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FEATURE

Toolkit for Sex, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression

“Introducing Gender: Girls, Boys and More!” is a K-2 lesson from Gender Spectrum originally published in The Gender Inclusive School: concrete strategies for creating a safer and more accepting school climate for all students. The lesson offers a set of activities that prompt students to think about what they like (favorite colors, toys, activities) as individual preferences—not due to them being a boy or girl. 

This introductory set of activities—developed by and used with permission of Gender Spectrum—is designed to help students recognize that what they like is not about being a boy or girl, but rather about individual choice. Students will be able to recognize that their favorite colors, toys, activities and other aspects that are frequently stereotyped by gender are in fact simply preferences. Rather than “boy things” and “girl things” see them as simply “kid things.” The overall theme is “there are lots of ways to be a kid, not simply boy ways or girl ways.” This lesson plan includes three activities, each of which can also be done alone or in any combination.

 

Objectives (Students will...):

  • be able to define gender
  • explore favorite colors, toys, and activities and the degree they are linked to gender-based expectations
  • color pictures of clothing and hairstyles that appeal to them
  • listen to a book focused on gender and reflect on the character’s experiences

 

Essential Question

  1. How can K-2 students be encouraged to think of their favorite things as individual preferences rather than “boy” or “girl” things?

 

Materials

  • chalkboard, Whiteboard or butcher paper
  • *Which Outfit and *Which Hairdo handouts by Maya Gonzalez
  • crayons, markers, pencils for coloring
  • book: I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings; Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman; Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown; or My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis.

 

Procedure

Time Required

40-55 minutes (all 3 activities)

Prep

  • copy Which Outfit and Which Hairdo handouts, 1 of each per student
  • obtain a copy of the book you will be reading (optional)

Key Terms

  • Gender: all the ways to be a girl, or a boy or both

Overall Introduction: Introducing Gender

This lesson begins with students seated as a group. The teacher states that, “today we are going to be talking about gender. Gender is about all the ways there are to be a girl, or a boy, or both.”

 

Activity #1 - Girl, Boy or Both? (15 minutes)

Framing the Activity: All of us have different things that we like—colors, toys, activities and so on. Who decides what things we like and what things we don’t like? We are going to start by talking about those different things and whether they are for girls, or boys, or both.

1. Ask the students to think about a color that they really like.

2. After everyone has thought of a color, ask each student to share with a partner.

3. Draw three circles, next to each other. Label the left one “girl”, the middle one “both” and the right one “boy.”

4. Ask a student to volunteer to share a color.

5. Typically, within 3-5 examples, students will point out that all the colors should go in the “both” circle. If they haven’t, ask them if they notice anything about where all the colors seem to be ending up. If it has not come up, be sure to include pink. If no boys raise their hands when you test it with the class (which is rare), ask them if they know any boys who like pink. If still no one raises their hand, then mention that you know some who do.

6. Once you have determined that all colors really should go in the “both” circle teach them the phrase “colors are colors” and write it on the chart. At this point you can also suggest that rather than three circles, perhaps we should just have one that is labeled “kid.”

7. Conclude the “color” activity by pointing out, “Colors are just colors. They don’t have a gender; they’re just colors!” 

8. Depending on the time and attention span of the group, you can repeat the process for toys, and then for activities, each time emphasizing that there aren’t boy or girl things, just kid things. Colors are colors, toys are toys, and activities are activities.

Sample Dialogue

Teacher: Who will share a color with us?

David: I like green.

Teacher: So is green a color for boys, a color for girls, or a color for both?

David: I think green is a boy color…

Teacher: Let’s test it out with the class. Raise your hand if you like green. Look around at your classmates…hmm…it looks like green is a color that both boys and girls can like. Since both seem to like it, can it go into the “Both” circle? What do you think?

David: OK...I think it is for both.

Teacher: Does someone else want to share a color?

Nicole: I like red.

Teacher: So is red a color for boys, a color for girls, or a color for both? Which circle should it go in?

Nicole: The girls’ circle.

Teacher: Let’s test it out with the class again. Raise your hand if you like red? OK, do boys and girls both seem to like red?

Nicole: But I still want to put it in the girl circle.

Teacher: OK. Here’s a question for all of you. If you are a boy, do you have to like red? Is it OK if you like red? If you’re a girl, can you like red? But do you have to like it? Red seems like a color anyone can like, boys and girls. If I put it in the “both” circle, does that mean that Nicole can’t like it? Of course not!

 

Activity #2 - Which Outfit, Which Hairdo? (10–15 minutes)

Framing the Activity: Students return to their seats for this next activity. After they are seated, point out “We just learned that whatever your gender, you can like what ever you like. What about certain hairstyles or types of clothing? Let’s explore.”

1. Distribute the handouts Which Outfit and Which Hairdo.

2. Read the information at the bottom, and then tell students that they can take a few minutes to color the sheets, choosing the hairdo(s) and outfit(s) that they like, or make up their own on the back.

3. As the students work, again emphasize the notions of things are just things. If kids are saying that certain hairstyles or clothing is only for girls or boys, again “test” by asking students if they or someone they know likes that particular style or clothing. This is also a good time to talk about patterns (“more girls wear dresses”) versus rules (“boys can’t wear dresses”).

Activity #3—Reading: I Am Jazz, Jacob’s New Dress, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina or My Princess Boy (15 minutes)

Framing the Activity: “We are seeing that there are so many ways to be a kid. Even with things like hair and clothes, whatever feels comfortable and makes you happy is OK! Now let’s read a book about a child who likes and does and feels things that others sometime don’t understand.”

Hold up the book you’ve chosen and read the cover. Invite students to make predictions about the book based on the cover.

1. Read the book to students, showing the pictures on each page.

2. After finishing the book, initiate discussion with the following questions:

i. What was your favorite part of the book?

ii. How do you think the main character feels when allowed to wear the clothes or play the games they like to play?

iii. How do you think the main character feels when teased by other people about clothes or activities?

iv. What are some ways the character’s family were helpful when the child was being teased?

v. How do you feel when someone laughs at something you like to do or wear?

vi. What does what you learned earlier about colors, and toys and activities have to do with this book? 

vii. What if the main character was a new student in our classroom; how would we welcome that student?

 

Wrapping up the Lesson: Introducing Gender

Wrapping up the lesson: Regardless of how many of the three activities you use, conclude the lesson by reviewing these main ideas:

  • Gender is all about the different ways for us to be girls, boys or both.
  • There are lots and lots of ways to be you. Not simply boy ways or girl ways. Growing up is partly about figuring out what is right for you. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we were told we couldn’t like something simply because of our gender? Colors are colors, toys are toys, activities are activities, clothes are clothes, hair is hair, etc. We can like the things that make us feel good and comfortable.
  • Point out that while there are lots of ways to be a kid, there are some patterns. More girls than boys probably do play with dolls, but it is not because they are girls. Some girls don’t like dolls, and some boys do. We all get to decide for ourselves what we like, and it is important that kids feel safe to like, and wear and do whatever they like! If you don’t like something that’s ok; just be sure you don’t make fun of someone who likes something that you happen not to like.
 
TIME REQUIRED
• 40-55 minutes (all 3 activities)
 
 MATERIALS
• chalkboard, Whiteboard or butcher paper
• *Which Outfit and *Which Hairdo handouts 
• crayons, markers, pencils for coloring
• book: I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings; Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman; Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown; or My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis.
 
PREP
• copy Which Outfit and Which Hairdo handouts, 1 of each per student
• obtain a copy of the book you will be reading (optional)
 
KEY TERMS
• Gender: all the ways to be a girl, or a boy or both
 
Overall Introduction: Introducing Gender
This lesson begins with students seated as a group. The teacher states that, “today we are going to be talking about gender. Gender is about all the ways there are to be a girl, or a boy, or both.”
 
Activity #1 - Girl, Boy or Both? (15 minutes)
 
Framing the Activity: All of us have different things that we like—colors, toys, activities and so on. Who decides what things we like and what things we don’t like? We are going to start by talking about those different things and whether they are for girls, or boys, or both.
 
1. Ask the students to think about a color that they really like.
2. After everyone has thought of a color, ask each student to share with a partner.
3. Draw three circles, next to each other. Label the left one “girl”, the middle one “both” and the right one “boy.”
[INSERT IMAGE]
4. Ask a student to volunteer to share a color.
5. Typically, within 3-5 examples, students will point out that all the colors should go in the “both” circle. If they haven’t, ask them if they notice anything about where all the colors seem to be ending up. If it has not come up, be sure to include pink. If no boys raise their hands when you test it with the class (which is rare), ask them if they know any boys who like pink. If still no one raises their hand, then mention that you know some who do.
6. Once you have determined that all colors really should go in the “both” circle teach them the phrase “colors are colors” and write it on the chart. At this point you can also suggest that rather than three circles, perhaps we should just have one that is labeled “kid.”
7. Conclude the “color” activity by pointing out, “Colors are just colors. They don’t have a gender; they’re just colors!” 
8. Depending on the time and attention span of the group, you can repeat the process for toys, and then for activities, each time emphasizing that there aren’t boy or girl things, just kid things. Colors are colors, toys are toys, and activities are activities.
Sample Dialogue
Teacher: Who will share a color with us?
David: I like green.
Teacher: So is green a color for boys, a color for girls, or a color for both?
David: I think green is a boy color…
Teacher: Let’s test it out with the class. Raise your hand if you like green. Look around at your classmates…hmm…it looks like green is a color that both boys and girls can like. Since both seem to like it, can it go into the “Both” circle? What do you think?
David: OK...I think it is for both.
Teacher: Does someone else want to share a color?
Nicole: I like red.
Teacher: So is red a color for boys, a color for girls, or a color for both? Which circle should it go in?
Nicole: The girls’ circle.
Teacher: Let’s test it out with the class again. Raise your hand if you like red? OK, do boys and girls both seem to like red?
Nicole: But I still want to put it in the girl circle.
Teacher: OK. Here’s a question for all of you. If you are a boy, do you have to like red? Is it OK if you like red? If you’re a girl, can you like red? But do you have to like it? Red seems like a color anyone can like, boys and girls. If I put it in the “both” circle, does that mean that Nicole can’t like it? Of course not!
Activity #2 - Which Outfit, Which Hairdo? (10–15 minutes)
Framing the Activity: Students return to their seats for this next activity. After they are seated, point out “We just learned that whatever your gender, you can like what ever you like. What about certain hairstyles or types of clothing? Let’s explore.”
1. Distribute the handouts Which Outfit and Which Hairdo.
2. Read the information at the bottom, and then tell students that they can take a few minutes to color the sheets, choosing the hairdo(s) and outfit(s) that they like, or make up their own on the back.
3. As the students work, again emphasize the notions of things are just things. If kids are saying that certain hairstyles or clothing is only for girls or boys, again “test” by asking students if they or someone they know likes that particular style or clothing. This is also a good time to talk about patterns (“more girls wear dresses”) versus rules (“boys can’t wear dresses”).
Activity #3—Reading: I Am Jazz, Jacob’s New Dress, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina or My Princess Boy (15 minutes)
Framing the Activity: “We are seeing that there are so many ways to be a kid. Even with things like hair and clothes, whatever feels comfortable and makes you happy is OK! Now let’s read a book about a child who likes and does and feels things that others sometime don’t understand.”
Hold up the book you’ve chosen and read the cover. Invite students to make predictions about the book based on the cover.
1. Read the book to students, showing the pictures on each page.
2. After finishing the book, initiate discussion with the following questions:
i. What was your favorite part of the book?
ii. How do you think the main character feels when allowed to wear the clothes or play the games they like to play?
iii. How do you think the main character feels when teased by other people about clothes or activities?
iv. What are some ways the character’s family were helpful when the child was being teased?
v. How do you feel when someone laughs at something you like to do or wear?
vi. What does what you learned earlier about colors, and toys and activities have to do with this book? 
vii. What if the main character was a new student in our classroom; how would we welcome that student?
 
Wrapping up the Lesson: Introducing Gender
Wrapping up the lesson: Regardless of how many of the three activities you use, conclude the lesson by reviewing these main ideas:
 
• Gender is all about the different ways for us to be girls, boys or both.
 
• There are lots and lots of ways to be you. Not simply boy ways or girl ways. Growing up is partly about figuring out what is right for you. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we were told we couldn’t like something simply because of our gender? Colors are colors, toys are toys, activities are activities, clothes are clothes, hair is hair, etc. We can like the things that make us feel good and comfortable.
 
• Point out that while there are lots of ways to be a kid, there are some patterns. More girls than boys probably do play with dolls, but it is not because they are girls. Some girls don’t like dolls, and some boys do. We all get to decide for ourselves what we like, and it is important that kids feel safe to like, and wear and do whatever they like! If you don’t like something that’s ok; just be sure you don’t make fun of someone who likes something that you happen not to lik
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