Gender inequality in the classroom can hurt both male and female students. Messages that reinforce gender stereotypes (for instance, boys are better at science and math) can discourage children from certain topics and limit their ability to reach their full potential. By balancing content, activities and teaching approaches to prevent gender bias and encourage individuality, teachers can give kindergarten students greater opportunity to develop their talent and abilities.
Activities that use nontraditional gender role models can help fight gender stereotypes and teach children the myriad choices available to them. A teacher can bring professionals to the classroom who are working in nontypical gender jobs, to talk about their work. Girls often lack appropriate role models in the sciences and engineering, and therefore may lose interest in these occupations. Bringing female professional scientists to the classroom will break the stereotype and teach children that girls can be just as skilled at science and math as boys.
Boys can sometimes fill stereotypical roles of leaders and speak out more in classroom settings, while girls may shy away from active participation. Girls should be encouraged to participate actively, particularly in games or activities that involve science and math (such as counting games). One way to do this is to use groups that are single-sex. While this may seem to promote divisiveness, girls in groups are less likely to speak up or take leadership roles if there is an assertive boy in the group. Using same-gender groups can give girls more of a say.
Teachers can encourage leadership in both genders, by doling out leadership responsibilities equally. This can take the form of who “leads” student lines, or who helps the teacher to set up.
Teachers can use books that represent females and males in nontraditional gender roles and talk about these roles with the students. Books should include both male and female protagonists. When books or course content arises that follow or reinforce stereotypes, this can be pointed out. Open discussions with students about these stereotypes can help to discourage this way of thinking and empower students to question them.
Curriculum can be built to reflect strong female characters from history as well as men who excelled in nontraditional male roles.
Teachers can use playtime to enforce gender equity. Supplying toys that fight gender stereotypes is one way to do this. This may include having both male and female dolls; female dolls or puppets that work at traditional male roles (such as firefighters) and male dolls or puppets that work in traditionally female careers (such as nurses or librarians).
When students show a particular interest or ability in an activity, this should be encouraged regardless of gender. For instance, if girls show an interest in football or hockey, they can be given books or movies on the subject or encouraged to join groups to pursue the sport. Similarly, boys should not be discouraged form playing with dolls or cooking.
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