Shirts of Empowerment


This lesson provides students an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be labeled and as a result, develop empathy for those who others label


  • Students will be able to explain the magnitude of the problem of name-calling and the impact it has on students
  • Students will be able to express empathy for those who are called names.

Age/Experience Level

6th-12th Grade

Things to Prep & Tools Needed

Shirts, (may be torn, stained or in any condition) markers, paint, tape.


2 class periods


Invite students to decorate the back of the shirts with a name that they have been called, or have heard other students being called. Students may choose words such as “nerd,” “geek,” “gay,” “stupid,” “retard” and other offensive names. Ask them to be conscious of the effects these words may have on other students.

* Be sure to support students and make sure they are using these words to express their dislike
for being called names, and not to further bully other students.

Once the shirts have been decorated, students can wear them for the class, for the day, or you can display them in a public setting such as the school library or cafeteria. Let students know that although you may not see it normally on students, others may make them wear these labels daily when they are name-called or bullied.

Note: If you are using new shirts, students may tape signs on their shirts so they may be reused or donated to a local charity after NNCW.


After students have worn or displayed the shirts, lead them in a discussion using the following questions:

  • What did you learn about name-calling and bullying from this activity?
  • How did it feel to wear the shirts (or to see them displayed)?
  • Do you think it’s easy for students to get rid of labels after they have been name-called?

After discussion invite the students to cross out the offensive names that they had written on the back of the shirt, and write the names they want to be called on the front.

Opportunities for Differentiation

For younger students or students that need extra assistance you can have a list of names that people might be called. For older students or students that need a challenge you can have them plan out a artistic display of the t-shirts for the rest of the school to see the impact of the lesson.


Students can write about their experiences and share it in the school newspaper, at the No Name-Calling Week Assembly, or in the morning announcements. They can submit pictures of them to GLSEN’s Creative Expression Exhibit at

Other Lessons to Explore

Learning Empowerment and Self-Identification,  Bullying Op-Ed Piece, Creating an Anti-Slur Policy, Blow the Whistle on Name-Calling