Social Hierarchy

Contributor: Kathryn Hay. Lesson ID: 13043

Have you ever heard terms like "middle class," "top of the heap," "apartheid," "caste system"? They are examples of social rankings based on different characteristics. Explore them, past and present!


People and Their Environment, World

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

Have you ever paid attention to how a team seems to operate? No matter what type of team it is, there are so many types of people involved in making it successful.

A sports team must work together to win. Houses are built by a team of people, from designers to builders. Schools also rely on a team of teachers and administrators to be successful.

Brainstorm at least four different types of people involved in one of these teams. Each team member is a part of the overall group's success in some way.

Could you pinpoint who on your list is the "most important"? Who is "least important"? Can you explain why you would rank them in this order?

team hierarchy

Every team has a hierarchy, which is just a fancy word that means "rank."

  1. Print the Team Hierarchy Triangle, found under Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar.
  2. Review your list of people involved with the team that you chose and determined how to rank.
  3. Whomever you chose to be the most important part of your team would be at the top of the triangle.
  4. The second most important would be at the second level of the triangle, and so on.
  5. Place each of your team members into the triangle at the proper locations.
  6. Make notes next to each about why you placed them there. You must give a reason for putting them in their level on the triangle!

As you look back at how you ranked these people, reflect on how this activity made you feel.

  • Did you feel bad about acknowledging that some people are seen as "more important" than others?
  • Did you feel sorry for those you placed at the bottom?

Now, think about those you ranked at the bottom.

  • In what ways are they a necessary part of the team's success?
  • What role do they play?
  • What would happen if they were no longer part of the team?

Discuss this with your parent or teacher. You may find that the people at the bottom are not unimportant at all! They are possibly just as important as the people at the top, just in a different way!

beach home

To think of this another way, look at the image of the home above. Think about all the aspects of the home that go into making it a safe, sturdy place to live.

  • What would happen if one or more of those elements were taken away?
  • Would it be as strong if it were missing one of the elements of strength that you noticed?

Imagine some of the elements that go into the design of the home being taken away; then, think of the ranking systems of a society in the same manner. All the people of a society (or a team) have a role, just like the elements of a strong building do.

The concept of ranking people is one used in lots of aspects of life and throughout history in nearly all civilizations. Move on to the Got It? section to find out more about social hierarchy, which is the ranking of people based on their birth, wealth, or occupation.

Image - Button Next