Gender Discussion Questions for ESL Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Getting ESL students talking deeply about meaningful topics can be a great way for them to practice conversational skills. This lesson offers questions about gender that will get good conversations going.

Why Ask Gender Discussion Questions?

Are you hoping to engage your ESL students in conversations that will really make them think? Perhaps you want to extend their use of active vocabulary, or maybe you want to learn more about the way they think and talk. When you stick to superficial or predetermined topics and scripts, students do not have a chance to really show what they can do as English conversationalists.

One way to deepen your work with ESL students is by prompting them to have discussions about deep and meaningful topics. Gender is a topic that many people have strong ideas and views about, and a discussion about gender will get your students thinking critically and push them to use new vocabulary and sentence structure to express what they want to say.

Because gender can be a very broad and abstract topic, it helps to have some specific discussion questions that can guide your students' work. Students will likely bring personal and cultural ideas to these discussions, and you want to frame your questions in a way that gives them leeway to really speak their minds. You can pose these discussion questions to your students or let them use these questions in partnership or small group work to engage with one another.

Concrete Questions

The questions in this section are fairly concrete and can be answered using specific examples. These questions are well-suited either to younger ESL students or to those who are still gaining comfort with basic English conversational skills.

  • What are some things that people say are mostly for boys? Where and when have you heard people say that? How does it make you think and feel?
  • What are some things that people say are mostly for girls? Where and when have you heard people say that? How does it make you think and feel?
  • Do you believe that some toys are only for girls and other toys are only for boys? Explain why you think the way you do about this topic.
  • Are most of your friends girls or boys, or are your friends a mix of genders? Why do you think this is?
  • Describe a time that you felt you could not do something because you were a boy or because you were a girl. Explain how that made you feel.
  • Who is a male hero or role model of yours? Why do you admire this person?
  • Who is a female hero or role model of yours? Why do you admire this person?
  • Tell a story about a time you have spent with a group of only girls or only boys. What did this feel like? How was it similar to and different from being in a more mixed group?

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