Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Power of Speech (Private-Religious)
Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


This lesson highlights the importance of monitoring speech. Students develop an understanding of the positive and negative effects of speech and are encouraged to use speech only for good.


Two forty minute periods


The learner will:

  • listen to a parable about positive and negative speech
  • identify ways in which speech can be used for good

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

Students will use speech in a positive way by complimenting their classmates.


  • Yettele’s Feathers, by Joan Rothenberg
  • Bag of feathers
  • Construction paper, cut into feather shapes
  • Additional construction paper, photograph of each student, ring binders, hole puncher (for extension)

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Instruct students to sit in a circle and tell them that you will play a game of telephone. Explain that you will whisper a secret to one student and that s/he must whisper it the next child exactly as s/he heard it. Explain that the students must continue whispering it in this way until every student has heard the secret. The final student shares the secret. Usually, the secret is significantly different from what it was at the beginning.

Note: Older students can play one round of telephone and then a round of broken telephone, where each student passes on a word associated with what s/he hears rather than the exact same secret.

  • Discuss the game of telephone with the students. As why they think the secret changed as it was being passed around the circle. Explain that this sometimes happens to real secrets as well and that that is why it is very important to watch what we say.

  • Tell students that you are going to read a parable called Yettele’s Feathers. Explain that a parable is a story that teaches a lesson. Tell them that after you read the book, you are going to ask them what lesson this book teaches.

  • Read Yettle’s Feathers, by Joan Rothenberg.

  • Ask students what lesson they learned from this parable. (The lesson is that rumors are like feathers because you can never take them back.)

  • Use a bag of feathers to demonstrate the parable. In a large space, open the bag of feathers and let them spread around the room. (A fan may be helpful.) Instruct students to try to gather them. Make sure a few feathers land in place that the students cannot reach.

  • Discuss the experience and reemphasize the lesson of the parable. Explain that in Hebrew, rumors are called lashon harah (bad speech). This parable is teaching us to stay away from bad speech, such as rumors, tattling, and insults. (Stress that it is okay to tell an adult if someone does or says something that is dangerous.)

  • Remind students that the class is working on tikkun olam, and that it means repairing the world. Ask them if they think lashon harah helps repair the world.

  • Explain that there are some types of speech that should be spread around like feathers, and these types of speech do repair the world because they make people feel good.

  • Brainstorm words that are good feathers, such as please, thank-you, compliments, and phrases such as "How are you?" and discuss ways speech can be used for good.

  • Give each student a feather and instruct him/her to draw a picture of someone who is using speech in a good way.

  • Have students write or dictate the good words being said in the picture.

  • Make a wall of "Good Feathers" to remind students of how they can use speech to repair the world.


Students will be assessed based on their responses and participation during class discussion and whether or not the words they chose to illustrate were examples of positive speech.

School/Home Connection:

Instruct students that saying "please" and "thank-you" are very important ways of using speech in a positive way. Have students write thank-you notes to bring home to their parents.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Instruct students that complimenting others is very important because it makes people feel happy and good about themselves. Give each student a compliment. Offer students an opportunity to share times when they have felt good because they received a compliment. Make a book called the "Class Book of Compliments." Give each student a page with a photograph of another student on it. Instruct them to illustrate the page and choose a compliment for the student in the picture to be put on the page. Use ring binders to put the book together.

Bibliographical References:

  • Rothenberg, Joan. Yettele’s Feathers. Hyperion Press, 1996. ISBN: 0786811498

Lesson Developed By:

Shira Hammerman
Bergenfield, NJ 07621


Philanthropy Framework:

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