This Generic Session Plan gives you tips for running a session with young people about sex, sexuality, gender and relationships based on a historial object. It covers preparing before a session, how to set up a group agreement with ground rules, how to get the most out of a discussion based around a historical object, and how to end the session and reflect on the learning.
Preparing for a session
Your role will be to act as a facilitator rather than a teacher and to support questioning and empower learners to contribute their ideas. You do not need to be an historical expert to deliver these sessions and it is not your job to impart or teach knowledge. Instead it is your role to facilitate group activities and group discussion.
You can use these resources in any setting working with young people, however it is important that facilitators are confident in establishing safe learning environments with their group. If you have never delivered worked with young people around sex and gender before it is a good idea to do some self-reflection exercises such as these activities from DO… SRE for schools to help you feel comfortable and greatly enhance your ability to deal with the challenging topics, questions or views that may arise during sessions. You may also want to do some other basic level learning about how to teach RSE, such as through Brook's easy to use and free e-learning platform.
Key points for running a safe session on gender identity and sexuality:
1. Don’t assume everyone is or will be cisgender or heterosexual. Use inclusive language such as ‘we’ and ‘us’, rather than ‘they’ and ‘them’, when talking about sexuality and gender identity (e.g. ‘We think that...’ ‘For many of us…’). Part of the purpose of these resources is to recognise that people have questioned heteronormativity and challenged the gender binary throughout history. We all will think about our own sense of our gender and sexual identity and how we express it at some time in our lives, even if we don’t identify as LGBT+.
2. Acknowledge that gender is not a binary between male and female. Refer to ‘all genders’ rather than ‘both genders’ or to just ‘men and women’ or ‘boys and girls’. Include trans and gender neutral identities in your discussion. Don’t split groups by gender.
3. Avoid and challenge derogatory language and promote a zero tolerance culture of sexual or gender bullying. Care should be taken during this session not to let the conversation descend into pejorative comments about people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or genderqueer etc. (for example laughing at people who cross gender binaries) but to have a critical discussion about sex and gender.
4. Don’t worry too much about getting all of this right – we are learning and reflecting on sexuality and gender identity all the time. If you use language you didn’t mean to, stop and have a discussion with the class about why it’s better to use something else.
(Adapted from Off The Record, Bath and NES resources)
Planning the session
Consider how you will organise your group e.g. so that more gregarious members of the group don't dominate the discussion. You could ask the group to discuss the questions in pairs/small groups before taking whole group feedback whilst you circulate and facilitate the discussion. Be creative with the activities we've suggested on this website and tailor them to your audience. Find out what the 'hook' is for the group of young people that you are working with. You can find ideas for more activities based around historical objects here. Make the sessions work for you and your learners!
Tips for during the session
Tips for object-based learning:
- Let discussions flow and ask participants to challenge each other on why they think the way they do.
- There is no right or wrong answer. Often we do not know the desires of the maker of an object, who it was for, who it represented or why it was made. The historical material is meant to provoke questions and help young people think critically about sexuality and gender, not provide answers!
- Don't underestimate the value of being silly. Use as many activities involving games, play and moving around as time and space permits.
Encourage a safe learning environment by creating a relaxed atmosphere in the room to encourage group discussion and respect for others (if it is possible you could sit in a circle or sit on the floor).
Facilitators should introduce themselves and explain what is happening in the session - you are going to use some pictures of historical objects as a basis of discussions around relationships, gender and sexuality.
A warm up activity can be helpful - see this list of suggested activities to start your session.
Ground Rules/Group Agreement
The most important aspect of creating a safe learning environment is setting up a group agreement and reminding the participants of its importance at the start of every session. A sample group agreement (ground rules) might be:
We will be open and honest but will not disclose others' personal/private lives. We will discuss general situations as examples but not use names or identifying descriptions.
Keep the conversation in the room
We feel safe discussing general issues relating to gender and sexuality within this space and know that, as long as we are not at risk, educators will maintain a certain level of confidentiality. Outside of this safe learning environment we are aware that other people may not be as comfortable with such discussions.
It is okay for us to disagree with another person's point of view but we will not judge, make fun of, or put down anybody. We will try to "Challenge the belief not the person".
Right to pass
Participation is important however we have the right to pass on answering a question or participating in an activity.
Make no assumptions
We will not make assumptions about people's values, attitudes, behaviours, life experiences or feelings.
Listening to others point of view and sharing your own
We will listen to the other person's point of view and expect to be listened to in return.
Discussion and Activities
Introducing the object
Show the young people an object without any additional information or comment using printouts or digital images.
Ask them in small groups (2-3) to brainstorm and write down anything that comes into their head about the object. What do they think it is? When might it have been made? What might it be for? They should write down any words that come into their mind relating to the objects and any questions that arise (they could write onto the printout of the object).
Whole group discussion
The whole group then comes together for a brief pooling of ideas and questions relating to the object.
Input of historical information
Reveal the historical information about the object and discuss its implications. We have suggested discussion points for each object on this website, however you should allow young participants to set the agenda (within safe boundaries) and find their own relevance in the material. You should gently encourage discussion that opens up issues around whatever the material might trigger.
More input of historical information
If you want to, you could keep back some of the historical information to 'reveal' when the moment seems right, for instance if the discussion is flagging or getting stuck on an issue, to set up a new direction for the discussion (This can be repeated several times, depending on how much time you have available).
We have developed specific activities for each object on this website to deepen the learning or extend the group discussion.
Ending the session
End the session with a discussion that encourages reflection on what the participants have discussed and learnt about together. For example you could ask them to write down ideas about what they will take away from the session, or what they would like to know more about. How do they think their peers would respond to this session? How could it be improved? You could lead a discussion on these topics and note down comments on a flipchart and take a picture of it.
This discussion or activity can generate valuable data to evaluate the session. We would love to receive any materials you are able to share with us to improve the resources on this website. Please see more details here.