The Jacket by Andrew Clements
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Name Calling Don't Laugh At Me

You probably think name calling is something only children do. After all, name calling is one of the most common ways that conflict starts between children, especially on the playground out of the eye of the teacher. What child hasn't been called a name?

However, name calling doesn't end on the playground. It pervades our society. We hear parents call their children names when they misbehave. We hear athletes called names when they miss a throw or lose. We hear protesters on opposite sides of an issue call each other names. TV characters and comedians call each other names. Even our politicians use name calling against their opponents. And everywhere today, it seems racial epithets and religious and ethnic slurs abound.

Name calling may just be words. But it is a very dangerous practice. Being called a name HURTS! And that hurt can lead to anger and violence or withdrawal and fear. Because our youth live in a sea of name calling, it is essential for families and educational institutions to teach students that name calling is not only wrong, but also a source of hut and conflict.

Activity: Name Calling Hurts


Name calling and cruel teasing are common ways for children to exert power over each other. Conflict resolution skills and maintaining peaceful relationships require our students to recognize that the words people choose to use can hurt or help everyone get along.

Objective To identify words that are hurtful and words that soothe.

Level All levels

Preparation Make a large T chart. At the top, label one side Words that Hurt and the other Words that Soothe. For younger children glue a piece of rough sandpaper on the hurtful side and soft velvet on the soothing side. For older students you can make a T chart graphic organizer for their personal use if they don't have writing journals.


Preschool-Primary: Introduce the T chart and have each child feel the sand paper and velvet. Ask: Which would hurt your skin if you rubbed it hard? Say: Words can hurt us too.

Read a book that shows name calling such as Say Something by Peggy Moss or Don't Laugh at Me by Steve Seskin.  We will use this chart to collect sandpaper rough words and soft velvet words. Sandpaper rough words hurt our feelings.. Soft velvet words soothe and make us feel good inside.. When someone uses a hurtful word or phrase or a soothing word or phrase in our class, or we hear them in a story, or on TV, we will write it on this chart. We will record the word in its proper place. Which kind of word do you think will be easier to collect?

After a number of words have been collected, have a soothing word day. Take the hurtful word list and tear it up and throw it away or cross the words out. Say: These words hurt our feelings and deserve to be thrown away. Let's try to use words from our soothing side today. Every time a child uses a word off the soothing side, tie a piece of velvet ribbon around his or her wrist. This can be continued as a regular practice if desired.

Upper elementary and up:

Make a large T chart and label it and hang it on wall. Have students make their own chart in their writing journals or give them a graphic organizer.

Find examples of hurtful words and soothing words in a book you are reading to the class, or a book they have chosen, or in the media and list them on the chart. Optional - Ask Which type of words do we hear more often on TV? Which type is easier to collect?

After a number have been collected, have a class discussion about why they think some words have the power to hurt people's feelings. Look at the words on the chart and discuss ways they are used to hurt. Is it the word itself that is bad or is it the way it is used? In particular, talk about ethnic, relisious, and racial slurs, and why they are harmful in that they create stereotypes which allow hatred against groups to grow. Cross out these words if they are on the lists. They should never be used.

Read and share Propaganda: Word Games and Name-Calling

What about the other words on the hurtful side of the list? Are there times and places they can be used? Take the word ugly for example. Have students give sentences in which the word is used in a non-hurtful way. "Thick smoke rose from the smokestack turning the sky an ugly gray." If no one can think of a positive way to use the word, cross it off the list.

Now look at the words on the soothing side. Where do we most often hear these words. How do they make you feel?

Explain that people use hurtful language toward others when they are angry, frustrated, or want power over another. Have students think of examples of each of these uses.

Ask: What can we do when we hear someone using hurtful words to some one else? What can we do if those words are applied to us? You can use these guidelines to help.

What to Do If Someone Calls You a Name

Strive for understanding: Try to identify why the person is using these words.

Protect your feelings: Say to yourself. I will not let this person control me using these words. Think about the positive things you know about yourself. See here for a list of Come Backs students can use.

Ignore it if you can: If it is possible, turn away, laugh, or make a light joke. Many times name calling will stop if the perpetrator does not get a reaction.

Do not keep it inside: Find a friend or teacher and tell them what happened and how it made you feel.

Get help: If the name calling continues or escalates, immediately seek help from friends, teachers, parents. There is always power in numbers.


Creative Writing: Follow up the discussion by having students write poems or essays using the not crossed out words on the list.

Arts: Create a poster advertising a positive word.

Media Literacy: Watch this video. Does the video represent reality? What and who is missing? Is it always a good thing to ignore name calling?


For more ways to prevent bullying see Teach Peace Now Anti-Bullying Activities.

Did you try this lesson?

We welcome your thoughts and comments.

Teach Peace Now
Teach Peace Now

We offer books, activities, lesson plans, and ideas that teachers, parents, and students can use to promote values, attitudes and behaviors which encourage non-violent resolution of conflict, respect for human rights, democracy, intercultural understanding and tolerance.

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