We have developed specific activities for each object on this website to deepen the learning or extend the group discussion. This page gives you more activity ideas for using historical material to explore gender and sexual diversity with young people.
There are three types of activities:
Sample Warm Up Activities
Keepie uppie with a tennis ball: An active game where participants run around hitting a tennis ball with their hands to try and keep it in the air. After a few minutes try stopping the game and introducing a new rule e.g. every time you hit the ball you have to say a word that means penis / vulva / sex etc.
Bodyparts Icebreaker: Active game where participants have to run around and then jump when the facilitators shout out a word relating to SRE e.g. 'breasts'; run to the wall when they say 'penis’ and stand still when they say ‘condom’ etc..
Opening discussion: Ask the group ‘what do you think of when we say ‘sex’ or 'gender'? Establish the different ideas as a group. Challenge the idea that sex always involves two people, a man and woman, penetrative sex etc. or that gender identity or gender roles are strictly determined by our biological sex and are fixed or non-flexible.
Agree Disagree Continuum: Active discussion activity in which one side of the room is designated ‘agree’ and the other ‘disagree’. The facilitator reads out a statement and participants go to the side of the room that represents their opinion. You can start with general statements such as ‘school uniform is a good idea’ before moving on to statements about sex and relationships. E.g.
It’s a good idea for parents to talk to their kids about sex and relationships
You need to be in love to really enjoy having sex with someone
Boys enjoy sex more than girls
If you are in a relationship you need to be having sex for the relationship to work
Throughout history sex has always been the same
There is always a dominant person in sex
Pleasure is the most important part of sex
Quick Fire debates: (This can also work well as an activity mid-way through the session to explore themes within the group discussion). Everyone stands in two lines facing a partner and is told to have a quick fire debate with their partner, as instructed by the facilitator. After each debate, one row of people move along so that each debate is with a new partner. You can start with 10 second debates on less sensitive issues (cats or dogs, coffee or tea, Snapchat or Instagram) and warm up to longer 45 second debates on e.g. 'size matters', 'girls should have pubes', 'porn is bad' etc.
Zip Zap Boing: A circle game where people say zip, zap or boing to each other. One person begins by looking in one direction and saying 'zip'. The next person then says zip and it continues round in a circle. The next command is boing (as in the sound a spring makes.) This changes the direction of the zip and so it continues round in the opposite direction. Zap throws the 'zip' across the circle. The person who says zap points to who they want to have the zip. The receiver then looks in the direction they wish to continue play and the zip moves on. You can try using words like penis, vagina and condom instead.
Sample Main Activities
Mystery Object: a variation on the initial discussion about the historical object. Show the group an image of the historical object. They are asked to write down five questions that, if answered, might help them to suggest what the object is.
Agony aunt/uncle: In groups of three to four, each group takes on the role of an agony aunt or uncle. The group is asked to respond to an imaginary problem from a person from the past, relating to the historical object (e.g. the person represented in the object, the object’s owner or wearer). You do the same for a related problem from a person today. Groups may wish to share their solutions.
Pair and Share: Ask a question to the group. Ask learners to pair up to discuss their initial responses. Some young people may be more confident to discuss an answer to a question with a peer, rather than as a whole class. After they have had a chance to discuss their answers in pairs, they can share their answers with a larger group or the whole group.
Whiteboard: Ask a question to the group. Every participant has a small whiteboard (or blank piece of paper) and writes their answer down. When instructed, everyone holds up their whiteboards at the same time. Participants can be instructed to look at each other’s responses or to get up and group together with participants with similar responses. This is a quick way of everyone feeding back their responses, whilst also viewing each other’s responses and identifying patterns. This activity can be followed by ‘Dot The Wall’ to look at key themes in more detail.
Dot The Wall: Ask a question to the group. Write some possible question responses on pieces of paper and stick these around the room. Give each participant some stickers (preferably each person has a different colour) and asks them to stick their sticker on the responses that are closest to theirs. Lead a discussion using the ‘data’ generated by the dots.
Charting: In small or large groups write down responses to an object or specific question about it on a flipchart. This learning method works well because it allows for lots of different responses, gives people thinking time and allows learners to participate without them feeling put on the spot. The flipcharts can also be stuck up on the wall to allow everyone to see a range of responses from the whole class.
Continuum: An imaginary line is drawn down in the room. Participants are told that one end of the line represents an extreme viewpoint, and the other end represents the opposite view. Statements relating to a particular issue are read out and the participants stand along the continuum according to what they think. Participants may discuss their view with someone else nearby and/or with someone who has a different view. If the possibility of polarised views is undesirable or if participants are less confident “islands” rather than a line can be used.
Sides: Similar to the continuum exercise except there is no middle ground. Participants have to decide to agree or disagree with a statement. They then discuss their opinions with someone on the same or opposite side.
Compare and Contrast: Explore differences between two images (e.g. of two objects), or ideas relating to the objects (e.g. Erotica vs Pornography).
Venn Diagram: A version of the above, in which two ideas are debated (e.g. Erotica vs Pornography). Use a blank Venn diagram to write down what the ideas have in common and what divides them.
Conceal and Describe: In pairs, one person describes the historical object to their partner (who has not seen it), who then draws it. The partner should ask questions if anything is unclear. The facilitator then asks what was hard to describe, how it was overcome, what sort of questions helped to clarify. It enables learners to reflect on, and improve, their explanations. It can also help learners to communicate comfortably about sexuality or gender identities.
Drawing, collage and comics: Create new images of the object or the historical setting it might have been used in. Asking learners to create something artistic is a brilliant way of opening up very complex topics. Many learners are not confident with words and discussion, so this will give them the opportunity to feel that their contributions are valued.
Make your own historical object: Ask each group member to make the historical object from junk, playdough or arts and crafts materials. Include discussion during creation around practicality and uses.
Thought tracking: Ask one participant to be in character as a person from a historical context with experience of the object in question (e.g. person represented in the object, the object’s owner or wearer). Ask the group to brainstorm the situation - Who are they? How old are they? Are they in a relationship? What is their gender? Ask the person playing the character to come up with a sentence their character might say. Next ask someone else to stand beside and say what the character might actually be thinking and someone else to say what they might be feeling.
Freeze frames: Ask the group to move freely around the room and then stop and freeze when instructed. The facilitator shouts out poses that the group must adopt e.g. Perfect man, perfect woman, perfect person, sexy person, beautiful person, shy person, insecure person, confident person. This activity can be done individually or in groups. When working in groups the facilitator shouts out a pose and a number. Participants have to get in a group of this size and create the freeze frame in 20 seconds.
Modern day equivalents: Ask the group whether they think there is a modern day equivalent of the historical object. Prompt discussion of what has changed and what has stayed the same.
Saying, thinking, feeling: Ask participants to draw an outline of a person who is either wearing, using one of the historical objects or who is one of the people depicted in the object. Ask participants to write what the character is saying, thinking and feeling using speech and thought bubbles. On the back of the paper, draw a contemporary person but one who also is wearing or using an equivalent modern object. Draw this item and also write what the person is thinking, saying and feeling in that moment.
If an alien came…: Include this as part of a discussion about what the historical object can tell us about the past, the people that lived at that time, their desires, thoughts, feeling, sex lives and relationships. Ask “if an alien came to Earth and saw representations of sex and relationships today, what would THEY LEARN about us?”. This question can be a whole group discussion or an individual written activity. This technique can be used to check and consolidate learning.
Consequences: Provide the group with a scenario relating to the historical object. Each group considers all the possible options and consequences of a situation. It is important to brainstorm all the realistic consequences both positive and negative and for the young people to think about possible courses of action.
Word Association / Wordstorm: Ask participants to write down 5 words that they associate with a theme from the session e.g. 'gender', 'safe spaces', 'identity', or the group could shout out spontaneous suggestions which the facilitator writes down. This is a short quick activity where suggestions are not discussed or challenged. This can be repeated at the start and end of the session to assess learning.
Roving Reporter: ANY information can be turned into a news report, e.g. on the discovery of the historical object today, or an event relating to object in the historical period in which it was originally made and/or used. It can be done individually, in pairs or groups. For example, in fours:
- One person announces the day's main headlines providing the 'dong' of a bell sound effect between each one.
- One person is a newsreader in the television studio. They summarise the main news story.
- One person is the roving reporter. They provide the details of the story.
- One person is a witness who is interviewed by the roving reporter.
Sample Evaluation and Reflection Activities
5 word summary: Ask participants to give a 5 word summary of what they have learnt – this challenges them to summarise succinctly.
Comfort continuum: Read out a series of statements to the group about how much they know about the historical object, and how comfortable they feel talking about sex and relationships. Ask them to stand on one side of the room for agree and the other for disagree. Take a photo or note down where people stand. You can repeat this at the start and end of the session to assess learning and impact.
Quick fire post it notes: Give out packs of post-it notes and ask participants to write: one thing they already knew, one thing that surprised them and one thing they want to know more about. Ask them to place their notes on the wall. Take photos of the notes.
Open discussion: Ask the group: what worked well? What didn’t work well? What do you think your friends would think of this session? If we ran it again, what could we do differently? Write down comments on a flipchart. Take a photo of the flipchart.
Postcard home: Participants choose from a set of pre-printed ‘postcards’ of images of the object(s) they have worked, either at the end of each session or a series of several sessions. Ask them to select the object which they would most want to send home to a family member, friend, partner etc. If you have discussed just one object, this also works well to help them reflect. Ask them to think about what message they would like to pass on about the object. They could write from the point of view of a historical person or describe what it feels like to take part in this session, summarise what they have learnt and will take away from it.
Sentence starters: Ask group members to complete pre-prepared sentence starters either by writing on post-it notes or calling out. For instance you could use:
The best thing about today was…. One thing I learnt today was… The most awkward point today was… One thing I am going to do differently after today is… If I was going to run this course myself I would...I’m happy I live in the 21st century because… I’m happy I’m growing up today and not in the past because…I’d rather live in a different historical period because…I’m glad I’m the gender I am because…
Summaries: Each participant is given a set of post-it notes. Ask each person to write the key message that you will take away from the session OR one thing that you have learnt today OR one thing that you could share on social media after today’s session. Ask young people to stick post it notes on a wall, read each other’s notes and discuss OR screw up their notes into a ball and through into a box OR take a photo of their post it note with the facilitators phone.
Curate: Ask participants to take one photo that sums up the session that can be shared on social media. Use materials from the session or create new content.
Check out: Go round the circle and ask young people to say one thing that they are going to take away from the session and pass on to their friends. Record these comments by passing round a phone/recorder and asking young people to speak into the recorder.
Thinking ahead: Ask the group if any of them think they are going to do anything differently as a result of taking part of the session. Ask for a show of hands yes / no. Ask young people what they are going to do differently and write down answers on flipchart. Also ask young people to say why they are not going to do anything differently and write down answers.