Gender in the English Language classroom

I was very excited and surprised in a planning session with one of my counterparts (CPs) because the CP had printed flashcards for presenting different types of sports. Soccer, football, cycling, swimming, tennis, baseball, basketball, volleyball… we were ready to go! Except, then I realized every single picture was of a male athlete. When I brought this to the teacher’s attention, the CP responded “But girls don’t play football.” That’s true, I conceded, but we went on to make a pile of the sports women do play (most of them) and the sports women don’t play (football and baseball).

I don’t think this teacher was intentionally favoring male athletes. My CP was just going with what they see most often, and probably some of the first images that popped up on an online search. It’s an easy thing to do. That got me thinking about all the topics during the year when it’s especially important to be conscious about how we portray gender norms to our students.

In light of the fact that María can be a doctor and Juan can be a secretary, I’ve compiled this list of topics with relevant vocabulary or other concerns for all you TEFL-eros, TEFL-eras and your counterparts to keep in mind…

A gender-conscious jazz chant coming to you straight from PST

A gender-conscious jazz chant coming to you straight from PST

7th grade
  • Frequent Activities (7.3.2), vocabulary: clean the house, help my family, play basketball
  • Household chores (7.5.2). all vocabulary

8th grade
  • Describing people with the verb ‘be’ (8.1.1); vocabulary: beautiful, pretty, handsome, cute, ugly àusing magazine or newspaper clippings to describe people can be a fun activity, but it runs the risk of reinforcing strict ideas of beauty
  •  Sports (8.5.1);

9th grade
  •  Workplaces and Jobs (9.1.1) // Job Skills and Characteristics (9.1.2) à both topics provide great opportunities to use male names for traditionally female jobs and vice versa (Mark the nurse, Jane the farmer, etc)

10th grade
11th grade
  •  Job Searches and Interviews  (11.2.3) à another chance to flip the coin on expected jobs for both sexes 
  • Gender Inequality (11.3.3) // Gender roles (11.6.2) àThese topics are bastante difícil for non-native speakers to discuss, and I’ve found that proposing discussions or asking opinions often encourages students to respond in Spanish. The challenge with these plans is constructing activities that help them think outside the box, but within their language level

Have any other suggestions for themes, or activities that worked well in your 11th grade classes on gender? Leave us a comment!

 **To be clear, I think the TEFL manual does a great job of providing examples and activities where both sexes are performing household chores or doing different jobs. This list acts to bring themes to the front of the mind so that we’re aware of our own potential biases or stereotypes (or those of our CPs) when developing new activities and writing extra examples.**



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