A lesson plan to go with: “But names will never hurt me: When other kids insulted and taunted me because I’m Asian, I looked inward for the answers” by Warittha Srichankrad, published Nov.-Dec. 1999

Grades: 6-12
Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies
Suggested Time Allowance: 45 minutes-1 hour

Overview of Lesson Plan: In this lesson, students will explore how words can be powerful instruments of racism, and discuss ways to combat racism, prejudice and discrimination in their own lives.

Students will:
• Discuss the meaning of “identity” and how individuals can possess multiple identities.
• Discuss how words can be used to hurt and oppress individuals based on real or assumed group membership.
• Discuss and write about how racism and prejudice have affected their own lives, and how they can fight racism in their own lives—how words and actions can heal.
• Practice how to have a serious discussion about a personal, sensitive topic using ground rules to ensure mutual respect.

• copies of “But names will never hurt me” (one per student)
• pens/pencils
• paper
• newsprint
• markers
• classroom chalkboard

1. Warm-up: In journals or on separate pieces of paper, students address the following prompt on the board: How do you define “identity”?

2. Set ground rules: Before class, write a set of ground rules on a sheet of newsprint which will govern the lesson’s naming exercise and subsequent discussion:
• Use “I” statements—speak from personal experience rather than in broad, “you” or “they” generalizations.
• No “zaps”—you can disagree with ideas, but do not attack the person sharing the idea.
• What is discussed here, stays here—unless you get explicit permission to discuss something outside of class, you cannot spread around what is said here or who it is said by.

Post it on the board now. Explain that this class session will deal with some personal and complicated issues—namely racism and discrimination— and some offensive language, and that you want there to be both open discussion and a feeling of safety in the classroom. To that end, you have posted some ground rules to govern discussion. Have the ground rules read aloud and discuss each one. Do students understand them? Do they agree with them? Do they have any to add?

3. Discuss students’ definitions of “identity,” writing their comments on one side of the board (divide the board into two halves with a line). Then ask them to call out different identities (starting with ones they claim, but you can lead them to others that may be unrepresented in the classroom), writing these on the board below the definitions of identity. Can you be more than one thing at a time? Can certain identities be more important than others at different times? How or why? What does it mean to have or claim these identities? How do others, especially people who do not share that identity, perceive that identity group and individuals whom they perceive to be members of that group?

4. Ask students to call out slurs or bad names for members of the different identity groups on the board, writing them on the other side of the board. Ask the students to take a minute to read over the names on the board. How easy or hard was it to think of and say those names? Have you ever been called any of those names? Have you ever used those names? How does seeing these names up there, or hearing them, make you feel? Look at the other side of the board—what kind of identities get the most slurs attached to them? Why do you think that is? Are words just words, or do these slurs represent something more? What stereotypes about different identity groups do the slurs represent or invoke? Where do you think these ideas come from? How do you think you have come to know them?

5. As a class, read “But names will never hurt me,” introducing it as one teen’s story about dealing with the issues they have just discussed. Then discuss the article, addressing these questions:
    a. How did Warittha react to being verbally and physically attacked because she was Asian? How did the taunts make her feel?

    b. What do you think of how Warittha handled the name-calling and attacks? What would you have done in those situations?

    c. Warittha calls the boys and girls who call her “china” and throw things at her ignorant. Why do you think they did what they did? Where could their ideas about Asian people have come from?

    d. By the end of the article, Warittha’s experiences have led her to deal with racism and discrimination through self-reflection and an attitude of “forgiving and forgetting.” Do you agree with this? What are other ways to deal with discrimination in our own lives?

6. Conclude the class session with a discussion of concrete ideas about how we, as students, as individuals, and as members of communities and groups, can fight against racism and discrimination? Can we fight it at all? Should we try? Are things better or worse today than a few years ago? Where are we headed? And how do we influence that destination?

7. Wrap-up/homework: In a personal essay, address these three intersecting topics:
    a. Recount a personal experience with discrimination because of who or what you were, or were perceived to be. If you cannot think of any, write about why you think you may have been spared this experience.

    b. Think about a time when you judged or treated someone a certain way because he or she was, or seemed to be, a member of a certain group. Why do you think you acted in that way? Where do you think you got the ideas that informed your assumptions about that person?

    c. Fighting against racism and other forms of discrimination starts with each of us as individuals, making changes in our own lives. Only then can we work together as a community. What are ways in which you can contribute to the fight in your own life? These could be changes in the way you talk or act, or actions you want to take, or things you want to learn.

Further Questions for Discussion:
• Define “racism,” “stereotype,” “prejudice,” and “discrimination.” What are the differences between these three phenomena?

Students will be evaluated on their participation in discussion and their individual written work.

Extension Activities:
• Expand your class’s discussion of these issues to the rest of your school: have your students brainstorm ways to talk about and fight prejudice and discrimination in your school, then plan and undertake extended projects, like assemblies, awareness campaigns, or town hall discussions. Invite outside facilitators from organizations like the National Conference for Community and Justice and the Anti-Defamation League’s A World of Difference Institute to hold workshops on your campus.

• Use Warittha’s story to illustrate and discuss dramatic story structure. Then use the story as a model for an individual writing exercise in which students recount a personal experience using dramatic story structure.