Critical Thinking Activity Gender Roles And Stereotypes

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class activities 

The following activities can be used in conjunction with specific media examples on this website  or more generally used to elicit class discussion and critical thinking. It may be useful to review the section that overviews key concepts tied to identity and consider how we understand our identities and the ways our identities are shaped by media. 

Many of these exercises can be adapted for one-time use or extended for use over the course of a unit or series of units. Feel free to transform and manipulate them to fit your lesson plans.

the media and me

As a reflection exercise, ask students to consider what makes up their identity and which facets of their identity are most important to them (sex, race, ethnicity, age, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, etc.). Then ask students to think about how their identity has potentially been shaped by the media. Have each student bring in or identify a piece of media that has personally impacted them. This could be done periodically throughout a unit or semester, as homework or a blog. For discussion:

  • Did this media in any way shape your understanding of your identity (gender, race, class, sexuality, etc.)? If so, offer a specific example.
  • Did this media impact your behavior? Did you reenact something you saw? Did you buy something?
  • Did this media impact how you see yourself or think about your appearance?

who am I?

Give each student a specfic identity featured on this website (see "topics" on the right hand side of this page). Be as specific as possible. Show one of the media clips to the class and have students respond "in character" to what they've seen.

  • How does watching this clip make you feel based on your assigned identity?
  • Does your given identity change the way you understand or interpret the media you saw? If so, how?

two sides of the fence

Pick one of the identity categories on this site. Using Peggy McIntosh's list from her essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" as a model, make a list of first person statements or value judements. As you read each statement, instruct students to go to one side of the room if they agree and the other side if they disagree. For discussion:

  • Why did you agree or disagree with each statement?
  • Do you think any of the media viewed inside or outside class contributed to the choices you made?

find the stereotype

Have students re-view a TV show they regularly watch or view some of the media examples on this site and list all the stereotypes they see. This could also be designed as a multi-day journal assignment that encompasses all media viewed outside of school. For discussion:

  • What is a stereotype?
  • How do we identify them? And what do they tell us?
  • Is it important to be aware of stereotypes in the media? Why or why not?

mash it up

Use this site to re-combine video from ads directed at boys with audio from ads directed at girls (and vice versa) to create provocative fair use mash-ups. Alternately, make your own mashup of media targeted at two different groups. A list of free software, tools and resources for making remix videos can be found here. For discussion:

  • How do the original ads characterize boys and girls and what they like?
  • How did the mashup change the original meaning?
  • Do you think there is value in making media "mashups"? Why or why not?

"you decide"

Transcribe the action and dialogue from a scene in your favorite movie. Rewrite the scene by changing the gender, race, class or sexual orientation of the protagnoist. Perform the scene in class and compare it to the original. For discussion:

  • Aside from the character's identity, did you need to alter anything else so that the scene made sense? Why?
  • Did the changes impact the outcome of the scene or the intended meaning of the original story?
  • How do you think writers make decisions about a character's identity (what they look like, where they live, how they speak, etc.)?

who's who?

Students will cast a fictious film or television show. Give the students a series of photographs of individuals of different races, ethnicities, ages, both male and female. All are in the running for the following roles: the protagnoist (singer/songwriter), the protagonist's father, the father's boss, the janitor at the father's company, the family's live-in housekeeper, the protagnoist's love interest, the protagonist's neighbor/friend. For discussion:

  • How did you make your casting decisions?
  • How did race, class, gender, sexual orientation and age play a role in the casting decisions?
  • Will these casting decisions impact the meanings conveyed in the final product? Why? Why not?
  • How is casting relevant to a discussion of media representation and stereotypes?


Choose an identity featured on this website (see "topics" listed on the right hand side of this page). Discuss and view some of the stereotypical representaitons of the chosen group. Partner with other students to make a short film or the first in a webisode series that represents a marginalized group in a non-stereotypical way. After completing and screening the project to classmates, discuss the following:

  • Were there particular challenges in creating non-stereotypical representations of your characters?
  • How did you decide what constituted a stereotype of your group and how to best combat it? How were these strategies effective? How were they ineffective?


Ask students to research film and television productions with non-white figures in top creative positions (director, writer, producer). Discuss whether or not the race, gender, sexual orientation of person behind the camera influences what happens in front of the camera. For discussion:

  • What is the race, gender, sexual orienation of the person you researched?
  • Do you think this person made any decisions about race, class, gender, sexual orientation in creating the characters or telling the story?
  • Do you think it's important to know a media creator's identity in order to better understand the kinds of stories and messages they're conveying? Why or why not?

my community

Create a story about some aspect of identity (e.g. gender, race, class, sexuality) in the context of your school or neighborhood. Use video, audio, still photos, or other digital media. You may interview people or narrate someone else's story or tell your own story.

making change

Identify a problem related to an issue you've explored on The Critical Media Project. Create a PSA (Public Service Announcement) that addresses the issue and advocates for awareness or a particular solution.

every single word

Get inspired by this Tumblr site to edit your favorite films or TV shows and highlight the lack of diversity around race, class, gender or sexuality. Modified assignment: watch and account for the minutes of dialogue and screen time for different types of characters. For discussion:

  • What do you observe about the differences in screen time allotted to different groups?
  • How do different amounts of screen time reflect on or impact the way audiences might understand the different groups represented?
  • How would you characterize the representations of the groups that have the most screen time? the least screen time?

your turn

Identify some media artifacts (still, video, or sound) that would benefit from some critical thinking and analysis. Follow the format on this website:

  • Describe the media artifiact and do some research in order to put it in context for the viewer.
  • Write some questions to get the viewer to critically think about and analyze the meaning of the artifact and its represenation of identity.
  • Post your media example, description and discussion questions on our facebook page to help contribute to our growing list of media.


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