A lesson plan to go with: “Starving for answers: Our friendship was changed by an eating disorder” by Liesel Haskell, September-October 2000

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

Overview of Lesson Plan: In this lesson, students will use one teen’s story of dealing with her best friend’s anorexia to explore the dynamics of friendship relationships and the qualities needed to sustain a friendship through challenges.

Students will:
•Explore their own definitions of “friend” and “friendship,” how those definitions evolved, and how these definitions influence their current and future relationships.
•Examine the ways in which problems, especially those related to the adolescent processes of growth and development, can present challenges to friendship relationships.
•Discuss strategies for sustaining both personal growth and friendships over time.

•copies of “Starving for answers” (one per student)
•classroom chalkboard

1. Warm-up: In journals or on separate pieces of paper, students will respond to the following prompt on the board: What is the meaning of friendship to you? What are the qualities and characteristics that make a good friend? Why do you think these are important? Afterwards, ask for volunteers to read their pieces aloud.

2. As a class, read “Starving for answers.” Then discuss the article, addressing these questions:
    a. How does Liesel characterize her friendship with Isabel?

    b. How does Liesel portray Isabel as a friend? How do you think Isabel saw Liesel as a friend? Do you think their images of both their friendship and each other as friends changed over time? How and why?
    c. How did Isabel’s relationships with others, especially her family members, affect her self-image? How did these relationships influence her eating disorder? Why do you think this happened?

    d. How did Isabel’s anorexia affect her friendship with Liesel? Why do you think this happened?

    e. What did Liesel do in response to her friend’s behavior and personality changes? Did her reactions and responses change over time? How and why?

    f. How did Liesel react to the realization that Isabel was suffering from anorexia nervosa, a serious medical and psychological disorder?

    g. What do you know about anorexia and other eating disorders? What do you know about treatment for these disorders? Where did you get this information?

    h. Do you think that Liesel was satisfied with the help she was able to offer her friend? Why or why not?

    i. What else do you think Liesel could have done? What could others, like Isabel’s mother and teachers, have done to help?

    j. What would you have done in Liesel’s place? Why?

3. In small groups of about 4 or 5 students, brainstorm on newsprint strategies for facing challenges in friendships and ways to strengthen interpersonal relationships. Are friendships important for getting through challenges and past obstacles? Why or why not? If they are, how can they help? How can personal problems challenge friendships? Afterwards, each group will present their newsprint brainstorm to the class, and open discussion of the brainstorms to the whole group.

4. Wrap-up/homework: Reflecting on Liesel’s article and the in-class exercise and discussions, write a personal essay about your own personal philosophy about friends and friendship. What kind of a friend are you? What kind of a friend do you want to be? What do you look for in a friend and from a friendship relationship, and why? What are friendship relationships for, and what do they do for the individuals in them? How do you get past obstacles in your own friendships? Use personal experiences to illustrate your beliefs.

Further Questions for Discussion:
• What resources are available for teens and others suffering from eating disorders in your school and community?
• What are you taught about eating disorders at home? at school? in the media? Are these accurate images?
• What external factors can influence friendships and friendship choices? How can gender, race, ethnicity, and class issues affect friendships?

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

Extension Activities:
• Research eating disorders and the resources available to teen victims in your school and community.
• Research methods of peer counseling and mediation, and draw up plans for starting such a program at your school.