tween lesson about gossip

tween lesson about gossipToday, we’re going to begin the Galloping Gossips & the Headless Horseman tween lesson. This lesson will be encompassed in three parts.

Gossip probably causes more dissension among ‘Tweeners (especially girls) than any other behavior. They have not yet learned to ”bridle their tongues,” a practice that takes years of maturity and experience. It’s quite common for them to not only repeat gossip, but to run back to the victim and say with little thought, ”So-and-so said this about you.”

This is compounded by several life phases they are entering. Most ’Tweeners have reached an age of astute curiosity about their fellow man. They suddenly want to know why people behave in certain ways and juxtapose that with what goes on in their own family. They mull over with friends how people behave as part of developing their own guidelines for what’s acceptable and what’s not.

They are at the beginning of empathy, of ”putting themselves in other people’s shoes,” though the early stages may appear a bit searing. If they put themselves in a fellow classmate’s shoes and decide that his behavior feels all wrong, friends will hear about it without the edits of maturity.

If you find yourself telling them ”don’t gossip under any circumstances,” you may find yourself in an exercise of futility. If they trust you and like to talk to you, they can quickly start gossiping about people they know who gossip! Rather we’d like to help you show them (1) a few red flags to know when natural curiosity had turned
hurtful; (2) some rules of thumb to use when hearing gossip, and (3) some quick and easy responses that often take the bite out of gossip.

Class Activity Materials

  • Cork board
  • 8 sheets of printer paper
  • Markers
  • Thumb tacks or tape

Class Activity Preparation

Write on the four pieces of printer paper in marker:

  • GOSSIP…

Class Activity

**What you, the teacher, say aloud is in bold**

Today we’re going to talk about ”galloping gossips.” Some people say that if you chopped off a seventh grader’s head, she would gossip out her neck because the urge is so strong.

Put your “GOSSIP…” sign up on the cork board (or tape it to the wall).

Gossip plays into three weaknesses that cause us to find it almost irresistible:

Number One: It appeals to our need for friends. At your age, the desire to relate to others is at its strongest.

Put your #1 sign up on the cork board.

How many of you have hit a point where if you’re alone, you start to feel itchy and antsy and totally bored, and if it weren’t for texting you’d be crazy? Take a show of hands.

When you wake up on Saturday morning, what is one of the first things you think? What am I going to do today and with whom?

That will ebb down in or after high school. But for now, almost any means of getting friends can feel like it’s worth it. And gossip can feel very ”bonding.” It’s like sharing a secret.

Why is sharing a secret bonding? You have something special with that other person that others don’t have. It means they trust you with what they’re saying.

How is sharing gossip like sharing a secret? It’s something you wouldn’t say in front of everyone. It implies that the teller trusts you with her or his thoughts.

Problem: Gossip isn’t bonding. It’s like a snake. Snakes look smooth and really sleek, and they move slowl…and poisonous snakes are the prefest of all! What happens if you touch? Get bit, get poisoned, you could die.

Number Two: Gossiping about others appeals to our insecurities.

Put your #2 sign on the cork board.

That feeling of being lost in a crowd at school, or not mattering, or not being noticed, we all feel that at times. Gossip is one way to get ahead: Step on somebody else.

What’s the problem with that? You’re hurting somebody else.

Have you ever had your head stepped on?

Is that a feeling you’d like to pass on to somebody else?

Problem: People remember being gossiped about in middle school into their fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond. They remember exactly who said what for decades. And it ALWAYS gets back to the source.

Give an example from your own life, of something you remember being said about you in middle or high school. Tell the students the exact names of the student who said it and how it got back to you. If you saw the former gossip as an adult and thought of the gossip first thing, say where you were when you ran into the person.

NUMBER THREE: You’re at a point where you’ve stopped simply accepting the behavior of others. When you were younger, if you didn’t like somebody’s behavior, you simply found somebody else to play with. You are coming into an age where you want to know why people do things. You want to know why that girl dresses differently, or how why that kid is so mean this year when he was so quiet last year. You’re naturally curious about human behavior.

Post your corresponding sign on the cork board.

That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. Problem: The line between ”concern and curiosity” and ”hurtful harsh judgment” is thin.

You’ll need help and practice to not cross over.

Bring two students to the front of the room.

We’re talking about gossip here. For the last time: what’s the danger of expressing concern or asking curious questions to a friend? The friend can respond with gossip.

Why is that dangerous? Let them offer answers.

We’re going to talk about the dangers of gossip–not just on the relationships you hold so precious on earth–but the ones in heaven, too.

Ask the two students to sit down. Have one pick from the basket of situations from the handout, “What’s the Difference?” (below). Have the student first read the first statement, then pass the piece of paper to the second student. Have him or her read the second statement. Have the other students decide which is gossip and which is concern or curiosity.

The identifying of gossip will not be as hard as guessing the reasons why: Use your notes in between to guide them.

“What’s the Difference” Handout

Make two copies of this, one for yourself and one for the students who will help you demonstrate. Cut up the copy for the students on the lines, putting in a basket only the situations and not your own notes!

Which is gossip, which is curiosity:

#1 ”I hear her dad lost his job. Think she’ll be okay?”
#2 ”She’s, like, poor now. I hear she gets her sneakers at the thrift store. Ew, stink, disgusting.”
The first statement shows an element of concern. It is okay to express concern aloud if you are troubled. What’s the danger? How easily it can be turned into something hurtful by the wrong person.

Which is gossip, which is curiosity:

#1 ”He never says a single word. Wonder what would happen if I just walked up to him and started talking.”
#2 ”He never says a single word. I think he’s got a mental disorder.”
The first statement is curiosity and might actually lead to something good if said to the right friend. The second is judgmental. Again: What’s the danger?

Which is gossip, which is curiosity:

#1 “She’s not allowed out past dark. Is that bizarre or what?”
#2 “She’s not allowed out past dark. How can she live like that?”
The first is judgmental; the second is curiosity. Again: What’s the danger?

How do you think your students will react to the first part of this tween lesson? Share your thoughts and experiences below!