Gender Separate Dialogue Groups

This lesson helps students to explore various aspects of gender, discussing such questions as these: How do girls and boys see themselves? How might boys and girls be judged or seen by others? What are gender stereotypes? What might gender stereotypes teach kids?
Grade Level


At the end of the lesson, students will be able to: 

  • discuss and write messages about how it feels to be grouped or identified by gender. 
  • work in groups to record and discuss messages shared with others in the class.
Essential Questions
  • What are gender stereotypes? 
  • How might gender stereotypes be harmful to people?
  • Enduring Understandings:
    • Gender stereotypes are general ideas about the roles of each gender, based on ideas about groups rather than individuals. These stereotypes are often not accurate because they make assumptions or generalizations about the types of behavior considered acceptable or desirable for a person based on their sex.   
    • Gender stereotypes can be harmful because they send messages about what people should and should not be doing — based only on their gender rather than on their abilities and interests. These stereotypes can stop individuals from developing professional careers and making other choices about their lives.
  • Pen and paper for each student
  • Large poster paper and marker for each group


  • gender [ jen-dur ] (noun) refers to the social roles, behaviors and traits that a society may assign to men (masculine) or to women (feminine) Note: Many different ideas are considered when defining the term gender. This is a working definition, but one of the goals of Teaching Tolerance’s work is for students to develop individual and collective understandings and criticisms of the term so it suits their personal and developmental needs.)
  • stereoptype [ ster-ee-uh-type ] (noun) an oversimplified belief that people have particular characteristics — based solely on their being part of a gender, ethnic, or racial group


Suggested Procedure

1. Divide students into two groups based on gender. If working with a large class, split each gender into multiple groups, for example: two groups of female students and two groups of male students. 

2. If possible, assign to each group a same gender teacher-facilitator. Invite students to share how it feels to be divided this way in their small group.  

3. Write the word “gender” on an easel pad visible to the whole class. Spend some time examining the word. As a whole class, discuss: What does the word gender mean to you? Is it too limiting? Too restrictive? Guide students to come to a shared understanding of what the word means and record that meaning on an easel pad.  

4. In small groups, ask students to think about the messages (direct and indirect) they have received in the past and continue to receive about what it means to be a woman/girl or a man/boy. Have them jot down the messages in their notebook. If necessary, offer these examples: 

  •  "I was 17 before I got to go out at night with my friends. But it seemed like my brother always got to do what he wanted. The message I got is that girls can’t be trusted and that we needed protecting." 
  •  "When I was growing up, my sisters did all of the household chores, like washing dishes and laundry. My brother and I only had to take out the trash. The message I got from that is that women are supposed to do the housework, and that cleaning wasn't a man's job." 

5. Ask students within each group to share their messages back to the whole class. Avoid commenting or responding to the messages but offer acknowledgment when comments are helpful. Ask students to look for patterns and themes in the individual responses.  

6. Then, explore how the patterns and themes work to shape how we see others and ourselves as women or men. Ask one student in each group to record messages on a poster board. Use the following questions as discussion prompts: 

  • What do these messages teach us about our own gender? For example, what does it teach us about what it means to be a man or a woman?
  • What do these messages teach us about people of other genders?
  • Do any of the messages help, encourage, or bolster us? Do any messages have a positive effect? How?
  • Do any of the messages harm, hold back or hinder us? Do any of them have a negative effect? How?

An alternative: You may prefer to have students write down their thoughts first. In that case, use these questions as prompts for a 5-10 minute journal or writing exercise, and then come back together for a small-group discussion.

7. Use Gallery Walk to invite each group to silently examine the other groups' posted statements. Then bring the entire class back together in a large circle and debrief the activity with the following questions:

  • What surprised you about today's activity?
  • What did you learn today?
  • Where do these messages come from?
  • Do you think these messages are fair, accurate, helpful, or harmful?
  • What the world look like if these messages disappeared?
  • What would change?

Common Core State Standards: ELA-Literacy. CCRA. W.2; W.3; W.4; Sl.1; SL.2; SL.4; L.4.

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