Lesson Plan

Intent vs. Impact: Why Does it Matter?

Group of young people studying together


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GRADE LEVEL: Middle School, High School

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, Language

SEL STANDARDS*: Self Awareness, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making

Intent vs. Impact

In June 2022, singer Lizzo released the single, “GRRRLS." The song contained an ableist slur in it. There was immediate criticism and calling out of Lizzo for using this derogatory word, including by disability advocates and especially on social media. After taking in this criticism, Lizzo said, "It's been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song GRRRLS. Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language.” Lizzo acknowledged that she didn’t know it was an ableist slur and she changed the lyrics. This situation points to an important concept in communication, especially around using biased, offensive or insensitive language. Oftentimes there is a disconnect between what we intend to communicate and the way our words impact others.  

About the Lesson Plan

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn about the difference between intent and impact in our communication, reflect on their thoughts and feelings about this concept, and use common scenarios to explore how to effectively prioritize impact over intent.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Students will understand the difference between “intent” and “impact” in communication. 

  • Students will reflect on their thoughts, feelings and experiences about the disconnect between intent and impact and the extent to which “words matter.”  

  • Students will gain skills in being able to more effectively consider impact over intent in communicating with others. 

* Based on CASEL's SEL Framework