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Women’s Rights ESL Lesson Plan to Promote Gender Equality in the Classroom
International Women’s Day isn’t just an occasion to celebrate the amazing women in our lives. It’s an opportunity to open up conversations about gender-based discrimination, violence against women and breaking stereotypes about what women can achieve.
We need to make sure that we in the education sector are not accidentally perpetuating gender-based stereotypes in our classrooms. That’s why our gender equality ESL lesson plan (which comes complete with a 7 page worksheet) is designed to help boys and girls understand that women and girls are just as capable as men in every field.
Too many young girls and boys grow up with the ingrained belief that girls are just destined for certain roles (mothers, homemakers, nurses, secretaries), while boys are meant to become CEOs, doctors, astronauts and other “high profile” jobs.
We believe that these stereotypes need to be challenged in the classroom for the benefit of all children who feel stuffed into a box based on their gender.
In this article we’ll be delving into:
- How to explain gender inequality
- Gender equality ESL lesson plan (with worksheet)
- How to promote gender equality in the classroom
- Amazing teachers tell us what International Women’s Day means to them
We’ve also involved our amazing teacher community in the creation of this post and would like to thank them for their involvement. We asked 8 women what International Women’s Day means to them and shared their incredible answers below. We hope their words will inspire you.
How do you explain gender inequality?
When it comes to explaining gender inequality, showing is much more powerful than telling. One warm-up activity for your class could be to collect homework from the children, but only collect homework from the boys.
Once you’ve collected all the homework from the boys go back to the front of the class and ask if you’ve collected everyone’s homework.
Once the girls start raising their hands and saying that you forget theirs, ignore them. Keep asking and ignoring the girls who by now will (hopefully) be complaining.
Let this go on for a little longer then explain to them that what just happened in your classroom is what has been happening to women for centuries.
This activity offers a great introduction to speaking about how women’s achievements have been historically ignored in favour of men’s achievements, not due to any inferiority in women’s work, but simply because of their gender.
Then tell your class that today is International Women’s Day, a day to fight for women’s right to be treated as equal to men.
Ask them if they know anything about International Women’s Day and what activities people do (like marching, protesting and learning about women’s rights).
You can write down the answers on the boards and assist the children with any necessary translations.
Gender equality ESL lesson plan
This lesson plan is for children around the age of 10 and celebrates the achievements of some amazing women, both past and present. The goal is to help children learn about these women and also to challenge stereotypes about what women can achieve and what their role is, both in the economy and in our society.
What grammar and vocabulary is covered in this lesson?
Vocabulary : jobs (some new vocabulary may include “activist” and “primatologist”), adjectives (awesome, brave, heroic etc).
Grammar : past simple. Make sure your students are familiar with the past simple and some irregular verbs.
The lesson plan step-by-step
- Download our gender equality lesson plan.
- Warm up for the activity by creating a table on the board with two columns. One column will be labeled “women” and the other “men”. Tell the children that you’re going to learn about stereotypes, which is assuming someone has certain characteristics or does certain things based on something like their gender, race, age etc. Get the children to think of jobs that are traditionally associated with either men or women.
- Tell your students that we think this way, not because of facts, but because of stereotypes and that now they’re going to see that women are capable of all sorts of jobs.
- Hand out the worksheet and read each of the descriptions of the women as a class. Ask students to circle the vocabulary associated with jobs. Explain that an activist is a person who fights for positive change in the world.
- Students pair up and do the next activity. They have to read the quotes and match them to the correct woman. Correct the answers as a class.
- In their pairs, each student pretends to be one of the women from the worksheet. They take turns asking each other the interview questions and writing down their partner’s answers.
- As an individual activity, students must write about a woman that they admire either from their own family or someone else who inspires them. They have to write about what that person does and why they inspire them. Make sure to go around the class and help out with vocabulary and spelling.
- We suggest giving up some “starter” sentences such as “My mother inspires me because….” “A woman I really admire is…” to help them get going.
- Finally, introduce the concept of what a march is, you can use the video below to show to your class. Once they’re clear on what a march is, ask them to read the placards from the photos on the worksheet.
- Tell them to work in their pairs again and unjumble the words on the final worksheet and write the correct phrase on the empty placards.
Video of International Women’s Day Marches
How can we promote gender equality in the classroom?
The classroom is one of the most important fronts in the fight for gender equality, and even though we would never intentionally treat boys and girls differently, we may do so unconsciously.
Here are our top tips for promoting gender equality in our classrooms:
- Challenge statements like “you run like a girl” or “man up” or making fun of boys who are crying or upset. Children may say these without realizing that sexism lies behind them. So if you hear any phrases like these, explain that this is a stereotype and hurts people.
- Make sure that teaching materials are reflective of both genders and don’t accidentally pass on stereotypes: eg only women used on flashcards for “nurse” and only men used on flashcards for “astronaut” or “doctor”.
- Make boys and girls share responsibility for classroom projects and tasks. Try to be extra conscious of putting girls in some type of leadership position in class projects.
- Invite women guest lecturers to talk about their jobs.
- Be aware of your own bias like comforting girls for longer than boys, praising boys more for correct answers etc. You can ask your colleagues if they think you ever treat boys or girls differently.
- Make sure your classroom resources have both female and male characters who break the mould of traditional gender stereotypes.
- Make sure girls aren’t interrupted when speaking out in class.
Extra Gender Equality ESL Resources to use for International Women’s Day (and Beyond!)
Here are some other great ESL resources for you to make use of for International Women’s Day (and any other day!)
#LikeaGirl Video: Challenge gender stereotypes
This amazing video from the Always company shows how hurtful stereotypes like “you run like a girl” can be.
The Dream Gap by Barbie: how toys are gendered
This video from Barbie can help children understand how certain roles are pushed onto girls through toys.
International Women’s Day Official Resources
The official International Women’s Day website has a wealth of resources for various age groups.
The British Council Gender Equality Resources
These British Council resources will be a great addition to any ESL classroom for teenage students.
We asked some wonderful teachers what International Women’s Day Means to Them – their answers will inspire you
We asked some outstanding teachers what International Women’s Day means to them and their answers will remind you of just how important this day truly is.
It’s an opportunity to honor women who have been fighting for gender equality, justice, and legal rights. It’s a day to commemorate all those women who have lost their voices; and to remember that there is still a lot of work to do, for those who are not here anymore, for those who are, and for those to come. This is a very sensitive topic for me because I’m from Argentina, and unfortunately, young girls and women are being abused and killed every day. 30 women have been murdered since 2021 started. It is heartbreaking.
Paula (Vox Paupilix)
It means remembering that war, poverty and inequality sadly affects many women across the world and that much of my freedom is thanks to the brave women of the past that stood up against such injustices.
Angie Robin (Angie English Online)
International Women’s day for me is a day to commemorate those who have fought for women in the past, and today, who have fought and are still fighting for women’s rights. Making it known that females, by nature, bring and nurture our future generations in the world and if they decide to, they should have the same social, economic, cultural and political achievements as men.
Adriana (English with Adriana)
When I reflect upon what International Women’s Day means to me, the words “endurance” and “perseverance” come to mind. I think of all the incredible accomplishments of women across the globe despite the many societal obstacles in their way. This is a day for me to rejoice in being a woman and celebrate the incredible women in my life who have made me the passionate, ambitious and determined person I am today.
Sannie (Sannie English)
For me this day is a reminder that every woman has a story! I am who I am today because of my personal journey. I don’t compete with other women, I compete with myself and I believe confident, humble, strong and wise women support and respect each other. If you’re reading this know your worth, love yourself, remember there is no one like you, you can do anything, after all you’re a Woman! Happy International Women’s day Ladies, Cheers to us! xoxo Regina
Regina (ESL with Regina)
I consider myself a feminist and recognize the disparity in rights that exists not only in gender but also in race, religion, and sexuality. This recognition did not come readily but came steadily because of the society I grew up in – I saw everything from casual oppression of women in my country, to the strength of women in my mother, grandmothers, and now my mother-in-law. The recognition of the inequality grew into outrage as I became a young woman and learned about the world, my own and everyone else’s. It remains an outrage due to the plethora of issues that not only women but other members of the trans and non-binary community (womxn) face on an everyday basis. Despite all this, I am proud of what womxn are achieving today.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day #choosetochallenge resonates with me immensely, because I choose to challenge the idea that there is only one day to celebrate womxn. Every day is a day to respect, support, and celebrate womxn.
Have you ever wondered why we celebrate International Women’s Day?
If you have, it shows how very needed this day still is.
International Women’s Day is often trivialized and seen as a marketing opportunity for retailers to sell more cards and gifts.
Though it’s always lovely to give and receive cards and gifts, the true significance of International Women’s Day goes much deeper.
In a world where women are still often not given the same status, respect or pay as men, and where sadly, women still experience oppression in some countries, International Women’s Day is an opportunity for people all over the world to commit to creating a fairer world for all.
All human beings have the right to life, health, education, work, love, respect and recognition of their dignity, regardless of their gender.
If these fundamental human rights are respected for all people, regardless of their gender, then each and every person is given equal opportunities to access education, progress in the workplace, explore their talents and develop their potential for the benefit of all.
It’s important to emphasize that International Women’s Day is not about elevating women to a level above men.
It’s about recognizing the vital contribution women have made to humanity since the beginning of time, and giving them equal opportunities to fulfill their potential, so that the whole of society can benefit and evolve.
On International Women’s Day, let’s commit to playing our part in building a society that offers equal opportunities to all people, regardless of their gender or ethnicity – a world of kindness and empathy, where all people support one another to become all that they can be, for the good of humanity and future generations.
As Maya Angelou said: “We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth to share.”
Happy International Women’s Day!
Fabi (Welcome English)
On the 8th of March I always wake up, open WhatsApp and see dozens of messages in my inbox. Some of these messages come from other women. But most of them come from men. Men sending out images that say “Happy Women’s Day! You’re sweet, fragile, you’re like flowers, you’re our most precious thing in the world. This is a happy day because women are beautiful creatures!”
At the age of 12, at school, I learned about the working-class origin of this celebration and the constant struggle to win rights. But at the same time, every 8th I would get up and see my dad with roses and chocolate for my mum. So, for me as a child, the situation was confusing. On the one hand, thousands of women killed in the strikes and on the other, roses and chocolate? What was happening?!
Later, in college, I started going to women’s protests in Plaza de Mayo, the most historic and famous square in Buenos Aires. I finally understood what was happening in my childhood. It’s called “patriarchy”.
Today, International Women’s Day means sisterhood and fighting for equal rights. To me it’s a day to show men what the world would be like without women. It’s a day to raise our voices, to remember those who gave their lives for us.
Roses and chocolate? I don’t accept that anymore.
Let’s commit to creating more gender equality in our ESL classrooms
We hope the lesson plan and the amazing comments from our community of teachers has inspired you to make your classroom a place of gender equality where young girls know they are worthy and capable of achieving anything.
We’d love to hear from you. You can tweet us about how you’re celebrating International Women’s Day. We’ll be spending the 8th March tweeting about our favourite IWD resources and videos from across the globe.