1. Using group work to explore gender differences

Gender stereotyping, although a wider social issue, starts in the home. Without realising it, many adults treat the boys and the girls in their family in different ways – it has always been like that and they see no reason to change.

Such consistent behaviour then causes girls, in particular, to believe that this ‘is just the way things are’ and there is nothing they can do about it. Boys also accept the situation because it tends to benefit them.

You can explore these differences with your pupils by working in single-sex groups to help your pupils talk about their own behaviour and beliefs.

In an earlier case study (Module 2, Section 2, Case Study 2 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ), one teacher asked her pupils to bring family rules to class. At the time, the class saw that there were different rules for boys and girls. She decided to plan some lessons on gender, later in the term. Case Study 1 shows what happened in one of these lessons.

Case Study 1: Using drama to explore gender issues

The teacher found the list of family rules from a previous lesson. She thought about how to explore the issues around the different treatment of boys and girls in the family and decided that drama would be a good method. See Key Resource: Using role play/dialogue/drama in the classroom for ideas.

She organised the class into ‘family’ groups of different sizes, with pupils playing different family members. One group was only four people, one group was 11. She asked the groups to make up a play about a family to show how boys and girls are treated. She gave them the whole lesson to do this and went around each group to help and support them. She asked questions like ‘So what would happen next?’ ‘How could you…?’

She asked them to bring in some items to help identify different people in the family and to rehearse their plays during break times.

Over the next few lessons, each group in turn performed their play and afterwards the whole class discussed what they had seen. After watching all the plays and discussing them, they realised that girls had less freedom to choose than boys. They had a vote to decide whether this was fair, and the class agreed that boys and girls should be given equal opportunities and not be denied access to activities and work because of their gender.

Activity 1: Single-sex group work

To help your pupils explore and explain their feelings concerning gender roles, this activity uses single-sex groups.

Hand out the questionnaire in Resource 2: Gender – what do you think? to each pupil and explain the rules to the whole class.

Give them ten minutes to complete the questionnaire.

Each pupil shows their answers to their neighbour and they discuss.

Organise the class into single-sex groups of between five and seven pupils.

Each group prepares a list of all the different activities they do:

  • on schooldays;
  • at weekends;
  • during holidays.

Groups present their list of activities – which you write on the board – making a list for girls and one for boys.

Discuss the lists with the class. Ask about fairness. Ask why they think the activities are different.

Ask the pupils to write an essay called ‘How and why are girls and boys different from each other?’ Ask them to include their own views. Younger children can draw pictures of activities they do and compare them with each other.

Section 2: Ways to investigate gender issues

2. Using role play to explore gender differences