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Eighth Grade – Lesson Eight

Rumors Objectives

The student will be able to: • Discuss the relationship between rumors and conflicts. • Identify ways that facts become distorted as rumors spread. • Demonstrate how distortion occurs even when people are not trying to distort the facts. • Discuss what to do when you hear a rumor.

Character Education Traits This lesson promotes the following character traits: • Honesty • Responsibility

Activities 1 2 3

Eyewitnesses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 min. A Rumor in Progress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 min. Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 min.

Materials • • •

Workbook, page 7 Overhead Transparency—The Scene, page 90 Overhead projector

Rationale Rumors are one of the most common causes of fights in middle school. This lesson demonstrates, in a very powerful way, why it is a mistake to accept or act upon someone else’s version of “the facts.”

Before You Start… Make one copy of The Scene, curriculum page 90, on an overhead transparency.

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Eyewitnesses We’re going to conduct an experiment today. I’ll need six volunteers to participate. Select six volunteers and send them out of the room. Tell them to number off from one to six. Then select one more volunteer to act as the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper will notify the others when it is their turn to come back into the room. One of the most common causes of fights in middle school is rumors. Someone hears, “He said, and then she said,” and before you know it, a big fight breaks out. Today we’re going to find out what happens as a rumor spreads. In a few minutes, I’m going to project a scene on the overhead projector. You will be eyewitnesses. The students who just left the room will be reporters. Only one of them will actually see the scene first-hand. The others will only hear about it. The first reporter will study the scene and then tell the second reporter everything she or he can remember seeing. The second reporter will tell the third, and so on, passing the story along from one person to another. We won’t say or do anything to influence the way the reporters describe the scene. We will just listen carefully to see whether the story changes as it is retold. Please turn to workbook page 7. On the blanks after question #1, jot down notes about any changes you may hear as the story is passed along.

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A Rumor in Progress Doorkeeper, please bring in Reporter #1. Have the first reporter come in and look at The Scene for one minute. Then turn off the projector. Doorkeeper, please bring in Reporter #2. Have Reporter #2 come into the classroom. Have both Reporter #1 and Reporter #2 stand where they cannot see The Scene when you turn on the projector. Then turn the projector back on, so the class can see The Scene. Reporter #1, please tell Reporter #2 exactly what you saw. After Reporter #1 has described The Scene, turn off the projector. Allow Reporter #1 to stay in the room, but in a spot where he or she will not be able to see The Scene. Doorkeeper, please bring in Reporter #3. When the reporter is standing in a spot where she or he will not be able to see The Scene, turn the projector on.

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Reporter #2, please tell Reporter #3 exactly what you heard. After Reporter #2 has described The Scene, turn off the projector. Allow Reporter #2 to stay in the room, but in a spot where she or he will not be able to see The Scene. Doorkeeper, please bring in Reporter #4. When the reporter is standing in a spot where she or he will not be able to see The Scene, turn the projector on. Reporter #3, please tell Reporter #4 exactly what you heard. After Reporter #3 has described The Scene, turn off the projector. Allow Reporter #3 to stay in the room, but in a spot where she or he will not be able to see The Scene. Doorkeeper, please bring in Reporter #5. When the reporter is standing in a spot where she or he will not be able to see The Scene, turn the projector on. Reporter #4, please tell Reporter #5 exactly what you heard. After Reporter #4 has described The Scene, turn off the projector. Allow Reporter #4 to stay in the room, but in a spot where she or he will not be able to see The Scene. Doorkeeper, please bring in Reporter #6. When the reporter is standing in a spot where she or he will not be able to see The Scene, turn the projector on. Reporter #5, please tell Reporter #6 exactly what you heard. After Reporter #5 has described The Scene, have Reporters #1 through #5 sit with the rest of the class so everyone except Reporter #6 can see The Scene. Reporter #6, please tell all of us what you heard. After Reporter #6 has described The Scene, have him or her join the rest of the class in looking at The Scene. Now check out The Scene for yourself. Is this what you expected to see? No. The story changed as it was passed along. There weren’t as many changes in this experiment as there would be in a real-life rumor. There are several reasons for this: 1) The reporters paid more attention to details than they would in real life, because they knew they were involved in an experiment. 2) They repeated the story immediately after hearing it, while in real life, more time usually passes, and memories have a greater chance of getting fuzzy. 3) The picture they saw is not as complicated as what we see in real life. Š Mendez Foundation

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Discussion Divide the class into pairs or tell each student to find a partner. First, share with your partner the notes you made in the blanks after question #1 on workbook page 7. Then talk together about question #2: Why do you think these changes happened? Fill in the blanks after question #2 on your workbook page. Allow time for the pairs to do this. Let’s share what you have written on workbook page 7. As your classmates share their answers to questions #1 and #2, you may add to what you have written on your workbook page. 1. What changes did you and your partner notice as each reporter passed the story along? As your students point out the distortions that occurred, write them on the board. 2. Why do you think these changes happened? After your class has had a chance to discuss the distortions they witnessed, summarize their observations as follows.

1. When people retell a story, they often shorten it, leaving out some of the details. Each time information is left out, the story changes. Give an example from your class responses. In one class, details were dropped in every retelling, so that by the time the story reached the sixth reporter, the story was reduced to “a boy with a paper bag left a bus stop.”

2. People usually recall vivid details and forget the ones that are less noticeable. Sometimes details that are forgotten carry important information. Give an example from your class responses. In one class, only the spilled book bag, the police officer and the bus were remembered.

3. People notice and remember different things, depending on their own background and experiences. Give an example from your class responses. For instance, a reporter whose father is a police officer interpreted this as a crime scene with a robbery in progress. People’s interests, beliefs, age, gender and life experiences affect the way they see the events and how they retell the story.

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4. People usually see what they expect to see, whether it was there or not. For instance, one reporter said the bus was in front of a school, although there isn’t a school in the picture. If people expect things to turn out well, they put a different spin on the story than if they expect bad things to happen. If they expect members of a certain gender or racial or ethnic group to get into fights, they may interpret a neutral act as an aggressive one. Give an example from your class responses. In one class, the first reporter described a driver sitting in a car parked at the curb. By the time the rumor got to the sixth reporter, it had become a getaway car.

5. People fill in gaps to make a story more believable. A person may change part of a story to make it more like things “ought to be” or the way things “usually are.” Give an example from your class responses. The drawing actually includes several people doing seemingly unrelated things, but as the story is passed from person to person, reporters often find a way to relate them, weaving them all into the same story. All of these things can happen, even when the people repeating the rumor are trying to stick to the facts. The reason this happens is that each of you sees and hears the situation from your own point of view. Your point of view is shaped by your own experiences, interests and beliefs about how people act, and how you think they should act. Even when you try to repeat exactly what you saw, your own background will influence the story you tell. You are not just a reporter of the facts, but part author of the story.

6. Rumors can be the source of great misunderstandings and major conflicts. Speak to a boy in your class: Suppose a friend of yours said, “Someone told me they saw your best friend with your girlfriend.” How would you feel? Angry, hurt, jealous. What would you think? That my girlfriend was twotiming me. What might you do? Beat up my best friend, break up with my girlfriend. You might later learn what really happened—your friend and your girlfriend were planning a surprise party for you! How would you feel then? Embarrassed, sorry that I had accused them.

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The next time you hear a rumor, don’t fly off the handle and start a fight. Instead, •

Check your feelings. Are you angry, jealous, hurt, furious? Chill! Don’t take action on those feelings until you…

Check the source. Find out who started the story. How many times has it been retold? Don’t take action until you…

Check the facts. How much of this story do you know is true?

Think about what you have learned today and fill in the blanks at the bottom of your workbook page 7. Allow time for your students to complete workbook page 7: Check your F E E L I N G S. Check the S O U R C E. Check the F A C T S.

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Lesson 8

Looking for More? Supplemental Activities & Resources

Journal Assignment Write a paragraph about the following quotation: “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Recommended Reading Cliques, Phonies, and Other Baloney, by Trevor Romain. Free Spirit Publishing, 1998. This book discusses cliques, what they are and their negative aspects. It gives advice on forming healthier friendships. Night Hoops, by Carl Deuker. HarperTrophy, 2001. Nick Abbott and Trent Dawson have nothing in common. In fact, Trent bullies Nick. Then, through looking past the circumstances, Nick begins to really know Trent, and an unlikely friendship develops, beginning with basketball. Note: This book contains a few expletives. There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock, by Jerry Spinelli. Aladdin, 1993. This ALA Best Book for Young Readers tackles the subject of gender discrimination with humor and finesse. Maisy, the main character, reveals her spunk and her family’s support as she develops goal setting, problem solving and peer refusal skills. Under Our Skin: Kids Talk About Race, by Debbie H. Birdseye. Holiday House, 1997. Six young people discuss their feelings about their own ethnic backgrounds and about their experiences with people of different races.

Suggested Videos Guess What I Just Heard. Sunburst Visual Media. This video addresses the problem of rumors and gossip. Thought-provoking questions give students a chance to discuss this prevalent middle school phenomenon and ways to prevent or reduce the heartache and frustration rumors can cause. To order or preview, call (800) 431-1934 or visit www.sunburstvm.com. Suppose That Was Me. Sunburst Visual Media. This 25-minute video encourages students to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and to imagine what it is like to be the target of rumors and gossip. To order or preview, call (800) 431-1934 or visit www.sunburstvm.com. Cliques—Who’s In? Who’s Out? Sunburst Visual Media. This 24-minute video uses true-to-life scenarios to explore the nature of cliques and how to deal with them. A group of students who include trained peer counselors and mediators comment on each scenario and offer positive alternatives to cliques. To order or preview, call (800) 431-1934 or visit www.sunburstvm.com.

© Mendez Foundation

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Š Mendez Foundation

Too Good for Violence Grade 8 Sample Lesson  

Lesson 8 - Rumors