Teaching Body Image at Primary and Secondary Levels


Courtesy of the Guardian online:


Start by getting your pupils to think about different representations of bodies on screen with this resource pack from IntoFilm. It includes background information and discussion questions to tackle after watching films such as The Girl With the World in her Hair, The Elephant Man, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

In her brilliant letter to her teenage daughter, Caitlin Moran advises: “Stay at peace with your body. While it’s healthy, never think of it as a problem or a failure. Pat your legs occasionally and thank them for being able to run. Put your hands on your belly and enjoy how soft and warm you are – marvel over the world turning over within.”

Ignite your pupils’ fascination with the inner workings of their bodies with this detailed resource from Teaching Packs. It explains several incredible processes including how blood travels, what bones are made of and how skin responds to touch and pain.

You can also get your pupils to think about the power of their bodies with this investigation from Teachit Primary. It works on the hypothesis “people with long legs jump the furthest” – and introduces the ideas of prediction, fair testing and analysing results. Twinkl also has this dice race activity to get pupils thinking about different kinds of faces. Working in pairs, they have to roll dice and draw the feature linked to each number – the first to get a complete face wins the game.

Your students probably know their bodies will undergo changes as they grow up, but the idea can be unsettling. Get them up to speed with what to expect using this clear worksheet. It shows the changes that puberty brings to both male and female bodies, with a labelling activity to demonstrate their understanding.

Finally, you can teach your pupils the importance of self-belief with this extract from the confidence-building book Being Me and Loving It. The tale follows Noah, who is initially scared to show off his knowledge about space and try new things because he is worried about what other will think of him. The related discussion asks pupils to think about their attitudes towards themselves and how they can stay positive.


Should we be worried about cosmetic surgery? Is the fashion industry to blame for anorexia among young people? Is Barbie’s new body a win for feminism? These are some of the questions explored in this collection of articles from The Day. Each topic is examined through a student-friendly news story and a selection of linked activities, plus a glossary of useful vocabulary.

Meanwhile, IntoFilm also offers a look at body image for older students through a series of thought-provoking cinematic outings, including: Milo (about a boy with a rare skin disease); Eating Lunch (about living with an eating disorder); and Girl Model (a documentary about the exploitative machinations of the modelling industry).

It can also be helpful to remind your students that the notion of what constitutes a beautiful body has changed dramatically throughout history. This interesting video looks at how the ideal female body shape has changed over time, from the Greek fashion for rounded curves to the 1990s look of “heroin chic”. It could be useful for sparking discussion and debate among your classes.

And it’s also important that students understand that the images of beauty they are confronted with each day have been digitally manipulated to achieve a certain look. This self-esteem workshop (and associated worksheets) from Sport Relief offers inside information on image manipulation. Follow-up tasks ask students to prepare a role play discussing why they can’t look like the people in the pictures and exploring ways to battle body anxiety.


Click on the link to read Whilst I Try to Teach About Positive Self Image, the Media Seeks to Tear My Students Down

Click on the link to read List of Body Positive Books for Kids

Click on the link to read Sometimes You Need to Expect Rudeness

Click on the link to read Do We Learn Enough From Children?


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