A lesson plan to go with “Tackling a new sport” from the May-June 2009 issue of L.A. Youth, in which Anisa Berry writes about learning to play rugby.
By Amanda Riddle, editor

Grades: 7-12
Subjects: Language arts, social studies, life skills
Suggested Time Allowance: 45 minutes-1 hour


• copies of the L.A. Youth article “Tackling a new sport” (one per student)
• pens and paper
• white board or blackboard

By examining stereotypes about gender, students will learn to be more accepting of people who may not fit traditional male and female gender roles.

As teens are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in, they can feel pressure to act a certain way to be accepted. Unfortunately, they are often judged when they don’t fit expectations of how boys and girls should behave. A guy who wants to be part of his school’s drama club risks getting labeled “gay.” A girl who likes to play video games isn’t considered feminine. But trying to be someone they’re not to please others can prevent teens from pursuing their interests or being comfortable with themselves. In addition, judging others based on gender prevents teens from getting to know people for who they are.

Ask students to write down three generalizations they associate with females and three for males. On the board make two columns, one titled “Girls are …” and the other titled “Boys are …” After students have written their responses, ask them to write their answers on the board. Then circle the three responses that appear most frequently for both genders. For boys, common responses may be: tough, strong, good at math and science, unemotional, loud, into sports and video games, smelly, rude, class clowns. For girls, they may say: sensitive, supportive, emotional, gossipy, superficial, bossy, creative, good at writing, quiet.

Read the article “Tackling a new sport” on pages 18-19 of the May-June 2009 issue, about how learning to play the contact sport of rugby made Anisa feel more confident about being a strong female.

Have students answer these questions, either as a class discussion or a writing assignment:

What were Anisa’s experiences with sports before rugby?
• She’d get fouls when she was just playing hard.
• She’d be benched by her coaches so she wouldn’t get too many penalties.
• She’d accidentally kick someone while going for the ball in soccer.
• She decided she wasn’t meant to be an athlete.

What has been Anisa’s experience playing rugby?
• When she tried tackling, she was a natural.
• She uses her strength to help her team get possession of the ball.
• When her teammate scored, she felt like she scored because she helped her team win possession of the ball.
• Her coach told her she did a good job.

Why does Anisa like playing rugby?
• It’s finally a sport she’s good at.
• She doesn’t feel bad anymore because she knows her strength is needed.
• Tackling relieves stress. 
• It’s made her more confident because she’s seen that being strong doesn’t make her less feminine.

How do people react to Anisa playing rugby?
• They wonder if she gets hurt.
• They don’t understand why a girl would play a contact sport.

Concluding discussion:
After reading the story, revisit the stereotypes written on the board. How did not fitting into assumptions of femininity affect Anisa’s self-esteem? How do gender stereotypes affect your students? Have they felt pressured to act a certain way, or judged if they didn’t? Have they been on the other side and judged others? Do they feel the stereotypes on the board describe them?

Write a personal essay about how you’ve been affected by gender stereotypes. Students could write about being judged or how they sometimes don’t feel they can be themselves. Or they could write about how they’ve treated others based on stereotypes. After reading about how Anisa was questioned for playing rugby and told she would be prettier if she lost weight, how do they feel about having judged others in the past? Students can also write about what they can do to eliminate gender stereotypes.

Extension activity:
Have your students enter L.A. Youth’s essay contest, “A different gender for a day.” See page 25 of the May-June 2009 issue for the essay prompt and rules. They can win money! Essays should be mailed to L.A. Youth at 5967 W. Third St. Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90036. The deadline is June 19, 2009.