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Lesson Plans

Defying Gender Stereotypes - Lesson Plan

January 23, 2016

Full Lesson



English, social studies, physical education

Estimated Time

One 45-minute class

Grade Level

Middle and High School


With news of the National Football League hiring their first full-time female coach in history, classes will explore gender identity and stereotypes using four short student-produced videos from PBS Student Reporting Lab’s new series, Outside the Box.

Background: It’s a fantasy no more. Kathryn Smith just became the first full-time female coach in the history of the National Football League. Smith, age 30, will be the Buffalo Bills’ special teams quality control assistant coach.

Smith grew up playing sports in upstate New York where she took stats for her high school’s football team. She majored in sports management at St. John’s University and became one of the managers of the school’s Division 1 basketball team. Smith started as an intern with the New York Jets and worked in the team’s scouting department before she became assistant to the Jets’ head coach.

Watch PBS NewsHour’s interview with USA Today’s sports writer Christine Brennan about Kathryn Smith’s new position in the NFL, and answer the questions with a partner or as a class.

1) What is a stereotype? How does Smith journey’s from stat taker at Friday night high school football games to first full-time female coach in NFL history defy gender stereotypes?

2) What is Title IX? How does gender equality fit in to the federal law known as Title IX? What does Brennan mean when she said, “This is Title IX in all of its manifestations.”


Now watch the following four videos from PBS Student Reporting Lab’s new series, Outside the Box.which examines how preconceived notions about gender affect the lives of middle and high school students.

Using the video below, discuss with students as a class or in pairs: What are some gender stereotypes that Eva faced when she was a young child and on the football field? Why do you think people stereotype based on gender? Have you ever found yourself stereotyping a person out loud or in your mind? What were the circumstances? What are some ways people can fight the urge to stereotype? 

Produced by Avery Schroeder and Eva Klein, students at West Ranch High School in Santa Clarita, California.

Using the video below, discuss with students as a class or in pairs: What do you think Aleena meant when she said, “You just have to go out there and use your whole heart”? Can you think of an example in your own life when you put your all into something? How did you feel about the experience while it was happening? After it ended? Harley said she always wanted to do something different, in this case, a sport that didn’t involve girls. Have you ever broken or wanted to break a gender stereotype? Describe your experience.

Produced by Amanda Bonet, Etiwanda High School.

Using the video below, discuss with students as a class or in pairs. You might also want to ask students to write down their responses in their notebooks: How has Lexi’s experience on the high school varsity football team defied gender stereotypes? How do you think you would react if you heard someone stereotyping another person, particularly in a negative way? Would your reaction be different if the person who made the stereotype was an adult? How about a young child?

Produced by Sydney Miller, a junior at Fort Mill High School in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Using the video below, discuss with students together as a class or in pairs: How is Adrian’s experience similar to the students in the football and wrestling pieces? What are some differences? How do you think the female athletes in the previous videos would react to hearing Adrian’s story? Explain. Describe the types of support that Adrian and the other students featured in the videos received. Why are support systems important?

Produced by Karen Orduna and Alexandria Thompson, students at the Mesquite Student Network in Mesquite, Texas.

by Victoria Pasquantonio, PBS NewsHour Education Editor, History Teacher – feedback on this lesson is welcome. Send to vpasquantonio-at-newshour-dot-org