Culminating Project: Analyzing Gender Roles in Advertising | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2B:U3

Culminating Project: Analyzing Gender Roles in Advertising

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In this unit, students continue to develop their understanding of identity formation and transformation from Units 1 and 2, focusing their study of identity through the lens of gender roles. Students first return to the central text from Unit 2, Pygmalion, and explore how gender played a role in Eliza Doolittle's experience. Then they begin a short research project on the role that media and advertising play in our understanding of what roles men and women are supposed to fulfill. Unit 3 centers on research standards W.7.6 and W.7.7 and addresses some aspects of W.7.8. Students will be introduced to the research process and conduct a short research project in which they explore how advertisements portray stereotypical gender roles and the impact that has on an individual's sense of self. As a class, students read several articles about gender roles and advertising to build their skills as researchers. They use a researcher's notebook to collect notes and paraphrase.

Then, on their own, they read additional articles, gathering relevant information, asking supporting research questions, and practicing how to take detailed notes and properly cite their sources. In the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment, students will answer selected-response questions about a research text that the class has not yet discussed. In the End of Unit 3 Assessment, they will synthesize the information they gathered in their research into several paragraphs. (Both assessments focus on W.7.7 and W.7.8, but the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment focuses more on gathering relevant information and asking questions, while the end of unit assessment focuses more on paraphrasing and synthesizing information to answer a research question.) As a final performance task, students write an advertisement analysis and create a "counter ad" as they deconstruct a print advertisement that portrays gender stereotypes and then recreate it without using those stereotypes. This task focuses on NYSP12 ELA CCLS W.7.2, W.7.4, W.7.6, W.7.7, W.7.8, SL.7.1b, L.7.1, L.7.2, L.7.3, and L.7.6.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Society allows the media to convey specific messages about what a man and a woman should be like.
  • Media messages often affect individuals' sense of self-worth and self-confidence.
  • Advertisements take advantage of individuals' insecurities to sell products.
  • How are ideas about gender communicated in today's society?
  • How can I be a savvy consumer of media and create a strong sense of self despite media messages about my gender?  

Content Connections

  • This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and science content that may align to with additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum

Relevant Content Standards

  • 7.7 Reform Movements: 7.7 C Women's Rights
  • Unifying Social Studies Theme: Development and Transformation of Social Structures

-   Role of social class, systems of stratification, social groups, and institutions
-   Role of gender, race, ethnicity, education, class, age, and religion in defining social structures within a culture
-   Social and political inequalities
-   Expansion and access of rights through concepts of justice and human rights

 Relevant Social Studies Practices

  • Comparison and Contextualization: Analyze how media messages have changed over time
  • Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence: Research and cite sources on the impact of advertising
  • The Role of the Individual in Social and Political Participation: Investigate how individuals can make a difference


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite graphic designers to work with students on their final products. These experts could teach students about the design elements they could incorporate into their counter ad or provide students with feedback on their work to help them revise. A particularly effective format for this type of work is to have each expert meet with a group of three or four students and lead a group critique session of each piece of work.
  • Invite employees from marketing companies to discuss techniques of media and advertising.
  • Invite a media literacy expert to talk with students about being savvy consumers of media messages.

Field Work

Arrange for students to present their research and findings on advertisements to others, such as younger students, patrons at a local library, or members of a youth center.


  • This unit lends itself to collaboration with the art teacher or media specialist. Consider expanding the work time to make the counter ad a more involved project.
  • Consider using the following resources for a more detailed study on media literacy:

-   Media Literacy Project
-   Project Look Sharp
-   Media Education Foundation

  • The content in this unit pairs nicely with the documentary Miss Representation. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. Consider watching this documentary yourself and either selecting key scenes to show students or sharing some of the statistics that are mentioned within it. Use this at your own discretion, as some of the content about how women are treated in the media focuses on body image and must be addressed maturely. More information about this documentary can be found at The Representation Project.
  • An alternate or additional culminating assignment for this unit could be a comparison of gender roles in Victorian England to today. Using advertisements from the Victorian era, students could compare the portrayal of women and men then to the advertisements they see today.  

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