but contracts to the curly state as it dries; 4) kinky hair, tightly coiled hair that appears coarse, but usually quite fine with lots of thin strands packed together, looks curly when wet.

Permanent wave | pərmənənt wāv |, or perm | pərm |
(noun) The chemical and/or thermal treatment of hair produce waves, curls or straight hair.

Hair coloring | he(ə)r  kələri ng |
(noun) The chemical treatment of hair to change its color

Relaxer | rə løksər |
(noun) A type of lotion or cream which makes hair less curly, and easier to straighten by chemically "relaxing" the natural curls.

Moustache (or mustache) | məs ta sh; mə sta sh |
(noun) Facial hair grown on the upper lip

Beard | bi(ə)rd |
(noun) Facial hair on the lower part of a chin

Sideburns | sīd bərn | or sideboards | sīd bôrd |
(noun) Patches of facial hair on the sides of the face, extending from the hairline to below the ears

Waxing | waks, i ng |
(noun) A method of semi-permanent hair removal in which the hair is removed from the root

Suggested Procedures
Note: Prior to beginning the lesson, identify members for each of the four small groups (one for each provider). Ensure that membership in each group includes gender and racial/cultural diversity, as possible. Throughout this activity, teachers should “walk the room” and support groups as needed.

1. Select three words from the vocabulary list and write a one-paragraph story using those words. You have five minutes. Save your story for later reference. (Note: Teachers should now break students into groups.)

2. As a group, review the material in the provided brochure (or at the provided website address.) What does it tell you about this provider’s hair care services? Make a list of things about which you’d like to know more.

3. Create a set of interview questions for your provider. Use open-ended questions that require an answer greater than a single word or two. Sometimes, crafting a question like this is as simple as adding a “why?” or “how?” at the end. For example, instead of asking, “What are the most popular hairstyles right now?,” you could ask, “Can you tell us about some of the most popular hairstyles right now? Who tends to request them, and why? Are some types of hair better suited for them? How so?”

4. Draft a piece of email correspondence to your hair care provider. Be sure to introduce yourselves, explain the purpose of your email, set out your questions and thank the provider for helping you. I’ll review it and then help you send it.

5. Now that you’ve received a reply from your provider, it’s time to examine what you’ve learned and create a summary key findings and themes. You’ll be asked to present this information to others in the class, so find the best way to organize the information so it will be interesting to, and makes sense to, your peers.

(Note: Once the groups have completed their summaries, break the students into new groups of four, with each student in the group representing a different provider. Provide each of the new groups with a copy of the four-way Venn Diagram.)

6. Each member of your newly formed group should take about five minutes to describe findings about their hair care provider. Ask questions, as needed or as interests arise.

7. Now that each of you has presented your information, work as a group to complete the Venn Diagram handout: What themes or practices were shared among providers? How did they differ?

(Note: Ask small groups to report back to the class by sharing a theme that arose in their discussions.)

Revisit the one-paragraph story you wrote at the beginning of this activity. Re-write the story using new information you gained during the course of this lesson. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the ways diverse people can care for their hair. When you're finished, share both your original and revised stories with your class.

(Note: Teachers may also assess student performance in this activity using the following informal measures: Did students demonstrate qualities of effective group work? Did they gather, analyze and share appropriate information? Did they complete one large-scale fact sheet per group?)