Break Stereotypes

Break Gender Stereotypes, Challenge Stereotypes

In Break Stereotypes, a teacher cultivates an inclusive learning environment by intentionally integrating instruction and materials that are free from gender stereotypes. First, a teacher examines the classroom to ensure the physical space and materials reflect diverse genders and interests (e.g., posters of men and women in the same profession, books with male and female protagonists). Next, using well-planned learning opportunities (e.g., dress up centers with a range of options, picture book read-alouds that challenge stereotypes), the teacher promotes the idea that all individuals are free to pursue their dreams. The teacher acts as an attentive observer, ready to offer encouragement (e.g., “You can use any of the costumes that look interesting to you!”) or respond to stereotypes (e.g., “That is not true. Many women are firefighters.”). Break Stereotypes supports young learners’ social and emotional development as students build self-confidence without the limitations of gender stereotypes.

Ready-to-Use Resources


Break Stereotypes Occupation Posters

A poster set depicting images of individuals performing the duties of popular occupations. Images include representations of both men and women performing the same roles. Display the poster set in the dress up area of an early learning classroom, or use the posters to learn about different occupations.

Grade K, 1 · Speaking, Behavior & SEL · 16 pages

Implementation Tips

Classroom Environment
Include visual aids throughout the classroom that intentionally Break Stereotypes. For instance, hang a poster by the dress up area that shows images of individuals of both genders wearing the same type of outfits. Make the displays inviting and fun.
Preparing Materials
Prepare materials that encourage students to actively play free of stereotypes. Provide dress up clothing representing a wide variety of occupations for students to choose from. Select toys and games and that span a range of topics and interests and encourage students to actively explore.
Encouraging Students
Acknowledge the specific activities in which students participate (e.g. “Joseph, I saw you cooking in the Home Center today. Tell me about what you were making.”). This will reinforce the idea that students are capable and free to do and be anything they choose.
Facilitating Discussion
Facilitate classroom discussions reviewing the activities and roles that students took on during play. Encourage students to talk about how and why they chose certain activities. Look for opportunities to validate students’ choices and offer specific positive feedback.
Using Picture Books
Read picture books that illustrate non-traditional gender roles (e.g., a dad taking care of a baby, a female construction worker). Include books that actively challenge gender stereotypes (e.g., [[,204,203,200_.jpg|William’s Doll]]).
Redirecting Peer Judgement
Observe students’ interactions and redirect any negative judgments, remaining calm and matter-of-fact (e.g., “Lilly, boys and girls are able to play with all the same toys and do all the same types of things. Sam would like to play with the baby dolls. Let’s play dolls together with him.”).
Using Models
Invite parents, community members and other role models into the classroom to share about their careers, interests and pastimes. Illustrate how either gender can accomplish individual pursuits through a diverse set of classroom guests.
Maintaining Self-Awareness
Continue to reflect on the classroom environment, activities and instruction. Commit to serving as a model by being aware of your own language and actions in order to proactively Break Stereotypes.


Preparing Students for Play
Prior to releasing students to free choice centers, the teacher has prepared a mini-lesson. The teacher says, “In a moment, we will have choice time. You will notice that I have added some dress up clothing to our free choice center. We have been learning about different jobs. These dress up clothes look like clothes that people with different types of jobs would wear.” The teacher then holds up each outfit and asks, “Who would wear this clothing?” For each outfit, the teacher asks students to think of people they know or know about in the particular occupation. The teacher has prepared both male and female models in advance, and ensures that students are exposed to both for each occupation (e.g., “You’re right! Ariel’s dad is a doctor. Did you know that her mom is also a doctor?”). The teacher then releases students to the free choice centers, remaining in the dress up area to observe students’ play.
Challenging Stereotypes
During Circle Time, a teacher is reading a picture book highlighting characters that are interested in nontraditional gender roles (e.g., [[ | Ballerino Nate]], [[ | Rosie Revere Engineer]], [[ | A Fire Engine for Ruthie]]). While reading, the teacher stops to point out pictures in the book that illustrate the idea that anyone is free to pursue their interests. The teacher uses prompts to facilitate discussion (e.g., “I see the man lifting the ballerina in the air. What do you think he is doing?”). Upon hearing a student make a statement about gender roles (e.g., “Only girls can be ballerinas.”), the teacher calmly and nonjudgmentally responds (e.g., “Both men and women can be dancers. Remember When we went to the Children’s Theater? We saw both men and women dancing in the show.”).

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