Lesson Plan

The N-Word: Its History, Use, and Impact

Definition of Racial Slur Highlighted


GRADE LEVEL: High School

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

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

The N-Word and its Use in Schools

The N-word, a racist and offensive slur, has been used throughout history to demean, humiliate and degrade Black people. Learning about its history, use and harm is critical—especially in schools today. The use of the N-word is a fraught, yet important, issue for schools. Race-based hate and bias incidents often originate with the N-word. “N-word passes” (in which non-Black students ask permission of Black peers or friends to use the N-word) are cropping up in schools. Educators sometimes bring the N-word into the classroom when discussing literature or history, but don’t always consider the impact on others and the school often lacks a policy about how to approach this. Seemingly private conversations in the lunchroom and hallway take place between Black students who may be using the N-word and non-Black students don’t understand why they cannot use it too. The N-word is used as a hate symbol when written on school walls, desks, lockers and bathrooms.

About the Lesson Plan

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to understand the history and usage of slurs in general and the N-word specifically, reflect on their own thoughts, feelings and ideas about the N-word, and explore and address the impact and harm caused by the N-word.    

Learning Objectives: 

  • Students will examine the several decades’ history of the N-word. 

  • Students will reflect on their experiences, thoughts, feelings and ideas about the use of the N-word in current times.

  • Students will explore the impact of the N-word on different people and what can be done to address the impact and harm.

  • Students will consider what they used to think versus what they now think about the N-word by writing a short reflective essay. 

* Based on CASEL's SEL Framework