Pronoun Lesson - A New Way to Say "They"

An inclusive English presentation structured to teach students how to use the genderless pronoun "they" in situations where gendered pronouns may not work.

Hello all!

I created this lesson for those who want to introduce the idea of non-binary pronouns in the classroom.

Pronouns are extremely important to the English language as it's a way of marking a person's identity, and language has shifted in recent years to be more inclusive of those with differing identities, ie those who do not identify on the binary system. This concept may be confusing at first for students, but hopefully with the simplicity of this lesson, we can show how "they" can be used to identify people who a.) do not identify on the binary system and b.) people who we cannot identify at first glance if they are male or female. This lesson also gives examples on how "they" is traditionally used to identify a group of people.

This lesson is not meant to be a lecture on LGBTQ+ identities; rather, it is an English lesson structured around how we can refer to those who relate to such identities in an inclusive way without erasing who they self-identify as. The focus here is on the grammar, and the varying ways we can use the singular "they". I've opted to leave out Neopronouns such as xe/xer because I want to keep the concept familiar to students.

There are many trans and non-binary people both in the Western world and in Japan; just because they're in the minority, doesn't mean they are not to be respected. This lesson is meant to normalize and utilize such grammar so that we can better refer to our students and they can refer to each other in accurate and inclusive ways.

Thanks guys!

Medium files (requires an account to download) -
  • A New Way to use They.pptx (1.03 MB)
  • 56
    Submitted by robertsbp May 8, 2023 Estimated time: 10-15 minutes
    1. sophie May 18, 2023

      This is a great presentation! It's not too long, uses characters that the students can relate to, and seems easy to understand. I think it's a very nice and light way to approach a topic that I've been wanting to try to teach for a while, especially since I use they/them pronouns and have kind of just been stomaching everyone calling me she\her. Thanks for making it!

    2. RoselleDesigns May 18, 2023

      The powerpoint is very cute and straight forward! I think it is a good idea to at least teach the concept of a singular they, even if you don't go into a gender lesson. I would just caution that you be aware of your teaching situation before using it. The avatars all wear school uniforms and if you have a school like mine where there are only a very few students who wear the gender neutral uniforms it could lead to some bullying and teasing regardless of the students' personal gender identity. If I use it I will just switch out the avatars!

    3. An Marquez May 18, 2023

      I believe we shouldn't teach the students to use ''they" for binaries. This will be confusing. We don't even say our gender when we make our self-introduction. It's up to them to identify that in school. No textbook indicates other pronouns other than She, He and They for one or more subjects. It is better not touch on this yet.

    4. ToddC May 18, 2023

      @robertsbp I wrote " I don't think it is presented in an indoctrinating way albeit for the "what are your pronouns?" part.". Some of you misunderstood that I think. Anyway, despite your opinion, Unit 2 is not about gender identity. Furthermore, "they" isn't introduced until Unit 3, which still doesn't align with your activity. Teaching YOUR personal cultural experience (wherever that may be) takes precaution especially if you're teaching outside the textbook. We are subsidiary public servants and this topic puts an ALT at a high risk of getting removed from their school. If it makes you feel better, I believe this topic does need awareness. However, non of us ALT's are certified by any BOE to be talking about gender identity. To newer ALT's reading this, always check with your employer if you're unsure an activity is appropriate before showing it to the JTE. Take care.

    5. hmgeil May 24, 2023

      This is adorable! I love it and I am excited to have it as a tool when helping students with pronouns in this modern age!

    6. sophie May 26, 2023

      So far, I haven't used this lesson in class, but I borrowed your characters to make my own little they/them infographic for my June English board. thanks again :)

    7. robertsbp May 29, 2023

      @sophie that's a wonderful idea!!! Happy Pride Month :D

    8. MrIssei June 2, 2023

      You're the real MVP!

    9. Ejemy August 30, 2023

      I would be very cautious about teaching budding ideologies such as gender fluidity. It is outside the scope of the textbook and, as an unlicensed assistant teacher, is not my responsibility to teach. You could, with the JTEs permission, have a side note saying something like "some people use they/them" but I wouldn't teach about what is the right or wrong thing to do.
      That aside, it is a nice lesson!

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