ACTIVITY 1: Handout 1

Words Around Us

Language plays a central role – both positive and negative – in shaping how we think about ourselves, others, and the world in general. Your class is going to begin an examination of the language used in school connected to lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender persons. During the next week, record every example of such language you hear. In some cases, language may be used to describe a particular person, while in other cases, it may be used to describe either a real or abstract group of people. In still other cases, the language may be used to describe something that has no connection to people (e.g., a student may hear a classmate describe a homework assignment as “gay”).

It may not be practical (or safe) for you to record information in the presence of the people using it. In such instances, record the information later. At the minimum, you should record information on a daily basis. Waiting until the end of the week will probably lead to forgetting many particular incidents.

Record the exact words you see, hear, or use. You may be offended or have very strong feelings about the words you see or hear. You should make note of your personal response in the last column labeled “Reaction”. Under the heading “Who used,” do NOT write anyone’s name. Instead record whether the language was used by a student, teacher, staff person, or administrator. Under the heading “Where” you should record in what part of the school the language was used (e.g., hallway, playground, locker room, classroom, cafeteria).

In addition to describing your personal reaction in a phrase or two under the heading “Reaction,” you should also record the intention of the speaker using the language under the heading “Intention.” Was the language used to describe without placing value on lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender persons? Was it used to hurt, demonize, or portray people in a negative light? Was it used to praise, celebrate, or portray people in a positive light? Was the language used seriously, mockingly, or comically? If you are uncertain or have contradictory ideas about how the language was used, note that here.

Use additional sheets to record your data if necessary.

go to Words Around Us sheet