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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

November 2, 2007

Gossip and Its Effect on the School Community

As part of a recent in-service day at Notre Dame, several high school theology teachers offered lesson plans to share. Presented below is the first of a series of lessons that will be offered from time to time on the Engaging Faith blog.

Adapted from a lesson
By Cindy Teynor
Tuscarawas Central Catholic High School
New Philadelphia, Ohio

One of the most difficult realties about high school life is the devastating effect of gossip upon students and staff. I have introduced a unit with the following information:

gossip:1. a person who chatters or repeats idle talk and rumors, especially about the private affairs of others. (Websters).

View a 15 minute portion of the movie The Spitfire Grill (Columbia Pictures, 1996, PG-13).
Prior to viewing, present the following:

Overview of the Film:Everyone in the grill is murmuring about Percy—who she is, where she's from, why she's there—but no one will talk to her directly. Eventually Percy calls out to Hannah, "Did I forget to mention that I've been to prison?" to cut their gossiping short. (Beware of language in the middle of the film when the ladies discuss overwhelming response to the "contest.")

Teaching:Gossip is often the overlooked sin. Few people want to give it up because it's so much fun. God detests this destructive and hurtful habit and calls his children to speak only love and encouragement, not venomous gossip.
ScriptureRead Proverbs 16:27–28: "A scoundrel is a furnace of evil, and on his lips there is a scorching fire. An intriguer sows discord, and a tablebearer separates bosom friends."

Answer the following questions:
1. Have you ever been told something that someone else said about you behind your back? Have you ever overheard a person say something they didn't want you to hear them say?
2. How did you feel when you heard this information? Did you do anything as a result of this information?
3. Have you ever said something about someone else that the person found out you said? How did you feel when you heard this information? Did you do anything as a result of this information?

Write a brief profile about each of the main characters of the film (Percy, Hannah, Eli, Joe, Nahum, Shelby, Effie, Gary, Claire, and Charlie. Describe what you learned about the character when you were first introduced to him or her. How did this character develop throughout the film? What did you learn from the characters' stories?

Give each student 20 pennies. Have them record each time and occasion during the course of one week when they gossiped about another. At the end of the week, have them return the number of pennies related to the times they have gossipped. Ask the students—both those who gave back many pennies and those who did not—what they learned from the activity.

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