"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words can never hurt me."
Of course you’ve heard this saying and may have even used it to try and comfort a child who just had unkind words hurled at them. But I say it’s untrue. Words do hurt. Even as adults, we’ve heard things that hurt and sting for a long time. To a child even the smallest insult can have a larger impact.
During the first week of school. teachers spend a lot of time teaching procedures. They also explain the behavior expectations and the classroom management system for the year. One activity you should add to your first week is this simple activity that shows the lasting effect of unkind words and actions.
1. Begin by asking the kids what unkind words they've heard other kids say. Write these words on some of the Sticks 'n' Stones slips. You'll need them later on in the activity.
2. Now give each student a piece of paper with a blank human figure on it. Ask them student to color the figure to look like themselves. As you wonder around the room make lots of positive comments about their work. You want the students to be super proud of their figures. After they finish coloring the figures, students should cut out the figures and write their name on the back.
3. Have students sit in a circle with their finished figure, a pencil and crayons. Tell students to pass the cutouts to the person on their right. Read one of the Sticks 'n' Stones cards and tell students that those words hurt. Ask the student holding the figure they received to make a tiny tear in one of the legs. Make sure it’s small. (You might hear a few gasps when they see their figure being torn.)
4. Pass the figures to the right again and read another Sticks 'n' Stones card. This time ask students to use a crayon and draw a dark zig-zag line across the center of the body. (make sure the color they use shows up on the figure.)
5. Pass the figures again and read a Sticks 'n' Stones card. This time have them draw an X on the face with their pencil.
6. You can continue passing the figures as many times as you want, reading the Sticks 'n' Stones cards and adding other tears and marks to the figures. I usually had the students do 5 or 6 things.
7. On the final rotation read a Sticks 'n' Stones card and have students crumple the figures into a small ball. Collect the crumpled figures.
8. Students now return to their desks as you gently uncrumple the figures and give them back to the owners. When the students have their own figure they can try to repair themselves by flattening, smoothing, erasing, or taping. They'll notice that no matter how much they flatten, smooth, erase or tape their figure the damage can still be seen.
Now is when you can talk about the effects of unkind words and hurt feelings. Once words are heard or read, some part of them remain in our memories and continue to hurt. The figures will make a great display about using kind words.
Click on this graphic to download printable for this activity and to receive a free sample of my Positive Behavior Tool Box (SPARKLE).