Words Hurt!
Brentwood Middle School

We noticed an increase in students with hurt feelings because of other students’ comments. Many comments were meant to be “funny,” not necessarily with the intent of hurting someone else. Students and staff felt that we needed to explore this, to learn how the words we say can negatively impact others. We learned that many of our middle school students were saying hurtful things and they just didn’t know that what they were saying could be hurtful to others who were different than themselves. We also wanted to get away from phrases such as, “no offense, but……,” “just joking,” “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

Students will see different people's points of view about hurtful words.
Students will become aware of the effect of the words we use.
Words Hurt Survey Copies
Index cards
Folders containing:
•Pencil for each student in group
•Evaluation survey for each student in each group
•1 piece of loose-leaf paper
•Index card with hurtful words for each student in group
•Direction sheet for group leaders
Break students into groups of 5-7 people. Try to make these mixed groups- some boys, some girls, different ethnicities and friendship circles. There should be one Diversity Leadership Group Member for each of the groups.
Diversity Leaders (DL) will have students sit in a circle.
Say, “The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to see different people’s points of view about hurtful words.”
Discuss the expectations for this activity.
-Be open to different opinions
-Listen to what people have to say without interruptions
-Don’t be critical
-Don’t laugh or dismiss the ideas of other people
-Be truthful and brave in your discussions
-No put downs
-No using specific examples with people’s names
DLs pass around a piece of paper and ask students to write down words that hurt on it. When it has passed around the circle, the DL says:
-“Think about the saying: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ Is that true? Do words hurt?” Allow the group to discuss this.
DL crumples up the paper and says:
-“This is what hurtful words do.”
DL smoothes out the paper and says:
-“Even when you smooth the paper out, it will never be the same again. It’s always going to have marks and scars.”
DLs should pass out an index card (already prepared with hurtful words from the survey) to each person in the group. Ask students to take a moment to read their words and think about ways that word might affect people and why. Allow a minute for reflection.
Take turns sharing the words on the index cards. Discuss how it could affect a person and why. Here is a prompt you may use:
“My word is __________________. I think it could make someone feel _________________ because _________________.”
DLs should encourage students to build on someone’s discussion with things like: “I agree because…” and “I disagree because…”
At the end of the discussion, the DL should pass out the evaluation and say:
-“These evaluations will help us know if this activity was a success. Please answer honestly and you do not need to put your name on it.”
DLs collect evaluations. Do not read through them, but put them back in your folder. We will look at the results at our next meeting.
Thank the students in your group for their thoughtfulness and care during the activity.
Turn folders in to the teacher.
As student diversity leaders run the small groups throughout the room, teachers circulate to provide support and to assess through observation how the activity to flowing. Student Diversity leaders may need assistance as more heavy issues arise from conversation generated. The student evaluations completed at the end of the activity also serve as assessment.