How Advertising Perpetuates Stereotypes

Advertisements do more than just sell products; they play a role in creating and perpetuating stereotypes as well. We can reduce the power advertisements have to reinforce stereotypes by teaching children to identify and analyze stereotypical messages.
Grade Level


Activities will help students

  • Use critical reading skills to analyze advertisements;
  • Critique the ways in which advertisements perpetuate stereotypes around race and gender; and
  • Construct strategies for dismantling the harmful stereotypes advertisers sometimes try to perpetuate.
Essential Questions
  • What is a stereotype?
  • How do advertisements perpetuate race and gender stereotypes?
  • How can we recognize and reject stereotypes perpetuated by advertisements?


  1. Recall the critical-reading strategies developed in lesson two. Explain to students that they will be examining how ads can perpetuate stereotypes. Note that you will be focusing primarily on race and gender stereotypes. Remind students of the definition of a stereotype and elicit examples of both race and gender stereotypes. Some possibilities include, “Asians are good at math.” or “Boys don’t cry.” Remind students that expressing awareness of a stereotype is not the same as saying you believe in the stereotype.
  2. Show students the two advertisements provided below or other similar ads. You might find ads on websites your students frequent, in magazines at your school library or even on signs near your school.


Hasbro's Rose Petal Cottage Commercial #1

Instruct students to work in small groups and apply their critical reading strategies to analyze the advertisements. When they have discussed the advertisements with their group, ask them to complete the handout to more deeply consider the role of stereotypes in the ads. (Note: Pre-literate students may dictate responses to an adult or complete the handout as a class. If you choose to supplement with different advertisements, you will need to modify the questions on the handout.)

Bring students back together to discuss their observations and share their handout answers. Ask the students to check in by sharing one thing they learned about the way advertisements can perpetuate stereotypes. Create a group chart listing strategies for rejecting stereotypes.



After this lesson, students will likely be on the lookout for stereotypes in the advertisements they see. Some students may have strong feelings and thoughts about the messages they are being sent. Encourage them to keep a notebook or talk to a trusted adult about these feelings as they come up. As a class, brainstorm some ideas for fighting back against stereotypes perpetuated by advertisements.

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