Author: GLE Team | Published on 1 August 2023


This is a writing task that shows learners to know how to describe a character using descriptive language. The focus of this task is to help learners understand how to use the right vocabulary while doing descriptive writing tasks.

Stage 1: Warm up

Ask learners to draw a doctor, a nurse and an astronaut on 3 separate pieces of paper. Allow 5 minutes for this. 

Stage 2

As a follow up, have learners add a description for each character, including a name. Have them describe physical characteristics, uniform, as well as personality traits, attitude towards work etc. Allow 15 minutes for this or however long time allows.

Stage 3

Ask the learners to place each of their pictures and descriptions in 3 sections of the room – one area for each character. Divide the class into 3 groups of learners of all genders and assign each group to a set of pictures. 

Stage 4

Ask each group to decide on common traits each of the images have and hear ideas from a variety of learners. Focus in on this more closely by asking learners to decide if the majority of images for their job role are gendered as male or female or neutral. Take feedback from each group.  

Stage 5

It is likely that the majority of doctors and astronauts will be male and the majority of nurses will be female. Discuss this. Ask questions such as ‘Why would a nurse more likely be viewed as female when a Dr would be male?’ Explore the fact that both are care giving roles. Say, ‘The difference is the Dr would require further education. Why is it likely for a male to have received this?’ Follow up by asking for vocabulary that linked to the astronaut. Expect words such as ‘adventurous, explorer, brave’. Ask, ‘Why would these words more likely be masculine than feminine?’ Explore and address any stereotypes that arise connected to girls and STEM subjects. 

Stage 6: Plenary

Ask learners to think of character from books or movies (or their life) that conform or challenge these roles. 

Gender Responsive Notes: Ensure gender neutral language throughout; mixed gender groups to analyse images; ensure answers are taken from a variety of learners; the opportunity to analyse a piece of writing/character created by learners through a gender lens. 


Gender Norms: ideas, standards and expectations to which women and men generally conform and how they should act within a range that defines a particular society, culture and community at that point in time. They are often internalised early in life; gender norms can establish a life cycle of gender socialisation and stereotyping. For example, a gender norm might be that boys play football and girls watch. 

Gender Bias: Prejudiced actions or thoughts based on the gender-based perception that women are not equal to men in rights and dignity.

Gender Stereotypes: a generalized view or preconception about attributes or characteristics, or the roles that are or ought to be possessed by, or performed by, women and men. A gender stereotype is harmful when it limits learners’ capacity to develop their personal abilities, pursue their education opportunities, professional careers and/or make choices about their lives. For example, it is a common stereotype that men should be confident and aggressive, and women are quieter and passive. 

Gender Neutral Language: is language that avoids bias towards a particular sex or gender. In English, this includes use of nouns that are not gender-specific to refer to roles or professions, formation of phrases in a coequal manner, and discontinuing the blanket use of male or female terms. For example, it’s referring to someone you don’t know as “they” rather than using the pronoun “he” or “she,” or  perhaps addressing a group as “everyone” rather than saying, “Hey, guys, and adapting gendered terms such as businessman to business person instead.

Want to know more about the GLE Team?

In a groundbreaking initiative, the British Council, under the English Connects programme, undertook a transformative mission to champion gender-inclusive practices in Sub-Saharan Africa with a cohort of 41 dedicated teacher educators and teachers from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Sudan. This dynamic group referred to as the GLE Team worked together to design this resource.

Read about our Creating Gender Pedagogy Resources for Teachers project: