Lesson Plan

The Power of Words

Words can uplift others, but they can also cause harm. In this lesson, students will hear the story *Desmond and the Very Mean Word*, and they'll discuss the power of positive and negative words in friendships, school, and community.
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Learning Objectives

Students will be able to identify the impact that helpful or hurtful language has on others.


(30 minutes)
Compassion, Forgiveness, Respect
  • Join the class together in a circle, on the rug or in chairs.
  • Tell them that today they will participate in a personal experience panel.
  • Explain that three or four volunteers will describe a time when someone used positive words with them, and a time when someone used mean words with them (no names will be used).
  • Share an example of each instance from your own life. For example: "When I was in college a guy in my calculus class said women aren't good at math, and that really impacted my confidence. I learned to persevere because I love math, and now I'm a math teacher."
  • Tell students that everyone who isn't speaking should listen to each volunteer on the panel with kind attention.
  • Write "Personal Experience Panel" on the board.
  • Underneath it, write a list of the following guidelines for the panel:
    • Each person has equal time to speak.
    • No one interrupts, gives advice, or breaks in with a personal story.
    • What is said in the classroom, stays in the classroom.
    • Focus on each speaker with eye contact and listening ears.
  • Ask for three or four volunteers to come into the center of the circle to form a smaller circle.
  • Explain that they will each have three minutes to share an experience.
  • Ask the class to take a few deep breaths into their bellies, and to relax their shoulders and hands.
  • Then, have them return to normal breathing and feel their feet in their shoes or on the floor.
  • Give each volunteer the following prompt: "Describe a time someone used mean words with you. What was this like? How did you feel?"
  • Remind the listeners of the guidelines on the board, and have the volunteers speak one at a time.
  • Afterwards, give the next prompt: "Describe a time someone used kind and uplifting words with you. What was this like? How did you feel?"
  • Again, remind the class of the guidelines, and have the volunteers speak for three minutes.
  • Thank the volunteers, and ask them to return to the larger circle.
  • Ask the class, "What was it like to hear your classmates' stories? How did their experiences impact them? How can our words impact others and our community?"
  • (Note: If a student shares a situation where they have been emotionally abused or inflicted with physical harm, teachers must follow up as they are mandatory reporters.)