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Curriculum Level: 9-12

By Jessamyn Bailey from High Point Central High School

OVERVIEW OF LESSON: The goal of this lesson is to have students think critically about gender equality in their own lives and in the life of a family member they admire. This lesson will cover SDG Goal 5: Gender Equality and its 6 targets. Students will choose someone they have known personally, a family member or a family friend who identifies as a female or is otherwise a member of a marginalized gender, to be the subject of the student’s independent research.  

Independent research prompt: Ask students to identify a woman (or someone of a marginalized gender) they admire in their lives/family/history. Investigate their lives, interview if possible, or interview someone who knows them and find at least one photo image to work from. More photos and other primary resources are encouraged. They will also produce a guided written assignment. Sharing as a class we will compare what themes we have in common and contrast what different stories emerge. Ultimately students will reflect on these ideas and their research to craft an original artwork that is a “portrait” of their selected person. Working with the themes and facts most relevant to them, they will tell a personal story through visual art supporting SDG Goal 5, to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls.

SUGGESTED GRADE LEVELS: This lesson is written for High School Art 2 classes with students who are grades 9-12, taking 120min block classes 5 days a week in a one-to-one district with access to Chrome Books. The lesson plans would be adaptable for middle school and high school students, 7th-12th grade and for class periods of different lengths.

SUBJECT: Visual Art


Visual Literacy: 

I.V.2: Apply creative and critical thinking skills to artistic expression. 

I.V.2.1: Generate innovative solutions to artistic problems. 

I.V.2.2: Use experiences and observations to create content for art. 

I.V.2.3: Understand the role of emotion, imagination, and creativity in producing content for original art. 

I.V.3.2: Select media appropriate for communicating content. 

Contextual Relevancy: 

I.CX.1: Understand the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts. 

I.CX.1.1: Use visual arts to explore concepts of civics and economics, such as systems, functions, structures, democracy, economies, and interdependence.   

I.CX.1.2: Understand the role of visual art in documenting history. 

Critical Response: 

I.CR.1: Use critical analysis to generate responses to a variety of prompts. 

I.CR.1.1: Critique art based on personal and formal criteria. 

I.CR.1.2: Critique personal art using personal or teacher-generated criteria. 


  • What is gender? (Legal, social, historical) 
  • Can you identify gender inequality? 
  • How would the world benefit from gender equality? 
  • How have you been affected by gender inequality? Ask students how gender has affected their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. 


  1. Students will be able to recognize common issues surrounding gender inequality in the world, in the United States, and in their own communities. 
  2. Students will be able to apply new knowledge to scrutinize a person in their own life in order to build a biographical narrative or “biographical sketch” through writing, sketching, and finished artwork. 
  3. Students will be able to assess, reflect, and critique works of art history, their own art, and artwork by fellow students. 



Warm up drawing prompt “Gender” (10 mins)

This opening activity orients students toward SDG 5: Gender Equality by asking students to reflect on prior knowledge before defining essential vocabulary. Create and project a slide with an appropriate prompt and images related to the prompt. 

Additional warm up prompts to use with this lesson could include: feminine, mother, masculine, empowerment, icon, and persistence. These drawing prompts could also be done at transition times between lesson activities.

Whole group instruction (10 mins):

Topic overview: Gender and gender inequality

Defining vocabulary, exploring students’ prior knowledge. Covering global impacts of gender inequality. *See lesson, Gender Equality to pair with this lesson.

What is a portrait? How can portraits be used to tell a story? Why do we want to tell women’s stories? What are symbols? 

Biographical sketch: Ask students to identify a woman (or someone of a marginalized gender) they admire in their lives/family/history. Investigate their lives, interview them (or someone who knew them if they are no longer available) and find at least one photo or image to work from for their artwork. More photos and other primary resources are encouraged. Use this interview and their own knowledge to write a biographical sketch of their chosen subject. 

Independent studio time: using the Gender Portraits planning assignment worksheets students will brainstorm their composition, what symbols they want to use, and other decisions they need to make. 

Exit Ticket post-it prompt: what symbol/token/or object are you sure will end up in your finial artwork?

Independent studio time to create portrait:

Studio day exit tickets:

Exit Ticket post-it prompt: How was your time management today? Are you on track to finish this project?

Exit Ticket post-it prompt: What materials or tools were key to your success today?


Warm up drawing prompt, 10 mins “connection”

Independent studio time:

Wrapping up studio assignment, self-reflection/critique <-writing assignment

Reset the art room, document artwork to turn in via Canvas and to have for portfolio.

Whole group instruction:

Classroom critiques and reflections create a circle. Each student speaks, asks to share challenges, what they are proud of, asks for feedback from the group.

Exit Ticket post-it note prompt: What accomplishment are you most proud of today in the art room? And what was the most impactful part of this unit?

Differentiated Instruction:  

For students who need additional support:  

  • Provide extra time for students to gather reference materials and interview their subjects  
  • Offer pre-drawn portrait templates for students to use as a starting point  
  • Provide additional guidance and support during the sketching and refining process  

For students who need a challenge:  

  • Encourage students to try more advanced techniques and media, such as using charcoal or pastels together 
  • Challenge students to create more complex compositions or to incorporate multiple symbols into their portraits to tell a more involved story. 
  • Provide advanced feedback and guidance to help students push the boundaries of their work and try new things. 


  • Warm-ups/class participation/exit tickets 
  • Biographical sketch: Research and writing assignments on the person they chose – peer and self-assessments in class. 
  • Art planning assignment – evaluated by student and teacher together based on student goals 
  • Art assignment – evaluated using Gender Portraits Studio Assignment Rubric.  


  • Have students research additional famous female artists and their portraits of women, and present their findings to the class.  
  • Encourage students to learn more about their portrait subject’s life and experiences and incorporate this information into their work by doing a second interview or finding more primary resources like photos or other documents.  
  • Challenge students to experiment with different media and techniques when creating their portraits, such as using charcoal, pastels, or digital media. 

 MATERIALS:  pencil, paper, Chrome books, or classroom art supplies as needed

Teacher-Made Resources: 

Worksheet for Portrait Planning Assignment

Gender Portraits Studio Assignment Rubric

A list of female artists and relevant gender-themed artworks: 

  • Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653)
  • Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)  
  • Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)  
  • Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)  
  • Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
  • Judy Chicago (1939- )
  • Simone Leigh (1967- )


Anna, K. (2023). Gender and health. World Health Organization. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from 

Brooks, M. (2021, October 13). Spotlight on Simone Leigh. North Carolina Museum of Art. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from 

Heyn, A. (2018, April 25). Slow looking and 5 other simple activities to enhance your students’ ability to analyze art. The Art of Education University. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from 

Participate inc. (2020). Understand Goal 5: Gender Equality (Primary). Retrieved January 13, 2023, from 

UN Women Europe and Central Asia. (2018). Gender equality for sustainable development. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from 

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (n.d.). Goal 5 | Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. United Nations. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from