A lesson plan based on “I’m still the same guy” and “My weight was eating away at me” in the March-April 2002 issue of L.A. Youth, where teenagers describes their experiences with weight loss and body image.

By Libby Hartigan, Managing Editor

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language arts, social studies, psychology

Overview of lesson plan: In this lesson, students define respect and examine how name-calling can affect students.

Suggested time allowance: 45 min. – 1 hr.

Students will:
1. Define respectful relationships
2. Analyze the ways people can hurt each other with words
3. Suggest ways to promote more respect in the way students deal with each other

Resources and materials:
— pens, paper
— copies of L.A. Youth article “I’m still the same guy” and “My weight was eating away at me” (one per student)
— classroom blackboard

1. WARM-UP: On the board write “Respect is…”

Ask students to finish the sentence on their papers. They should try to write five or 10 different endings to the sentence.

2. Discuss students’ definitions of respect, writing them on the board. Does respect mean different things to different people? Can culture, gender and background influence the way people define respect?

3. As a class, read and discuss the L.A. Youth article “I’m still the same guy,” and focus on the following questions:
    a.      When Julian was heavy, he was treated badly sometimes. What happened?
            — Friends didn’t invite him to go out
            — People called him “fat ass”
            — People called him “round”
            — His sister said there was something wrong with him.
    b.     How kind of impact did this have on Julian?
            — It affected him.
            — It made him feel sad.
            — He isolated himself.
    c.     When he lost weight, how was Julian treated?
            — His sister thought he looked good.
            — Salespeople gave him more attention.
            — People started conversations with him.
            — He has a social life.
            — He plays pool with friends.
    d.     How does Julian feel about this change?
            — He thinks the way people treat him is wrong and prejudiced.
            — He wishes people would treat him as normal, no matter his weight.

4. As a class, read and discuss the L.A. Youth article “My weight was eating away at me,” and focus on the following questions:
    a.      When Jennifer was heavy, she was treated badly once. What happened?
            — A boy she liked called her “Shamu”
            — The boy rejected her
    b.     How did Jennifer respond?
            —She cried alone in her room.
            —She spent months trying to lose weight.   
            —Now she worries that boys won’t like her if she is heavy.

5. After reading the stories, revisit the definitions of respect written on the blackboard. Were Julian and Jennifer treated with respect? How were they affected by the names they were called?

6. WRAP-UP: In class, ask students to think about Julian and Jennifer. Can they relate to their situations at all? Have they ever been called names—or called another student names? Do they think that calling names and other bad words has the power to hurt people? Students should reflect on their own experiences and decide how disrespectful it is to call people names.

Students may write an essay about the power of words and disrespect, as it relates to the L.A. Youth articles and their own experiences.

Evaluation and assessment:
Students will be evaluated based upon their class participation and written work.