We implement a well-known bullying prevention program at our school. There’s also a plan in place for dealing with all kinds of inappropriate behavior. Citizenship awards are given out each month. And, there are even special lunch programs to encourage children to be inclusive.
Even so, this year reports of bullying are on the rise. More and more students are being verbally “teased” or physically picked on. Others complain about “drama,” a word children often use when they feel shut out or excluded by someone they once considered a friend.
Whatever name students give these behaviors, it all boils down to the same thing– someone is repeatedly being made to feel inferior or unsafe due to the actions of someone else.
After searching for ideas that might help bring home the importance of being kind to one another, I stumbled on two blog posts. The first article, “My Class’s Antibullying Campaign,” was at the blog Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy! The author of that blog cited yet another post by Eric Johnson, “Erasing Meanness.” Check it out at ‘Your Kids’ Teacher.
I carefully read both articles and then decided to give Mr. Johnson’s program a try. The plan requires about 20 minutes a day, four days in a row. It’s free, requires no special skills, and can be implemented in most any classroom that has online access to show videos. Interested? Start with the two blog posts listed above.
Here’s how the plan was used in our classroom.
Show the video “Anti-Bullying PSA: The Price of Silence.”
1) What was the video about?
2) What was ___ (character) thinking?
3) Why did ___ (character) act the way s/he did in the video?
My students identified several roles in the video: bully, victim, passive onlooker, and active onlooker. They recognized that fear, powerlessness, ignorance, and a need for acceptance, as well as many other emotions, might have been in play.
Before school starts, fill the board with synonyms for mean, hate, and bullying. As Mr. Johnson suggests, I used only “black and blue” markers. Some words were repeated. I also enlisted the help of several K-3 teachers to speed things along. The alphabetized list of words below will help you get started.
Show the video “Stand Up, Stand Out: No Checking, No Capping, No Bullying.”
Some speakers in this video have a slight Southern accent and/or use slang that may be unfamiliar to students. This is a good opportunity to remind students about cultural differences and emphasize the lessons to be learned when listeners keep an open mind about the speaker(s).
1) How do you feel about teasing others and being teased?
2) Is “teasing” joking and kidding around, or is it bullying?
3) Why do people “check” or tease others?
Before school write “How do you want to be remembered?” on the board. First, I “drew” the words using the edge of an eraser. Then, I wrote in the letters using a thick, red line. Empty areas were filled in with extra words.
I love the third suggested video, “Don’t Laugh at Me” by Mark Wills. Due to community standards where I teach, I reluctantly decided against using it at my grade level.
1) Besides standing up to a bully, what else can you do– if you’re being bullied or if you want to help a victim?
2) How can you make others feel wanted and important?
3) Do you think it makes a difference when someone walks up to a victim after they’ve been bullied? Why?
Encourage students to think about how they would want to be remembered by their peers if they suddenly had to move to another school.
The teacher doesn’t need to make any changes to the board, today.
Show the video “Perfect” by Ahmir.
This video captured my students attention more than any of the others shown earlier in the week. That said, it’s important to preview all materials used in the classroom to ensure that they are appropriate for your grade level and community. This video mentions “drinking a nice cold beer.” It’s the only such reference, and the performers are of drinking age.
1) What happened in the video?
2) Do you think this could really happen?
3) Why do you think this particular song was used in the video?
Tell the students that the idea for these lessons originally came from an online article with the title, “Erasing Meanness.” Ask them, “What do you think the author meant when he selected that title?”
Announce that today they can literally erase meanness by replacing unkind words with happier words of their own. Allow students to use brightly colored markers to replace the words they choose to erase.
When students comment that there are still lots of “black and blue” words, ask them, “What would happen if another group of students were also able to erase words?” This should help them understand that they can’t “erase” all meanness and bullying by themselves, but their efforts can make a BIG difference.
The situations in this final video resonated with my students and left them feeling empowered. It was a great way to wrap up this week-long experience!
My grade-level teaching partner and I both taught these lessons on the same days. At week’s end, two children who argue so much that they can’t even be in the same homeroom, began playing together at recess. Several “hands-on” students started doing a better job maintaining their own personal space. The entire class behaved in a more thoughtful manner and there was an increase in daily acts of kindness.
Did it last? For awhile. I believe that some parts of some lessons stuck with some children– permanently. There’s no test for mastery of this “skill.” Teaching children how to erase meanness is an ongoing process that requires consistent modeling and reinforcement.
If you try this plan, when you’re done I hope you’ll do what I did… pass it on!
Additional anti-bullying resource links:
Click here for a FREE download of the lesson and resources described above.