Introduction

Gender Identity is a complicated topic. One that is often misunderstood and confusing to many people. Educating students about it is extremely beneficial because this time we are living in is all about change. Mainly changing our ancestors’ preconceived notions about what is normal and acceptable and changing our world’s idea of who it is okay to love. It is so important for students to learn about the concept in the classroom in order for them to be more accepting and understanding of the people and the ever-changing world around them.

Resources

There are so many resources available on the internet about gender identity, the gender spectrum, and other similar topics. Though there are great lesson plans, articles, and informational sites listed below, an alterant teaching method could include gathering various materials from news outlets and social media about the concept to supplement the traditional learning style. It may be a bit more of an unconventional approach for some, but there are a lot of well-known people sharing their experiences with struggling to figure out their sexual identity in order to teach and help others.

Lesson Plans

  1. Teaching Tolerance Gender Lesson Plans: Teaching Tolerance provides almost 30 various lesson plans about gender, which can be narrowed down into different age groups. Lesson topics vary from gender stereotypes to gender fluidity to gender inequality. Each lesson plan differs from the next, but many provide an assortment of essential questions, informational texts, multimedia sources, visual sources, teaching strategies, and student tasks.
  2. Lesson Plans to Help Students Understand Gender and to Support Transgender and Non-Binary Children: Welcoming Schools has put together a page soley devoted to compiling various lesson plans that teachers can use in their classrooms to help students understand gender and support those who identify differently than themselves. The plans are geared towards either elementary or middle school students (depending on the lesson), but there is something for everyone. Some lesson plans involve reading children’s stories, discussing a specific topic (gender stereotypes, gender expression, gender identity, etc.), and a corresponding craft. Others involve group discussions or writing persuasive essays on information learned or gathered from books or historical figures.
  3. I Am Who I Am: Advocates for Youth has put together a lesson plan for sixth and seventh graders to teach them how to “differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation” and “communicate respectfully with and about people of all gender identities, gender expressions and sexual orientations.” The lesson includes learning objectives, a note about language, a list of materials needed, a procedure, a final assessment after each lesson, a worksheet, and homework. By the end of this plan, the goal is that students will be able to have a better understanding of sexual orientation and interact respectfully with members of the LGBTQ community.

Articles

  1. The Gender Spectrum: Teaching Tolerance published an article to provide teachers with information on gender, important terms they should know, a story about a gender-diverse student’s experience in the classroom, and questions to ask oneself regarding creating a gender-inclusive classroom. Before attempting to teach students about gender, it is important for teachers to fully understand the concept and the preconceived notions most of their students may have about gender because it is a difficult concept for some students, especially those who are on the younger side, to grasp.
  2. Teaching students to question assumptions about gender and sexuality: Kappan published an article, which not only explains why it is necessary to teach about gender and sexuality in the classroom but also provides an example of how a high school teacher, Mollie, incorporated a heteronormativity scavenger hunt and a gender spectrum activity. This teacher’s experience with teaching about gender and her findings may be useful to others trying to teach about the same topic at the high school level.
  3. Sex? Sexual Orientation? Gender Identity? Gender Expression?: Teaching Tolerance features an article teaching both teachers and students the difference between gender, sex, and sexual orientation. The authors discuss the barrier that the idea of a binary system creates in schools, biological sex, intersex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and embracing a spectrum model. By the end of this article, readers will have a much better understanding of the correct language that should be used when discussing sexual orientation (e.g. gender identity vs. biological sex) and the differences between the terms.

Informational Sites

  1. Gender Spectrum: This informational site offers information and resources under these categories: parenting and family, teens, education, medical, mental health, legal, social services, and faith. Students and teachers are able to explore topics/issues related to gender and learn how children and teens are impacted by gender diversity. Gender Spectrum also provides services to help families, schools, and other organizations understand gender identity and expression, resources and tools to create gender-inclusive environments, and gender stories. Students and teachers will find this resource helpful in understanding the gender spectrum.
  2. The Human Rights Campaign: The Human Rights Campaign’s website provides resources on allies, bisexuals, coming out, transgender people, and more. Each topic consists of an explanation, articles, and other resources, including frequently asked questions, coming out guides, etc. This website is an extremely good resource for students to use to supplement their knowledge about the LGBTQ community and the current issues many are facing. 

Conclusion

Sexual orientation is an important topic for students to learn about. However, it can be a bit sensitive for certain people. The most important thing to remember when teaching students about this concept is to be aware that everyone may have something going on in their lives that you know nothing about. Therefore, it’s always best to be careful of the words and phrases you use when discussing sexual orientation, gender identity, the gender spectrum, and other similar subject matters with a class. 

Additional Resources

  1. Gender Spectrum Ted Talks: There are many TED Talks regarding the gender spectrum and gender identity. Videos about coming out, what it is like to be transgender, and needing gender-neutral bathrooms can be a good alternative to use in class instead of lesson plans and articles.
  2. 4 Ways to Teach Gender Equity in your Classroom: This article walks teachers through four ways to teach gender equity in their classroom. The author addresses confronting one’s own gender biases, remembering that gender is not a binary system, discussing intersectionality, choosing materials that students will be responsive to, and getting started with some provided resources.