Published: April 22, 2022

Author: Emily Majluf
Nominator: Rai Farrelly
Course: LING 4620 Teaching L2 Oral Skills and Communication, Spring 2020
LURA 2022

The modern language we use to describe gender and identity can sometimes elude even those who have spoken English their entire lives. Language is constantly evolving, and using the wrong term in some contexts could signal a significant misunderstanding. It is easiest to introduce concepts in a new language when those ideas can be related back to one’s mother tongue or own experiences. However, in many cases students who have not been previously exposed to English have also become accustomed to a social-dynamic that sticks to the status quo. To introduce vocabulary that new English speakers will encounter, perhaps for the first time in any language, we need to start by exploring the ideas behind this vocabulary.

My project entitled “Gender Around the World” is a three lesson curricular unit for speakers of English as an additional language that explores how gender as a concept is a part of everyone’s lives, no matter their background, and how it influences different facets of life across the globe. Gender philosophies not only change with time, but vary tremendously with culture. Neglecting such nuances and looking at gender through a narrow lens has often resulted in severe consequences in the lives of individuals. In my project, we explore examples of these consequences, and additionally expand our knowledge and understanding of gender as a whole. These lessons are written for middle or high school B1 Intermediate level learners, but could be adapted for any level by the teacher, should they find these resources helpful.

To begin introducing a complex subject, we must break it down into relatable pieces of everyday life. Lesson one introduces students to the concept of stereotypes and how they may be at play in our everyday lives. Students reflect on their own experiences of being stereotyped and stereotyping others, and why this can be harmful. They go on to learn new words related to this concept, how implementing gender roles can begin from birth, and what consequences they may have later in life. I knew from the start of creating this lesson plan that I wanted this to be a unit that resonates with everyone, not just women and girls. It is important that men and boys understand the effects of stereotyping and gender bias reach them as well– steering them away from certain hobbies, emotions, jobs, decor, and even foods and drinks that aren’t deemed fit for men. By completing guided listening and reflection activities, learners can explore meaningful content as they work on their language skills.

The second lesson is really the heart of this unit plan, as it takes students on a trip around the world so they can see how gender varies widely within whichever culture it is practiced. In doing so, we contextualize our analysis of gender by understanding that the lack of a binary system is a historical and multicultural phenomenon which occurs across the globe; the "gender revolution" cannot simply be attributed to modern Western culture, and this stance is widely supported by international scholars. Using a map that helps users see where gender minority communities have resided in the past and present, students are able to explore non-Western examples of breaking away from the traditional male and female gender roles. This is a great opportunity for some students to even find such examples in a place they’ve grown up or lived in, bringing the issue closer to home. By creating a presentation about gender in their chosen region, students are able to prioritize learning details about what is most important to them, but are also able to watch presentations of other regions to enrich their overall understanding. They can then notice recurring themes and vocabulary among each other’s projects.

The unit ends with the last lesson allowing students to review all that they have learned and implement their new language skills. They practice speaking to each other about new gender concepts and then carry that practice over to a self-made video, explaining related symbols and pictures to a peer. Final wrap-up includes a classwide discussion about the unit and what students have learned along the way, both about the world and about themselves. I wanted this unit to include ample opportunity for discussion because the best way for us to understand one another is to listen to someone else’s own experience, and also because topics that may challenge preconceived ideas will surely elicit some strong opinions that beg to be voiced. My primary goal is to allow such opinions to be shared, convey to students that everyone’s experiences are worthy of attention and respect, and to prepare young individuals about the different kinds of people they may encounter in life. It is necessary to expect backlash from students when teaching subjects like this, but teachers must exercise cultural understanding and patience towards students if they expect to receive it in return, and to be able to initiate a dialogue.

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