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Words That Unite

Words count! Discover the power of words in poetry such as Maya Angelou’s Life Doesn’t Frighten Me. Then create a changeable wheel of communication.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Words go a long way to resolve conflict peacefully. Conduct a class discussion about conflict resolution. Ask students if they have ever found themselves in an argument when they thought "What did I say?"? Word choices can either soothe or enflame communication. How do they feel when someone says "You …"? Attacked and wanting to attack back, right? What if they had said "I feel … when …"? Wouldn’t it help to understand what was going on and not feel defensive?
    2. Students identify word pairs. Read poetry or other literature that highlights the power of words, such as Life Doesn’t Frighten Me. Brainstorm words that divide people, such as them or but. Come up with another word that communicates what needs to be said without escalating upset feelings, such as us or and. Students list as many word pairs as they can with Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils. It’s easy to make spelling corrections! Then create a spinning word wheel using your geometry skills. Here’s how we made ours.
    3. Draw speech bubbles. On a recycled file folder, sketch two people speaking to one another. Draw a speech bubble that comes out of both of their mouths and merges into one near the top of the page. Mark an area where each person’s mouth is, near the center of the page. Use Crayola Scissors to cut out the mouths and the area where the bubbles intersect.
    4. Create word circles. From a file folder, cut out at least one circle with a circumference large enough to fill the holes made for the mouths and speech bubble. Poke a brass paper fastener through your drawing and into the center of the circle behind it.
    5. Write a word that tends to divide people on the part of the circle that shows in the speech bubble. Sketch frowns in the mouth areas to look like the people are upset.
    6. Turn the circle to an empty spot. Write a word with a similar meaning that could unite people. Draw smiles on their faces. Continue until the circles are filled.
    7. Use Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils and Multicultural Markers to permanently color the word wheel and people.
    8. Students share their words. Twist the circle to show people’s reactions when different words are said to each other. Have students team up with a classmate. Show each other the "divider" words and think of several similar "uniter" words.
  • Standards

    LA: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade level reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    SS: Explore and describe similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies, and cultures address similar human needs and concerns.

    SS: Compare ways in which people from different cultures think about and deal with their physical environment and social conditions.

    SS: Give examples of and explain group and institutional influences such as religious beliefs, laws, and peer pressure, on people, events, and elements of culture.

    SS: Identify and describe examples of tensions between and among individuals, groups, or institutions, and how belonging to more than one group can cause internal conflicts.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Children's book: Justine, we're late! (Conflict resolution and problem solving for little ones) by Shimrit Nothman; You Can't Come to My Birthday Party! Conflict Resolution With Young Children by Betsy Evans; Talk and Work It Out (Learning to Get Along) by Cheri J. Meiners, M. Ed.

    Invite a local conflict resolution counselor to visit with the class and share some of the techniques and concepts used in conflict resolution, such as win/win, willingness to resolve, mapping conflict, co-operative power, and appropriate assertiveness. After the visit, students post learning to a class blog.

    Working in small groups, students role-play using the two types of words in different scenarios to assist with understanding the power of word choices. After the 'performance' teammates evaluate role-play in terms of resolving the conflict.

    Using an open-ended idea, students discuss the idea in terms of siding either pro or con. Guide students in looking at both sides of the discussion.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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