Sometimes, the best way to go forward is to look back. History is an excellent teacher of what works, what doesn’t work, and what can be possible. That is why the next subject in our series on integrating bullying prevention throughout the classroom is history.
History is chock full of examples of individuals who were bullied or different, but succeeded despite the odds. It is filled with people who chose to respond to cruelty with kindness, and ended up changing the world.
History can serve as a warning, but it can also serve as an inspiration for what is possible. The activities below have been designed with this in mind. I hope they get your students excited about the past and inspire them to create a better future.
Atticus Finch once said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” What better way to do this than to LIVE history? Allow your students, for one day, to completely immerse themselves in the experience of a time gone by.
For example, hold an Ellis Island Day. Allow your students to feel what it would be like to come to a new country where they didn’t know the culture or the language; a place where they looked and acted differently than others and didn’t fit in with those around them. Assign students nations of origin and allow them to only speak to other students that are from the same country.
Set up an inspection station mimicking the inspections immigrants went through upon arrival. Encourage your students to dress in the traditional garb of their nations and read personal accounts of people who immigrated to Ellis Island as children. Afterwards, talk with your students about how it felt to look different than their peers, to be inspected, and to be cut off from communication. Discuss how this experience can translate into their lives today. Will it change how they treat new students? Or how they interact with others who might look or act differently?
You can also use this opportunity to talk about all the wonderful foods, innovations, and traditions we have as a result of immigration in the U.S. If you have the participation of parents, hold a party at the end of the day with each student bringing in a dish representative of the nation they were assigned or even a family recipe. Your students will leave the classroom with a greater appreciation for the struggles faced by their ancestors, greater empathy for those who are new today, and a better appreciation for the benefits of differences and diversity.
Wall of Upstanders
Despite research which reports that, 57% of the time, bullying stops within 10 seconds when someone interferes, over 80% of children continue to stand by silently while their peers are bullied. Why is this?
Studies show that children choose to be bystanders for a multitude of reasons, including fear of retribution, uncertainty of how to act, and just plain shyness. While skits and books make good starting points for teaching children how to stand up to bullying, they can also feel fake or forced. This is where history can be helpful.
The wonderful thing about stories in history is that they aren’t just stories; they really happened. You don’t need to look far for examples of individuals who stood up against injustice or helped the oppressed. Why not give your students real people to emulate? As you learn about upstanders throughout history, create a collage filled with their pictures, quotes, and articles about them. Talk about what it means to be an upstander and why they are so important, drawing connection between the past and the present. As you learn about different upstanders throughout history, add them to the collage.
When issues such as bullying and unkindness arise in the classroom, refer students to the leaders of the past. How did they handle conflict? Why do we admire them? What can we imitate?
BE an Upsatander
This project is a combination of the first two. When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite projects was an oral report on a figure from history. Each student was assigned to research the life of a well known historic figure and then make a presentation while dressed as that individual, speaking from his or her perspective. We were allowed to choose anyone we wanted (within reason) and it was with great enthusiasm that I spent the next several weeks immersing myself in the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
By the time presentation day rolled around, I was an expert on all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. Since the assignment required me to speak in the first person, my presentation was more than a regurgitation of facts; it also included Laura’s personal thoughts and reactions to the events of her life, providing a far more rich and full portrait than any written report ever could. As the other students presented, I was fascinated to hear them speak like their characters and learned so much, not only about the historic figures, but about the students who had chosen them, as well.
What I love about this project is that it’s fun for students but it also works on a variety of important skills such as research, writing, reporting, and public speaking. To incorporate bullying prevention, narrow the assignment to upstanders or individuals who overcame obstacles or found nonviolent solutions to problems or spread kindness in their communities. As students step into the shoes of these leaders, they will gain a better understanding of the fears and struggles upstanders of the past faced and how they overcame them, internalizing these lessons in a way they never would if they simply read out of a textbook.
If you lack the time to do such a research-heavy assignment, simplify it to a short before-class discussion. Write a bullying issue or scenario on the board along with a historic figure at the beginning of class. When students walk in, discuss how they think that figure would react to the situation. Assignments such as this not only help connect the past and the present, they build the all important skill of empathy.
Bullying, unfortunately, is nothing new, but neither is courage or justice or kindness. Human history is filled with people who stood up for the oppressed, overcame obstacles, and made the world a more peaceful place.
With the many tests and standards that must be met in schools today, adding lessons on bullying prevention can seem daunting, but it doesn't need to be. Lessons about acceptance and tolerance are all around us and, with a little creativity, you'll soon discover that you had the tools right in front of you all along!
I hope you enjoyed this series and that it helped take some of the apprehension out of bullying prevention. Let us know in the comments if you try any of these activities or if you have your own creative ways of integrating bullying prevention into the classroom!
Check back here next week as we dive into National Bullying Prevention Month!
At Laughing Leopard Press, books are one of our greatest tools for education. Our newest book, This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos combines powerful text with vibrant illustrations to help children learn that bullies come in all shapes and sizes-- and there is usually more to people than meets the eye. The first in a series of picture books, This is A. Blob introduces young children to vital topics such as empathy, kindness, and differences. Find it on Amazon.com or right here on LaughingLeopardPress.com!
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.