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Changing the world

Peer Mentoring

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Recap

The SEL activities enabled learners to consider wider hate speech issues and prejudices in society towards protected characteristics, how the media and public respond to stories of hate speech/hate crimes, and the importance of ensuring dialogue around these issues (with online and offline stakeholders) is respectful, meaningful and constructive.

In the Media analysis unit, learners had the opportunity to analyse media sources that have drawn attention to protected characteristics (both positively and negatively). They explored the features of these campaigns that made them effective in gaining attention/sparking discussion/affecting change, and considered how they can develop these features in their own campaigns or actions around online hate speech.

The Media production unit provided learners with the opportunity to explore how successful campaigns amplify a message, sustain momentum and grow over a longer period of time. Learners also considered the different ways to make a message memorable and the importance of language use to convey that message.

In the Citizenship unit, learners developed an understanding of the roles within an activist community, and the strategies that can be employed to develop people’s roles and responsibilities to create a sustainable programme of activism to work towards the aims of a campaign.

Main Activity

The SELMA project short definition of hate speech is:

“Any online content targeting someone based on protected characteristics with the intent or likely effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination.”

Activity 1: Scissor words or glue words?

Note: This activity can be adapted to suit a wide range of group sizes. We would recommend a minimum of four young people - but a larger group would be preferable.

What you will need:

  • One printed copy of the “Scissor words or glue words?” resource per participant (including a copy for the trainer).
  • One printed copy of the “Scissor words or glue words (2/3)” resource, with grey squares - each containing an image and speech bubble - cut out. You should have six individual squares per page. Put a small piece of sticky tack on the back of each square. Keep the squares in three separate piles beside you (one pile for “Foreigner”; one pile for “Religious”; one pile for “Boy”).
  • A whiteboard set up as a simple grid as illustrated in the “Whiteboard setup” resource.
  • A desk placed next to the whiteboard.

Preparation:

  • Remind learners that the SELMA toolkit is a set of modules designed to address hate speech through a social and emotional learning approach. Learners will be participating in this activity designed to get them thinking about the power of language to really shape the way we relate to others and, ultimately, the world we live in.
  • It’s important that learners feel safe, comfortable and warmed up before participating in an activity. Check out our handy “How to” guide for general recommendations on how to introduce the peer-mentoring activities.

Instructions:

  1. Explain that during this session, you are going to spend some time thinking about the power of language.
  2. Read through the “Scissor words or glue words?” resource with learners. This resource is meant to work as a discussion aid so feel free to be as creative as you like. The aim here is to introduce them to Allport’s idea of the language we use to describe groups acting like “nouns that cut slices” - a really visual description which speaks to the power of language to create social divisions. You also want to think about the flipside of that - the fact that language can be used in ways that bind people together, too.
  3. To really engage with that idea, learners will be participating in an activity in two teams: “Team Scissors” and “Team Glue”. “Team Scissors” will be on the lookout for words that divide people, and “Team Glue” will be looking for words that bring people together.
  4. Explain that the game will take place in three rounds, each lasting 15 seconds, using the “Scissor words or glue words? - Examples” resource. For each round, one person from each of the two teams should run up to the desk where they will find six squares showing someone saying something. In that 15 seconds, “Team Scissors” will try to grab all the squares showing divisive language and stick them on the side of the whiteboard labelled “Team Scissors: Words that divide”. “Team Glue” will try to find all the squares showing words that unite, and stick them on the side of the whiteboard labelled “Team Glue: Words that bring together”.
  5. For Round 1, place the six squares from the “Foreigner” page on the desk and start a 15-second timer. Then when the 15 seconds are up, do the same for Round 2 (“Religious”) and then Round 3 (“Boy”).
  6. When the three rounds are over, lead a whole group discussion. Ask the representative from each team to come to the front, next to the whiteboard, and to read out their choices, one round at a time. Then launch into a wider discussion using the below as prompts:
  • Did you find it easy to choose the squares?
  • Were there any you weren’t sure about?
  • What changes the same word from being a scissor word to a glue word and vice versa? (You want to be looking out for answers such as it depends on who is saying it, the audience, the context in which they say it, the tone with which they say it, their intention, and so on.)
  • Do you think there are some words that are always scissor words or does it always depend on these factors?
  • Do you think that might be different in an online environment? Why/why not?

Key takeaways:

  1. Language doesn’t just reflect or describe the world, it organises and in the process shapes the world.
  2. The words you use to describe another group, or your own group, can separate you from others or they can bring you closer to others. Sometimes they can do both at the same time - making you feel close to your “in-group” while dividing you from an “out-group”.
  3. Think carefully about the words you use to name groups of people (including the groups you yourself belong to). Language has more power than we sometimes realise.

Activity 2: “Just” a word?


What you will need:

Preparation:

  • Remind learners that the SELMA toolkit is a set of modules designed to address hate speech through a social and emotional learning approach. Learners will be participating in this activity designed to get them thinking about the power of language to really shape the way we relate to others and, ultimately, the world we live in.
  • It’s important that learners feel safe, comfortable and warmed up before participating in an activity. Check out our handy “How to” guide for general recommendations on how to introduce the peer-mentoring activities.

Instructions:

  1. Explain to learners that in this activity you’re going to be looking at the case of Molly - a cat who has gone online.
  2. The background (which is also described on the activity sheet) is that the word “kitten” is a controversial word that is often used to insult those belonging to the “cat” family (like Molly), including to encourage violence against them. It’s frequently been heard being shouted out at cats when they are harassed or attacked in the street. But sometimes people also use “kitten” as a throwaway comment, or as a joke.
  3. Molly goes online and finds four cases of the word “kitten” being used. Take a couple of minutes to think about each of the four cases. Are there any of the four cases where the use of “kitten” is OK?
  4. Pair up with another young person and discuss between you for a couple of minutes. Think about points of agreement/disagreement and be prepared to talk about it with the rest of the group afterwards.
  5. Bring the whole group together and lead a discussion, using the below as prompts:
  • Were there any of the four cases you thought were acceptable uses of the word “kitten”? Why? (Open discussion as it is likely that there will not be agreement.)
  • Let’s take a look at the puppy now; the one that said “Seriously, kill kittens”. You probably thought that wasn’t acceptable, but what if the puppy told you they were joking?/What if it wasn’t a puppy that said it, but another cat, and they said it as a joke? Would that be different? Why/why not?
  • Let’s take a look at the cat now; the one that said “Yeah! Kittens rock”. Did you think that was acceptable? Why/why not?
  • How about the duck. They seem to just be using the word “kitten” as a negative comment against themselves, but pretty throwaway. Is that OK? Why/why not?
  • And finally the singer. She’s not a cat, but she’s using the word in a song. Do you think that’s OK? Why/why not? Would it change things if the singer was a cat instead?
  • Do you think that the fact that all these comments appeared on social media mattered? Why/why not? Would it matter whether, for example, the puppy had 10 followers or 10,000 followers? Why/why not?

Key takeaways:

  1. Words have power. Intentions and context matter, but often, words have power anyway (this can be especially true in an online context where intention and context aren’t easy to pick up).
  2. Sometimes members of a targeted group will try to reclaim a word that has been used to target them (like the cat that used the word “kitten”). Some people believe that reclaiming an insulting word takes the power away from that word - but this isn’t a view that everyone shares. For some people, the “reclaiming” of words simply continues to reinforce their use, and they’d rather the words weren’t used at all.
  3. Make sure that young people understand that although this was a “game” these are actually issues that regulators, social media companies, and the rest of society are battling with every day.

Outcome Criteria

  • Appreciate the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart.
  • Think about the quiet revolutionary power that the thoughtful use of language holds.

Resources

Appreciate the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart. Think about the quiet revolutionary power that the thoughtful use of language holds.

Resource

Whiteboard setup

Thinking about the power of the language we use as a tool to transform our world.

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Scissor words or glue words?

Appreciating the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart.

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Scissor words or glue words? - Examples

Appreciating the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart.

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"Just" a word?

Thinking about the quiet revolutionary power that the thoughtful use of language holds.

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Resource

Opsætning af whiteboard

Thinking about the power of the language we use as a tool to transform our world.

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Klippe- eller klistre-ord?

Appreciating the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart.

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"Fremmed": Klippe- eller klistre-ord?

Appreciating the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart.

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"Bare" et ord?

Thinking about the quiet revolutionary power that the thoughtful use of language holds.

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Resource

Schere- oder Kleber-Worte?

Thinking about the power of the language we use as a tool to transform our world.

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Schere- oder Kleber-Worte?

Appreciating the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart.

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‚Ausländer‘: Schere oder Kleber?

Appreciating the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart.

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„Nur“ ein Wort?

Thinking about the quiet revolutionary power that the thoughtful use of language holds.

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Resource

Ρύθμιση του πίνακα

Thinking about the power of the language we use as a tool to transform our world.

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Λέξεις που διχάζουν ή που ενώνουν;

Appreciating the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart.

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Λέξεις που διχάζουν ή που ενώνουν; - Παραδείγματα

Appreciating the subtle and less subtle ways that language can bring people together - or tear people apart.

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"Απλώς" μια λέξη;

Thinking about the quiet revolutionary power that the thoughtful use of language holds.

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