Social Filter Lesson With “I Can’t Believe You Said That”

Our 4th grade Life Skills lessons continued with a lesson on using your social filter, a favorite topic of mine. We started with a chat on what a filter is; most of my students didn’t know what this was. Those that did were able to tie it to a filter in fish tank. I asked them to guess how a filter might be related to THINKing before we speak. So many students were able to make this connection! My heart is always warmed in these moments.

social filter lesson

Then we dive into the story. I use Julia Cook’s I Can’t Believe You Said That! (affiliate link) – though I skipped the lengthy pages with the parents’ rules/advice. I asked:

  • (Before reading): This book is about something called a social filter. What is a filter? What do you think this might have to do with THINK before you speak?
  • pg. 11: Do you think this consequence was fair? What consequence would you have given instead?
  •  pg. 13: RJ is confused. Why? What is he not understanding?
  • (After reading): How did RJ change during this story? Why do you think he chose to change?

Being Frank is another great book for this topic if that’s easier for you to get your hands on.

The students then worked in small groups to read situations and thoughts and sort them into “Go ahead, say it out loud!”, “Keep it in your head!”, and  “Filter it! (Say it in a more polite and respectful way.”) This was meant to be more of a reinforcement of the social filter concept, but I found there were moments where this was a challenge to the students, especially in finding ways to say unkind thoughts more respectfully.

social filter lesson

Once all the groups are done, we join together on the rug again. I read through each card and the student use hand motions to show me their responses. Whenever students indicated they’d filter it into something nicer, I asked them to share out on their idea.

Then I sent them back to their desks and gave each student a situation/thought card template and asked them to come up with their own example and write their “answer” (say it or filter it) on the back. These were great! Not only did they come up with some good ideas, but this sort of an exit ticket gives me more material for future years’ lessons. (*Note: I used to have some examples of student exit tickets that I showed here. I’m working to make sure I’m FERPA compliant, which means not showing student handwriting, so I’ve since removed them.*)

social filter lesson**Next year, I may use this as my intro lesson (or second lesson) on THINK. While it’s somewhat specific to rude thoughts, I think it introduces the broader idea that we should think about things before we say them out loud.

***This went great in 4 out of my 5 homerooms. In my “roughest” room, this wasn’t ideal- they laughed way too hard about all the rude comments in the book. While they grasped the concepts perfectly, this book almost seemed to feed into their inclinations to “burn” one another. I think this book may not be the best fit in a classroom where many of the students are already saying unkind things to/about others as a way to be funny – unless you think they’ll respond to a brief discussion at the beginning about how the story can be humorous but they should remember how hurtful the words can be as well.

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social filter lesson

6 Responses

  1. Did you do anything additional to the room that was the “roughest”? I am trying to have them understand the gravity of words/language but worried this will feed them more…

    1. Hi! There’s a little spiel that I give before some lessons (like this one and “Just Kidding”). I talk about how when we’re watching a video or a show, and someone says something rude or mean, it might make us laugh. I validate that this is the goal of the writers/actors and when what we’re watching is made up, and we’re home, it’s okay to laugh.Then I ask “But what about real life? What if someone actually said something really mean to you? How would you want the people around to respond? Would you want them to laugh” We talk about that and I explain that the book includes several examples of a character saying hurtful things, and we’re going to pretend it’s real life and take it seriously and not laugh. That has helped a lot!

      I also don’t allow students to choose their own groups for my lessons, including this one, so the kiddos who are struggling with their social filter are spread out during the group activity and that almost always goes well.


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Hello, I’m Sara!

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