Role Plays to Reduce Gender Stereotypes

This lesson offers role plays and essential questions to guide students as they participate. Children have a chance to use creative, dramatic expression to consider not only the roots of gender stereotypes, but also their consequences and strategies for counteracting them.
Grade Level


Activities will help students:

  • speak openly about the ways gender stereotypes and pressure to conform to socially constructed gender norms influence their daily lives
  • use dramatic expression to brainstorm ways to combat rigid ideas about gender in their daily lives
  • internalize the fact that teasing or bullying someone because they do not conform to gender norms or stereotypes is never acceptable and ultimately harms all of us
  • continue developing a community where individual identity is respected and students feel safe about expressing themselves
  • form a collective definition of gender that respects a wide variety in gender expression
Essential Questions
  • What are some real-life situations where people get teased or bullied for not fitting into gender norms?
  • Why do people tease and bully each other because of gender and gender expression, and how does this feel?
  • What can we do to stop ourselves and others from engaging in teasing and bullying around gender and gender expression?
  • What makes a community a safe place for individuals to express themselves and their gender?
  • What are some ways to define gender that make it safer for children to express and be themselves on a daily basis?
  • Role plays handout 


tease [ teez ] (verb) to irritate, disturb or provoke another person

bullying [ BOOL-ee-ying ] (noun) written, verbal, physical or electronic acts that physically or emotionally harm another person

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: There are many different ideas about how to define the term gender. We provide a working definition, but one of the goals of Teaching Tolerance’s work is for students to come to individual and collective understandings and criticisms of the term that make sense to them and their personal and developmental needs.)

gender expression [ jen-dur eks-PRESH-uhn ] (noun) the way a person chooses to show his gender to others

gender identity [ jen-dur ahy-DEN-ti-tee ] (noun) the sense a person has of her own gender and how she relates to her gender


Gender stereotypes often arise in social situations. Children face a great deal of pressure to be popular and to conform to their peer groups. Acting out realistic social situations in a safe, controlled classroom environment is a good way to prepare students for situations that might come up. It also helps children think about their own roles in both fighting and perpetuating gender stereotypes.

This lesson offers role plays and essential questions to guide students as they participate. Children have a chance to use creative, dramatic expression to consider not only the roots of gender stereotypes, but also their consequences and strategies for counteracting them.



(Note: Remain alert to the fact that children have a tendency to present simple solutions that they think their teachers want to hear. Challenge them to talk about what they might ACTUALLY do in this situation, including why it might be really hard to come up with a neat solution.)

  1. Explain to the class that today you will be doing some role play activities to help them think about gender- and gender-identity-based teasing and bullying. Revisit or explain the meaning of these terms, and discuss them as needed with your class.
  2. Go over guidelines for acting out a role play. Explain that you will divide students into groups and give them a scenario to act out. They should act out the situation two times, giving different students the option to play different roles. Then, they should think about how they might solve the problem presented in this scenario.
  3. Distribute role plays to different groups of children. As they rehearse and discuss their scenarios, circulate and help them get through rough patches. Then, come together and have each group share their scenario with the class.
  4. After each group presents their role play, discuss the following questions: 
    • How do you think the different characters in this situation feel?
    • What do you think causes the different characters to do and say the things they do?
    • What are some possible, realistic solutions to this problem?
    • (Note: for students who have done earlier activities and discussions from this series) How does thinking about gender as a social construction change our way of looking at these scenarios?
  5. Have students partner up to reflect on what they learned about gender, teasing and bullying from acting out these role plays.


Extension Activity

ELL Extension

Have students try acting out one of the role plays from this activity in their home language. They should pay attention to what feels similar or different when the language is different. Do they feel more or less powerful to solve the problem? They can teach some of the most important vocabulary from their home language to a few classmates, and present the scene together.

Extension Assignment

Many different teasing and bullying scenarios involving gender stereotypes come up for students every day. Encourage your students to write and act out one or more of their own role plays based on real-life situations. They can problem-solve in pairs or as a class and be better equipped to handle these issues when they really arise in real life.

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