Insult scale

Goals of the exercise: To discuss feelings and perceptions in class
Age of the participants: 13+
Number of participants: 4-40
Duration of the exercise: 45-90 minutes
Materials: Pens, scrap paper, A3 sheet or wallpaper, chalkboard, sticker dots

Step by step

  1. Each participant is given a sheet of paper and they are all asked to write insults and expressions which personally offend them, make them angry or aggressive. For the individual work, they have around 5 min.
  2. Everyone should be aware that the discussed curse words will be serious and possibly very personal. The more clear and “scientific” the approach will be, the better the exercise will work.
  3. The sheets are collected, read aloud and all the insults are written on the blackboard (possibly marking how many times they were used).
  4. Then, you will choose 10 different insults that were mentioned the most. These should be discussed, in order to clarify their meaning within the group. You can also ask the participants how they feel about those words.
  5. Then, a voting takes place. Each participant has to select the 4 out of 10 insults he/she thinks are the worse. The voting should be secret (taking turns, turning the blackboard around, etc).
  6. Relatively quickly, the opinion of the class becomes visible on the board.  After the voting, you can make a deal with the participants not to use the top three words in the class anymore. The words are written down on a separate A3 paper and visibly displayed, the class agrees on a punishment for using them, and the deal is signed by all participants.
  7. During the voting, the participants could additionally mark expressions with which they were personally insulted before. This could lead to a discussion of different reactions to words, which can be related to different backgrounds and life stories.


In the evaluation session, the participants can reflect on how they enjoyed the exercise, formulate new findings and find new topics.
If the class made a deal, they must strictly stick to it. The class representatives can be involved in this task.

  • How did you enjoy this exercise?
  • Why these insults and expressions offend you?
  • Are there some words that you personally find offending, while the others not. If yes, what is the reason behind it?
  • Do you believe we sometimes insult people without being aware about it? How can we change that?

Authorship/adaptation or source: Brenner, „Cool bleiben statt zuschlagen“, 2002, revised by B. Sinapius


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