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Skill Building Activities with Male Teens

Skill-building activities are an important part of a prevention program. There are many options of what to discuss and even more resources out there. If you are interested in working with male teens, a few common themes may be bystander skills, masculinity, friendship, gender, or sexuality. Here are just a few examples of how a curriculum, book, or DVD could be used to build each of those skills with male teens

All of the below are available in the WCSAP Library.

Bystander Skills

Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Playbook (curriculum).

  • This curriculum is specifically for male high school students. However, the scenarios may be a better fit for middle school students. It was developed to prevent gender-based violence and bullying. The entire curriculum is suggested to be completed in at least three sessions, however you can pick out scenarios and activities that fit the group and time allowed.
  • There's a facilitators guide and a book for participants. There is only one participant book so either have participants share or make photocopies. Page 7 of the facilitators guide gives tips for how to use the scenarios.
  • One of the benefits of this model is that it really empowers the youth to figure out how to respond in various situations and become more active bystanders. Instead of adults lecturing, youth make decisions and problem solve.
  • The scenarios cover these topics: dating violence, sexual harassment, bullying, alcohol and consent, street harassment, sexist jokes, harassment of gay men, gun threats, friend in need, pressure for sex, emotional abuse. There is a wide variety of topics to choose from so it has a lot of potential.

Exploring Masculinity

Young Men's Work (curriculum)

  • This is a great curriculum that comes with a workbook and DVD. However it is very involved and lengthy. One of the sessions can be pulled out and used on its own as skill building. Session 2 in this curriculum is called "Act Like a Man" and has a role-play, the Act-Like-A-Man-Box, and the costs of male training (pressure of masculinity check box):
    • Father-Son role play: This sets up the conversation of how ideas of masculinity are passed down to us. It's a short role play. If it doesn't fit the scope of the program, the two following activities could still be used.
    • The Act Like A Man Box:This is an activity that has been featured in various books and curricula. It is a great discussion activity to talk about gender norms, pressure to conform to these norms, and the link to unhealthy relationships and gender-based violence. The activity is facilitated but guided by the participants -- therefore they will use the language that is normal to them, so it will look very different with different audiences.
    • The Costs of Male Training: This activity can be done with or without anonymity. There are pros and cons to both ways. It may feel safer to do this anonymously - the checklist can be photocopied and participants can read them, think about them and then respond. However, there is a lot of weight to seeing that others are not comfortable with the pressures of masculinity. A compromise could be to anonymously respond to the checklist and then turn it in and have the facilitator read the collective responses. This is an opportunity to debunk some social norm conceptions about how we respond to the pressure of gender expectations.

Friendship, Love, and School Pressure:

"Our Boys Speak: Adolescent Boys Write About Their Inner Lives" (book)

  • This book collects narratives from young men. Thousands of young men expressed their inner thoughts in the form of a story, poem, or autobiographical essay. The narratives are organized by thematic chapters that address family bonds, peer pressure, first love, teenage cliques, school violence, and depression.
  • To use this book to enhance a skill building program, facilitators can pick a few narratives to focus on with the group and have a discussion. One idea is to make copies of the narratives, divide the young men into small groups to read different passages and discuss, and at the end the share with the other groups. Another idea is to use the narratives as a writing assignment to be completed either before or after the program. This is a great way to make the activity part of a more comprehensive prevention program.

Gender & Sexuality:

Straightlaced (DVD)

  • This DVD features interviews with teens to highlight the pressures of gender and sexuality facing teens. Since it uses teens' voices it often really resonates with youth. It can be shown in pieces to fit the time allowed or shown in entirety.
  • Groundspark has provided a discussion guide that can be downloaded for free to help guide the conversation afterwards, it is available for both middle and high school students.

Want More?

If you are interested in reading about other resources that address male gender roles, check out this WCSAP SNAP.

Reviewed: October 28th, 2015