After deconstructing the word "truth" students might be quite confused. Therefore, this practical example can be quite fun. Write a sentence on a sheet of paper, fold it, put it in an envelope, and hand it to a student in the class. State that you are about to give this student a special, top-secret message, and it is the class's responsibility to accurately and truthfully remember this information and recite it. Have that student read the piece of paper silently, fold it, put it back in the envelope, and hand it back to you. Then have the student whisper the sentence in the student's ear closest to her. Continually remind the students that the sentence is the truth and it cannot be altered, it is their duty to present the truth. Depending on your histrionics, you might say that the truth in this statement, if presented incorrectly, could cost them their life or someone else's life. Each student must listen and repeat the sentence in a whisper, from the student on their left to the student on the right (or in a way appropriate to your classroom). This process repeats until there are no longer any students to convey the message. Then have each student write down the sentence as they remember it. The last student takes his/her sheet of paper and returns it to the teacher. Then ask for a volunteer from the class to come to the center of the room and read both statements, the sentence in the first envelope, and the sentence in the final envelope. Are the statements the same, and if they are not, why when each student was told to protect the truth? Secondly, have the students read their own version of the sentence and, as a class, investigate where the truth began to break down.
This assignment closely resembles the process of journalism employed by Capote and O'Brien over a four to ten-year period. The information presented has been filtered, in a way, by numerous encounters over long periods of time. Capote, in writing In Cold Blood, interviewed over 100 people associated with the murder case from pedestrians, to mail clerks, to Dick and Perry. This does not take into account the hours of secondary material he filtered, such as news reports, editorials, hearsay, etc. Furthermore, he does not begin to interview these individuals until at least one month after the crime, and continues to do so almost six years after the crime is committed. If a simple sentence is garbled in a matter of minutes imagine how an event can become garbled in six years. Visually represent Capote's influx of sources through a brainstorming chart. Write Capote in the middle of the blackboard, possibly within the outline of a head or brain, and invite students to the board to begin listing all of Capote's sources of information. Hopefully, the board will fill with at least 20 different names and sources. As a continuation, ask the students, "Does this bring Capote closer to the truth or further away?" Lastly, as a caveat, ask the students to think outside the box, what about Capote's editor, his readers, his critics, and his desire to be successful.