Gender stereotypes are often learned at a young age through observation, societal norms, media outlets and unintentional lessons from adults. To help break the cycle of gender bias, prejudice and inequality, you should include one or more gender stereotype lessons in your curriculum. These lessons promote awareness and personal responsibility.

Defining Stereotype

To start a gender stereotype lesson off and to clarify the meaning of the term, start with a stereotype definition lesson. Advocates for Youth suggests choosing a few groups to focus on, such as Catholics, drug addicts and the elderly, along with the male and female groups. Write each group name on the chalkboard with ample space to write below each name. Ask your students to call out words associated with these groups so you can write them down. After creating a list of ten or more descriptions for each, ask your students to look over the lists closely. Inquire whether these words apply to all people in each category. Go on to explain that the term stereotype implies that every member of a specific group shares the same traits with no unique differences. This can lead to an open ended discussion about stereotypes.

Gender Role Swap

This gender role swap lesson, suggested by The Advocates for Human Rights for grades three through seven, incorporates a reading activity, includes a gender stereotype lesson and brings focus to how gender roles are portrayed in literature. Ask each student to bring in a fairy tale or folk tale book to class on a specific day. Divide the students into small groups and have each student read a chapter from the book aloud, but switching the gender roles. For instance, the Cinderella character would be a man and he would be hoping to catch the eye of the princess. After the students stop giggling, ask them why they found it amusing or out of place.

Stereotypes in the Workplace

Your students may have the preconceived notion that certain career paths are only designed for one gender. Create a handout that has three columns. One column should be labeled “Men,” the second “Men and Women” and the last “Women.” Write several professions on the chalkboard, such as fisherman, boxer, banker, ballet dancer, nurse, janitor and construction worker. Ask your students to write the professions under the appropriate gender group. When they are finished, go through the list and discuss your students’ opinions on why they chose “Men” or “Women.” This should be a nonjudgmental discussion. After a group discussion, your students should walk away understanding the topic of equality in the workplace.

Media Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes are present in many media sources, indicates Purdue University Assistant Professor Stephanie Goodwin. She suggests the following activity. Instruct your students to choose a magazine and look through every page. As they go through the pages, tell them to use small sticky-backed notes to flag any gender stereotypes they come across and write a short description of each. When everyone has completed this task, open the class up for discussion. Invite each student to choose one stereotype that they found and describe it. For instance, one magazine may have a cleaning product advertisement with a woman on it or shirtless man riding a horse. This lesson should bring awareness to the blatant gender stereotypes that bombard consumers every day.