Teaching Gender Representation in the Media

There are few things more important than teaching students to view the world through a critical lens.  “How individuals construct their social identities, how they come to understand what it means to be male [or] female … is shaped by commodified texts produced by media for audiences that are increasingly segmented by the social constructions … gender.”1

The questions teachers have is rarely, Should I teach Gender Representation in my classroom? and more often How do I teach Gender Representation in my classroom?

How Do I Teach Gender Representation in my Classroom?

There are a number of different approaches.  This multi-part series will focus on a variety of methods.  You are free to choose one that works for you, and work it into your classroom, or you may choose to develop a larger unit that incorporates all aspects of this series.

How will these lessons be organized?

Lessons will be presented in the order I find they are best sequenced in a classroom environment.

What are the different lessons?

It’s always good to have an idea of where we’re going.  Please read the various lessons and their descriptions to determine which pieces work best for you.


1. The Toy Box

Chest - Pixabay

Regardless of age, everyone has a memory of a toy that they loved when they were a child, or a toy they wanted but they were never given.  The things we play with help determine the people we grow into.  This lesson focuses on separating boy toys from girl toys while pausing to take a look at why we sorted the objects the way we did.

Key Concepts
Gender Normative Roles
Who enforces Gender Normative behaviours
How marketing helps set the stage for who we become



2. The Gender Box

Boy and Girl on Wagon - Pixabay

Building off of the foundation from The Toy Box we look further into the gender normative roles students feel they need to fulfill.  By confronting prejudices and allowing students to speak openly about their experiences, the foundation is strengthened with shared experiences and concepts.

Key Concepts
Gender Normative Roles
Who enforces Gender Normative behaviours
How Gender Normative roles have affected students
Possible Extension
Looking at Intersectionality



X: A Fabulous Child’s Story – Literacy Skills Review

Babies - Pixabay

Having developed a strong foundation of gender normative behaviour and thought, students may be prepared to read a short story, and review a number of their literacy skills.

Key Concepts
Literacy Skills: Inferring, Questioning, Summarizing, Visualizing, Connecting
Point Evidence Evaluation Paragraph Writing
Possible Extension
Gender Neutral Children in Real Life



3. The Past is Present [Part 1 / Part 2]

Woman on TV - Pixabay

By examining a number of historical and contemporary advertisements, students will begin to see how ludicrous modern messaging is when primed through the problematic advertisements of decades past.  Students will then have an opportunity to examine advertisements that they experience through the same lens.

Key Concepts
Media Analysis
Literacy Skills: Comparing
Analyzing different forms of texts



Introducing The Media Triangle

Triangles - Pixabay

While this lesson doesn’t require specific connections to Gender Normative media, it will highlight the importance of viewing all texts through three lenses: Audience, Text, and Production.  Students will then apply these concepts to a variety of pieces, before readying themselves to fully explore Gender Normative texts.

Key Concepts
Media Analysis through multiple lenses
How production influences messages and meaning



4. Using the Media Triangle to Annotate Advertisements

Times Squre - Pixabay

Building on the concepts from the last lesson, students will choose specific advertisements, analyzing them through all three sides of the Media Triangle.  Students will then present their findings to the class, allowing all students to take an in-depth look at a variety of contemporary texts and the problematic nature of their messaging.

Key Concepts
Annotating visual texts
Possible Extensions
Using digital tools to annotate static texts
Using digital tools to annotate video texts



5. The Gender R.A.F.T.

RAFT - pixabay

Students will consider the reasons behind Gender Normative behaviours, and create a R.A.F.T. (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) letter that will help them formalize their thoughts.

Key Concepts
Identifying Main and Supporting details
Synthesizing complex topics into a succinctly written piece



6. Reshaping Gender Normative Roles

Writing Letter - Pixabay

Students will be challenged to explore their personal space, school, community, and beyond.  During their explorations, they will identify both positive and negative messaging, while seeking to understand how to create lasting impact and change

Key Concepts
Text-to-Self and Text-to-World connections
Predicting the future role of Gender Normative behaviours
Becoming agents of change in their environment




PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources


1. GENDER, RACE, AND MEDIA REPRESENTATION: Dwight E. Brooks and Lisa P. Hébert

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