Age Level:
Upper Elementary Grades, 8-12 years


Objective: To detect gender bias in the media, particularly television.

Materials: Blackboard or other large recording area

Activity: As a homework assignment, ask each student to watch a favorite television sitcom. Collect their viewing experiences on the board. Establish a common foundation of themes, characters and plot lines.

Small Groups: Divide students into groups of four or five. Try to assign students who watched the same program to different groups. In groups, instruct them to:

  1. Have each student describe their show and the roles that the important characters played.
  2. Have each student describe their favorite character.

Total Class: Define and discuss traditional and non-traditional gender roles.

Small Groups: In groups, instruct them to:
  1. Ask each student to reverse the gender of the person they liked best then briefly describe how the program might change.
  2. Discuss how they feel about their character now (with the gender change).
    Does the show get more or less interesting? How does the story change? What predictions might be made?

Total Class: Discuss and generate concepts.

  1. What was your group's reaction when you described your program reversing the gender roles? Why do you think they reacted that way?
  2. What behaviors do we typically associate with males? With females?
  3. How do people decide on their life roles and careers? What influence does the media have in shaping people's decisions?
  4. Do you think the media influences you in your current roles and behaviors? Do you think it will influence your future career choice?
  5. If you were born the opposite gender, would your behaviors and career interests be different than they are now? Explain.

Closure: To wrap up the discussion, encourage students to find out more about non-traditional activities and careers in which they are interested. Consider traditional and field research projects that will expand their horizons.

Further Discussion: You can also ask students to analyze television commercials (or advertising from print media like newspapers and magazines). Focus attention on the roles and responsibilities of males and females.

  1. Compare the family roles and responsibilities shown in the commercials they saw. Which characters, male or female, are usually shown having responsibility for household chores and childcare? For heavy labor or outdoor work? For family finances?
  2. Were there any characters in the commercials that seemed to have non-traditional roles in their families? Give examples.
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