Various Activities for Teaching The Theories of Erik Erikson

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1. Examples for the 8 Stages of Development Have them identify an incident in their own life that demonstrates each of the earlier stages. Then have them identify a person they know well in each of the stages they will be going through later. For both activities have them describe what they or that person did or does that validates their being in that stage. (Submitted by Ray Rogoway, Independence High School, San Jose, California)

2. Identity Development in Adolescence I ask students to write down the craziest, wackiest, and most dangerous things they did as an adolescent. I ask them to write this down on a piece of paper without placing their names on it.

I then collect the pieces of paper, mix them up, and read them out loud. We then discuss these (often quite a hoot) as they relate to identity development issues in adolescence. (Submitted by Steve Steven Walfish, Georgia State University and The Atlanta Center for Cognitive Therapy Atlanta).

3. Integrity vs. Despair I ask students to imagine themselves 40 years in the future and having their favorite grandchild on their knee. I then ask them to tell the grandchild what wisdom they have learned in life that they would like to pass on to them. I ask them to write this down on a piece of paper without placing their names on it.

I then collect the pieces of paper, mix them up, and read them out loud. We then discuss the advice that is being passed down and relate it to Erikson's last stage. I then suggest they consider living their lives in a way that would be consistent with these pearls of wisdom. (Submitted by Steve Steven Walfish, Georgia State University and The Atlanta Center for Cognitive Therapy Atlanta).

4. Erikson's Stage Theory Interactive Game Erik Erikson's theory can be brought to life through this fun and interactive exercise. With a bit of planning, this game works in small and large classes, and is especially appropriate for introductory-level courses. In fact, this activity is a great way to review for an exam or apply various psychological theories and principles.


  1. Photocopy the stages and the illustrations. Make enough sets so that your class will work in groups of 2 - 4 students.
  2. Paste each stage onto its own index card, and paste each illustration onto its own card (i.e., each game "set" will include 16 cards).
  3. Break students into their small groups and give each a game "set." Instruct them to match the stage with the illustration. When they complete the task, let you know.
  4. When the whole class completes the task, review the stages and ask a representative from each group to explain briefly why the illustration reflects the stage.
  5. Sometimes I give a prize to the group that completes the game first and correctly (e.g., an extra couple of points on an exam). Feel free to write up your own illustrations of the theories, or add a few more illustration cards to your game set. (Submitted by Linda M. Gulyn, Marymount University).









Baby Christopher's mom feeds him every 3 or 4 hours, burps him, walks with him when he is fussy and makes sure he is dressed warmly every time he goes outside for a walk with her.

Daniel doesn't want to wear the pajamas his mother chose for him. Instead, he STRONGLY prefers last night's (dirty) PJs! Daniel's mom agrees and dresses him in his (dirty) PJ selection.

Timmy's mom pours him a bowl of Cheerios and milk. She directs him to go sit at the kitchen table. Timmy reaches for the bowl of Cheerios, announcing, "I carry it!" On the way to the table, lots of milk and cereal spill on the floor. Mom quietly cleans up the mess and thanks Timmy for his "help."

It's Little League season and third-grader, Jonathan, can't wait! Last spring he was on Junior Little League and every time he was at bat, he made a hit. He also caught three fly balls, and won the game for the team! Jonathan's coaches, friends and parents are looking forward to Jonathan playing on the Little League team this season.

Annie's parents are not doctors. Her grandparents are old. In fact, Annie's parents have told her that after her high school graduation, they are looking forward to her entering the same college and medical school they did not attended. Annie waits for just the right time to announce her plans to travel to Europe after high school to pursue her interest in drawing and painting, and to learn Italian.

Samuel is tired of meeting women and men at parties, bars, and dating lots of different people. Sure, it's fun sometimes, but now he'd rather have one special person pr two to settle down with and share his life since he found out he was HIV positive.

Martin has been a very successful business man for nearly 25 years. His 3 children are reaching adulthood. Martin decides to start a small business that provides financial advising to young people who are just starting their careers.

Rosemary loves when her grandchildren visit. She proudly tells them of the great times she had with raising her family and making a nice home for everyone she loves. Sometimes, she wishes she went to college and worked outside the home as her husband did, but Rosemary says, "If I did that, I probably wouldn't have had the time to enjoy such a beautiful family!"

5. Examples of Erikson's Stages of Development I have students choose a couple of characters from television and discuss whether their behavior seems to fit into Erikson's stages of development based on the character's approximate age- why and why not. This allows the students to apply their knowledge of the different stages to something that has meaning to them. They often choose their favorite characters from shows they spend a lot of time watching, so they are able to discuss their behavior in great detail. (Submitted by Sandra K. Soucie, Quinnipiac University and Southern Connecticut State University).

6. Middle Adulthood in the Movies I have found that showing the video Life as a House, with Kevin Kline, in class when we're looking at Erikson is most effective for the Middle Adulthood stage. The film delves into all of the developmental tasks and helps students understand the life review in a most dramatic and effective way. (Submitted by Shelby Morrison, Valencia Community College).

7. Applying Erikson's Theories to Students' Own Lives

  1. Students divide a large paper into three parts.
  2. The three sections are labeled - Past, Present, Future
  3. Students are asked to think about and write, draw, use magazine pictures, etc. to express their own past present and future lives.
  4. Students form groups of four and tell the story of their past, present and future, explaining how they see the most important aspects of their lives.
  5. Students are given a questionnaire (Zimmerman is the author) which leads

them to apply their own life experiences to Erikson's theory. You can go to Linda Zimmerman's website, and look under PSY107 Handouts. (Submitted by Linda L. Zimmerman, Professor of Student Development, Oakton Community College)

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Page last modified by January 12, 2017, at 01:05 PM