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A Handbook of Classroom Practices

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By: Grethe Cobb

Class One || Class Two

The overall objective of this 2-day unit, in relation to infusing equity by gender in the classroom, is to focus on gender neutrality in the face of factors (cultural, environmental, parental, societal) to force differences in expectations for girls and boys. Most importantly, students will see some of the effects of gender bias, how these biases are created, and be able to define expectations of themselves.

This lesson plan was developed using materials from the book "Your Sexuality: A Self Assessment" by Robert F. Valois and Sandra K. Kammermann, 1997 and is used with permission of the publisher, The McGraw-Hill Companies. 


  • All students will be able to explain the effects of gender bias, stereotyping and discrimination on access, learning, self-esteem, relationships and behavior.
  • All students will be able to list strategies to overcome gender bias, stereotyping and discrimination.

GRADE LEVEL: 5-6, Guidance

OBJECTIVE(S): Students will be able recognize the effects of gender bias and stereotyping by:

  1. Identifying some aspects of gender identity.
  2. Distinguishing influences of culture, environmental and parental or human factors in regard to gender development.
  3. Identifying some of their own expectations in relation to gender development.

TIME: Two class periods


  • Newsprint paper for recording group responses. Markers, tape.
  • Student photo from about the age of I to 6 years of age (give prior as a homework assignment). If this is not feasible use magazine cutouts of children for bulletin board display.
  • Gather favorite items specifically recognized among your students that can not always be linked to gender. For example, a favorite sport cap, sweatshirt, beanie baby animal, sports equipment, or music.


Class One

  1. Give an explanation of gender equity leaving the definition open ended for students’ discovery.
  2. Divide class into four groups (separating the males from the females).
  3. Identify the recorder for each group to print answers to the questions on the newsprint provided, and post the answers on the bulletin board for review.
  4. Allow students to work collectively in their groups to brainstorm and answer questions below. This activity will take a class period if students are to address the questions with insight.


Gender Role Development Questionnaire

Ask class to respond to the following questions:

  1. Are infant girls treated differently than infant boys? What influences this? Are there instances that you recall in which an infant girl was treated differently than an infant boy? Talk about this example.
  2. How do little girls differ from little boys in clothing styles? In toys? In expected behaviors?
  3. Are there certain behaviors that are expected and rewarded for a girl?
  4. Are there certain behaviors that are expected and rewarded for a boy?
  5. Are there certain behaviors that are discouraged according to gender?

Class Two

  1. Display group answers. Examine results. Ask students to identify the similarities and the differences. Note the similarities, as a cluster of answers drawn from each group.
  2. Reflect on these similarities, and encourage reflection of students’ expectations for themselves by using questions such as these that follow:
  • Are you expected to meet any of these expectations? Which ones? Do you meet them? If yes, why? Is it because you:
    *   never thought much about it before?
    *   you are comfortable doing these things and being treated in these ways?
    you are not expected to behave, dress, etc. in certain ways?
  • If you are not comfortable with being treated differently than the opposite gender, what can be done?
  • Why are gender differences enforced by society? Is this fair and equitable?
  1. Using the bulletin board made from student photos or magazine photos discuss what is seen. Are there similarities between what is seen in the photos and the student responses?
  2. Display some of the favorite items you have gathered. Discuss with the students if they can be identified because of gender. For example, displaying a PAW SOX baseball cap does not necessarily mean it belongs to a male. Display students’ artwork, literature writing, and collection of stamps, favorite musical pieces. Be sure that you display articles that are neutral in gender identity. This will allow for further thought and investigation for the students.

 ASSESSMENTS: Rubric for a reflective essay is based on the following:

  • When is it appropriate, if ever, that men and women be treated differently?
  • Although there are many, many, gender neutral items, experiences, talents, abilities, and interests, there seem to continue to be differences in expectations for girls and boys.
  • What are your expectations for yourself? How do you define success? Will you let the expectations of others define your success? What will you do, If anything, if someone tries to define (limit) your vision of your success?

The questions above relate to key issues in gender equity.

Write a reflective essay about these issues. Be prepared to read your essay to a small group in class. The group will discuss your ideas and their ideas about how to identify and overcome any lack of equity you identify so that you can use these ideas as you work toward your definition of success.

EXTENDED ACTIVITIES: This could be done in the beginning of an integrated sexuality unit in sixth grade and then repeated in the eighth grade. Are students’ perceptions the same? What are they if they are not? Are expectations for one’s own self-the same? What is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior in relation to gender?

Your Sexuality: A Self Assessment
Robert F. Valois and Sandra K. Kammermann
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
New York, 1997


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