Recognizing and Questioning Gender Roles

Unit Essential Question:  What types of gender roles are present in our classroom and community?  How do these roles differ within separate contexts?

Lesson Essential Question:  What specific experiences has our classroom had with gender roles?  Is it all right to be different from these gender roles? 

NCSS Standards:
·         Standard 4: Individual Development and Identity

o        This lesson investigates human behavior in relation to gender differences and social norms.  Students will use their own experiences to explore this topic.

·         Standard 5: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

o   This lesson will investigate how several different groups of people (males vs. females) and institutions influence students’ roles in their home and community.

MMSD Standards
·         Recognize and respect that individual differences are important to self and others.

·         Describe roles and responsibilities people have in neighborhoods and communities

Elementary Education Standards:
·         Standard 2: Understands the Social Contexts of Schooling

o   Through this lesson, students will understand that social contexts (such as gender roles) affect their lives within and outside of school.

·         Standard 6: Connects School and Community

o   Through this lesson, students will connect the similarities and differences of gender roles within the context of their school and community

·         2 pieces of chart paper

·         Half sheets of lined paper

·         Clipboards/pencils

·         Coloring pages

·         Writing notebooks

·         Laminated pictures of gender roles that follow/break the norm

·         Students will learn what gender roles are and how to identify them in their everyday lives.

·         Students will compare and contrast stereotypical gender roles seen in the classroom or in their community.

·         Students will address different activities/interests that they have that do not fall within their “gender role”.

·         Students will discuss feelings and emotions that others /they would have when not following their gender roles.

·         Students will learn what types of behaviors/interests follow stereotypical gender roles and what behaviors/interests defy stereotypical gender roles.

Lesson Context:
·         This is the opening lesson for exploring gender roles within our classroom and community.  The goal of the lesson is for students to recognize different gender roles within our classroom and community as well as question their existence and validity.

Lesson Opening:
Day One:
·         Have the students come to the carpet/large discussion area and have them sit in a circle.

·         What are some activities, hobbies, and interests that boys have?  Document student answers on a piece of chart paper, leaving room at the top for a title.  Make sure that both boys and girls are answering this question.

·         What are some activities, hobbies, and interests that girls have?  Document student answers on a piece of chart paper right next to the piece of chart paper with boys’ interests, leaving room at the top for a title.  Make sure that both boys and girls are answering this question.

·         Are any of these activities/hobbies/interests the same?  What are the similarities and differences between these two lists?  Why are they so different?

·         Each item on both lists is a specific “gender role” for either boys or girls.  Write on the top of each piece of chart paper “gender roles for boys/girls”.  Can anyone explain what gender means to them?  Does anyone have anything to add to that definition?  Based on what we have on each list, how can we define the term gender role?  Write gender role in the center of the whiteboard and circle it.  As each student contributes their idea, write in spider web form the class’s definition of gender roles.  If they seem to be stuck, lead them to these specific points: normal (who thinks that these roles are normal?), expectations, and “appropriate behavior”.

·         Pick an item of the gender role list for boys.  Do any girls (state what is on the list)?  Why do some people not think that girls should not do this?  Pick an item of the gender role list for girls.  Do any boys (state what is on the list)?  Why do some people think that boys should not do this?  Does anyone feel comfortable sharing an experience when you did something that was not on your list?  I am looking for four different experiences.  Try to pick two boys and two girls so that views are shared equally.

·         Pass out a clipboard, half piece of lined paper, and pencil to each student in the circle.  As students are passing the materials around, write “I am a boy/girl and I like to _________” on the whiteboard.  Once you have your materials, I want you to first write down if you are a boy or a girl (point to the first part of the sentence on the whiteboard) and then pick an activity, interest, or hobby that you like that is on the opposite list of your gender.  Give the students an example sentence.  Write down your sentence on your sheet of paper and make sure not to put your name on it.  After you have finished writing your sentence, I want you to crumple your paper up in your hands and hold it as tight as you can.  Make sure to participate in this activity as well.

·         Once every student has their sentence crumpled up in their hand, have the students throw their sentence into the middle of the circle at the same time.  Then, have students pick up a crumpled sentence that is not their own.  If they pick up their own, tell them to drop it and pick another one.  After they have a sentence, tell them to return to their seats in the circle.  Have each student unfold the sentence they choose and read it to themselves.  Instruct the students that each person will take a turn reading their sentence out loud.  (Students might think it is funny to say that they are the opposite gender of what they actually are but address this issue before they start reading)

·         What are some reactions to what you just heard?  Are gender roles always true?  Is it all right to do something or like something even if other people say that you should not?

Day Two:
·         Pass out the coloring book pages (the different amount of coloring book pages used depends on how many groups wanted).  Tell the students to go to their desks and read the sentence on the bottom, decorate the page and think about whether this is a gender role/what message it is trying to send (example page can be found at the end of this lesson plan).  Tell students that if they have any thoughts, opinions, or emotions about this particular page that they can express those through words, drawings or how they decorate their page.  Show the students an example of how you would decorate your page.  Tell students to feel free to discuss their pages with those around them if they finish decorating their page early.

·         When it seems that most students have finished, tell the class to find other people who have the same coloring book page and sit next to them.  But before they move, tell them that you want them to discuss their thoughts, opinions, and emotions that they have about the coloring book page.  Do you think that what is pictured is all right and why?  Do other people view this picture in the same or different ways than you do?  How might other people in our school or community view this picture?  Do you think that this picture could happen in real life?  Write these questions on the board or type them out and give each group a copy.  Make sure to rotate to the different groups to facilitate their discussion.

·         Have each group describe their coloring book page and share what they talked about.  Ask the rest of the class if they have any other opinions/comments to add to their own reactions to the picture or what the group said about it.

Day Three:
·         Have all of the students come to the carpet/large discussion area and sit in a circle.  Read to the students a personal experience that you have personally had concerning gender roles.  Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions about this experience?  Before talking about the experience, remind students to be respectful to others experiences and that some people might have different opinions than others – that is ok!  Then, have a discussion about the experience with the class.

·         Then show the students a picture that either follows gender roles or breaks gender stereotypes.  Have a piece of writing prepared from the perspective of one of the people in the picture.  First show the picture to the class and ask for initial reactions, including what thoughts and emotions each person in the picture might have.  Then, read the piece of writing to the students.  Does anyone have any thoughts or feelings about this perspective?  Did anyone think that this person would have different thoughts than how they thought in the piece that I read?

·         Tell the students to go get their writing notebooks and return back to their original seats.  Have the students think about a time that they have experienced or witnessed following or breaking a gender role.  If students are struggling thinking of a specific experience, tell students that there are a couple of pictures up at the front of the room that capture a person following a gender role or breaking against it.  If the students choose to write about a picture, they must write it from the perspective of one of the people in the pictures.  Write a few questions that might help students generate a quality piece of writing on the board.  What thoughts went through your head?  What did other people think about you?  If you could change something that happened, how would you change it?  Reassure students that they do not have to answer these questions –these questions are solely to help them get in the right mind frame for writing.  

Day Four:
·         Have the students who have not completed their piece from yesterday work on it during writing time and have students who have finished proof read their work or share it with a partner.

·         Have all students gather in the carpet/large discussion area.  Ask for volunteers who feel comfortable enough to share their piece of writing with the rest of the class, read their piece out loud.  After, have other students share three questions/comments about the student’s piece of writing.  Tell the students that you would like as many people as possible share their writing and if there is enough interest that we will finish sharing the next day.

Lesson Closing:
·         We have learned about many gender roles that we see in both our classroom and community and have explored what impacts they have on us as people.  Over the next couple of weeks we will be exploring how gender roles can be found in many places in our everyday lives.

·         Listen to the students responses during discussion time to check for understanding.

·         Listen to the sentences when read out loud to see if students understand what gender roles are not commonly seen with their gender.

·         Look at their coloring pages to check their understanding of breaking gender roles.

·         Read their experiences to see if they understand what gender roles are, the types of gender roles can be seen in everyday life, and what roles specific genders are suppose/not suppose to take according to our society.  

Bunnell, J.T., Bunnell, J., & Reinheimer, I. (2004). Girls will be boys will be girls... Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press.