Lesson Plan

Exploring Gendered Messages in Advertising

Advertisers use gendered messages to sell us products all the time. How does this affect us? How can we spot gendered messages and keep our sense of self strong?
Kelly A.
Classroom teacher
Ladue Middle School
St. Louis, MO
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My Grades 6, 7, 8
Digitial Citizenship and EdTech Mentor

Students will be able to...

  • define the term "gender stereotype"
  • give examples of gender stereotypes
  • identify examples and non-examples of gender stereotypes in advertisements
  • explain how stereotypes can be harmful to individuals
English Language Arts
Health & Wellness
Grades 7 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Intro + Hook

Begin by showing students this video of 4 year-old Riley, talking about what she sees in a toy store:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CU040Hqbas

​Ask students what they notice about Riley's surroundings - she is clearly in the "girl" section of the store, most of the packaging around her is pink, and most of the toys are baby dolls. What does this say about what girls "should" like and want in life?

Follow up with this video of a slightly older Riley commenting on a LEGO set she recently bought: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLOwDdheFnY&nohtml5=False​

Ask students to recap the two main things Riley had a problem with in this LEGO set: that 1) the only female characters have to be "rescued" and serve as love interests, and 2) that there ARE female superheroes that could have been included in the set. Explain to students that these messages are based on stereotypes, not reality.


2 Connect

Free, Paid

Set up a Padlet that students can access from their own devices. Ask students to think about the types of messages we receive from advertisements on television, in print, and online. On one side of the bulletin board, have them post “girl messages,” and on the other, “boy messages.” You might give one or more of these examples:

Girls Should Want... Boys Should Want...
Long, shiny hair and clear skin Big muscles
To focus mostly on caring for others To focus mostly on their own goals
"Prince Charming" to rescue them A wife that lets them feel like a "manly man"


3 Explore

Have students use YouTube or another video aggregation service to find examples of gender stereotypes in advertising. They might find a commercial for a product, a promo for a TV show, or a trailer for a movie. They could find an example that portrays stereotypes about men, women, or both. You might allow students to collaborate in pairs or small groups. As they explore, have students jot down notes about what stereotypes they are seeing and why these stereotypes could be harmful to men and women. Tell them to choose one advertisement that really speaks to them, and that they will be sharing this with the larger group.


4 Share

Have you students share a link to the advertisement that hit home with them the most. They should write a caption about what stereotypes they see in the advertisement and why the stereotype could be harmful. Allow students time to explore and comment on their peers’ posts.


5 Debrief

Set up a live chat for your students in TodaysMeet to debrief on the activity. You might allow students to post under a pseudonym if they want to remain anonymous, or just use their first names. Explain that you will be posting questions for them to answer live, and that they can and should post encouragement and agreement with their classmates if they feel strongly about something someone else has posted (and model this for them as the chat rolls along).

Here are some questions you could use in the chat:

Q1: Ideas about how guys and girls are “supposed” to act are called gender norms. What are some examples of gender norms?

Q2: What are some examples of how you DON'T follow gender norms? Example: I *love* fantasy football!

Q3: How might a person who doesn’t follow gender norms feel when they see gender stereotypes on TV, in movies, and online?

Q4: Where do these ideas about how boys and girls are "supposed" to feel and act come from, besides advertisements? (example: ever been to a baby shower?)