Lesson Plan

Relationships First



The way we treat each other is crucial in determining the quality and connectedness of our communities. Our relationships hold the power to shape our world. While most people desire communities in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect, these values often go unnoticed in the media and political spheres. Consequently, many individuals feel a lack of respect in their daily lives. In this lesson plan, we will examine our role in these dynamics and explore effective strategies for engaging in impactful conversations.


  • Develop the ability to engage in respectful conversations with individuals who hold different perspectives or backgrounds.
  • Acquire skills in effective communication and collaboration that can be applied both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Recognize the importance of active listening, mutual respect, and embracing the inherent tensions that arise from our differences.
  • Understand the impact of respectful interactions on the quality and connectedness of communities.
  • Apply strategies for fostering empathy and understanding in discussions with others.
  • Demonstrate an increased awareness of one's own role in shaping positive relationships and community dynamics.

Step-by-Step Guide


  • Read the introductory paragraph for the Relationships First conversation and the conversation agreements. (Option: let different students read each agreement aloud.) Talk briefly about how you will spend the next 50 minutes (please adapt for whatever time period you have.)
  • Organize students into groups of 5 for conversation
  • Round one of this conversation should take about five minutes. Remind students that when answering the questions, students may choose to answer one or more questions and do not need to answer all questions.
  • Round two is longer — take 10 to 15 minutes to answer one or two of the questions. Encourage students to pick the questions that interest them the most.
  • Round three takes 5 to 10 minutes.

Conversation Tips:

  • Everyone shares responsibility for guiding the conversation and is invited to help keep the conversation on track.
  • If an area of interest has arisen that has taken the group off topic, ask the group if they would like to set aside the new topic for a separate conversation.
  • If someone is dominating or disruptive, respectfully interrupt the situation, refer to the conversation agreements and invite everyone to get back on track with the current question so the group can complete the current conversation.

Optional Homework Assignments

  • Have students write a 300 word reflection after the Relationships First class discussion — what did they learn? Did they have any interesting disagreements? Why do they think respectful conversations matter?
  • Have students craft their own lists of “tips to a respectful conversation.” What 5-10 things do they see as most critical to an effective discussion? Alternatively, have them write a list of 5-10 things that cause conversations to break down.