Now that it’s September, the school year has officially begun and Bullying Prevention Month is just around the corner! While all teachers know bullying prevention is important, many feel overwhelmed with the logistics of putting together and making time for a separate program. However, bullying prevention doesn’t have to be a huge production. In fact, it’s probably better if it’s not. When social skills are worked into the lessons already being taught, students are able to see that bullying prevention isn’t an activity done a couple times a year; it is a lifestyle and important enough to be included into everyday routines.
That is why we decided to create a month-long blog series all about easy ways to integrate bullying prevention into classroom activities you’re already doing. Each week of September, we will focus on a different area of the classroom and discuss lessons, activities, and books you can use to teach kids about bullying, kindness, and empathy while they also learn about science, math, and history.
Today we’re kicking things off with everyone’s favorite subject: Math. Math can be tricky under the best circumstances, so integrating a topic as complex as bullying education may seem impossible. However, with a little creativity, both subjects can work hand in hand to improve interest and understanding.
Below are listed some core math skills and a few kindness and bullying activities to go along with them. The majority can be scaled up or down depending on the age and skill level of your students. Let us know if you try any of these activities in your classroom!
Two of a Kind: Each student is given a shape to tape to their shirt. They must then locate the other student in the room with their same shape. Once they find their match, they sit down together. Go around the class and ask the students to identify their shape and say one kind thing about their shape buddy.
For older students, have them count the sides and/or angles to the shape and then list the corresponding number of kind words for their partner.
This activity can be adapted to practice a number of other skills, such as identifying similar and congruent shapes, matching angles (one person has the word “acute” while someone else has a picture of an acute angle), or matching ratios to fractions.
Counting and Number Recognition
Kindness Jars: This is a twist on The Compliments Project, an incredible project of encouragement developed by a middle school teacher in New York. Begin by filling a jar with beads. The number will depend on the skill level of your students. Once a week (or more if you have the time), choose a student to be the student of honor. As a class, count the beads in the jar and have a student draw the number on the board.
Next, challenge students to write that number of kind things about the student of honor. Finally, bundle up the notes for the student to read later!
For students still mastering writing, have them raise their hands and say the compliments out loud while you write them down for the student of honor.
Another option is to have your students think of a corresponding number of random acts of kindness to do as a class that week.
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
A Message of Kindness: This is a fun idea adapted from a lesson created by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Students must solve equations to read messages that review bullying prevention facts. The skill level of the students will determine the equations used.
This activity can also be adapted to encourage kindness and build up student confidence. As the instructor, create an encouraging message for each student to decode. To take it a step further, challenge your students to do the same for one another. Give them a key and assign partners. Each student must then create an encouraging note for their partner using the code and building equations the partner must solve to read the message.
Fractions and Ratios
Fractions and ratios can seem abstract. Providing visual aids and real-world examples can help make these concepts more concrete. As a class, gather and report statistics on bullying. Then, use your class to help them visualize the results. For example, if 1 in 4 students are bullied, how many students in your classroom does that represent?
*Also see “Two of a Kind” activity above*
Charts and Graphing
Students can practice making charts and graphs using the information just gathered. They can also create diagrams on what type of people are bullied, who bullies, and how bullying has changed throughout the years.
These activities do not cover each and every math skill, but I hope they gave you some new ideas and inspired you to begin searching for ways to integrate bullying prevention into your own classroom.
Stick with us through the rest of September to learn even more fun and easy ways to bring a little more kindness into each day!
Looking for a classroom resource to help introduce your students to concepts such as bullying, empathy, and differences? Check out This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos.
This is A. Blob is a masterfully illustrated picture book suitable for children ages 4-8. Written by Lori Kefalos, author of several award-nominated animated shorts, This is A. Blob is the first of a series following this bully. This first installment follows the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that there might be more to A. Blob than meets the eye. Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another. The book demonstrates that a bully can come in any shape, size, or color and encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help.
For years, discussions on bullying centered around two central figures: the victim and the bully. However, experts have now broadened their focus to include a third party: the bystander. A bystander can be defined as anyone who sees bullying occurring and does nothing to stop it. Though not directly involved in the situation, studies show that bystanders could potentially be the most powerful players of all. In fact, it’s been shown that over 50% of the time, bullying stops within 10 seconds of someone intervening. In light of this knowledge, more and more schools are working hard to train students to know when and how they should step in when they see someone being bullied.
Sounds easy enough, right? It’s not. The phenomenon known as the bystander effect is an occurrence in which the more people that are present, the less likely individuals are to help someone in need. This effect was first brought into the limelight in the late 1960s after a woman was killed outside her apartment. When details of the murder emerged, people were horrified to learn that over 30 witnesses had been present at the time of the crime, yet not one responded to the woman’s cries for help. While it is easy to criticize these people, research reveals that such behavior is far from uncommon. What could possibly cause such callousness?
The causes of the bystander effect are deep and complex and only just beginning to be understood more fully. For many years, the cause of this effect was said to be diffusion of responsibility. People simply assumed that someone else would help. However, research is now suggesting there may be more to the story.
Interestingly, it is not diffusion of responsibility alone which leads to the bystander effect, but also the desire to not stand out. Studies showed that when researchers instructed one person to step up and aid the stranger in need, others quickly joined in. It wasn’t that these people didn’t want to help or that they were passing the buck (although I’m sure this was the case for some); they were either too embarrassed to step out, or unsure if they should. An article on VeryWell.com described this as the need to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways, stating, “When other observers fail to react, individuals often take this as a signal that a response is not needed or not appropriate.”
This is quite revealing for the issue of bullying amongst children. If we as adults care so much about what other people think that we will not reach out and help in an important situation, how much more will children, who are still learning who they are, care about what others think? How much more difficult will it be for them to stand out from the crowd?
This additional facet of the bystander effect tells us that we must approach the issue in a new way. We don’t need to keep telling kids bullying is wrong—they know that. We don’t need to keep telling them they should help others—they know that too. We need to get them from point A: knowing that they need to help, to point B: actually helping. How do we do this?
First, we must help students recognize the problem. Students may know they don’t want to intervene when they see someone being bullied, but they may not be able to explain why. Sometimes it’s easier to recognize a behavior in someone else. Show students clips from the bystander effect studies. Talk about what happened and why it happened. Then, connect the situation to bullying. How are the scenarios the same? How are they different? How would the students have behaved if they were in the video? If they saw someone being bullied?
It’s important to remind the students that the point of this exercise is not to shame anyone, it is simply to become more aware of a problem, the role we play in that problem, and why, so together we can begin moving towards a solution.
Second, we must help students practice being upstanders. One reason people do not step in and help others is because they are not sure what to do or they forget in the heat of the moment. Give kids the skills they need to step in and then practice those skills until they become second nature. Be sure to provide multiple solutions to fit the different personalities of your students. Role play different scenarios and talk through any fears. The more we practice something, the less frightening it becomes.
Third, practice observance. It’s easy to become so absorbed in our own lives that we don’t even notice when those around us are in distress. Teach students the subtle signs of bullying and encourage them to be watchful for those in need.
Finally, provide examples of helpers. Many people do not step up out of fear of looking weird or awkward. Show your students that standing up for others makes them leaders, not losers.
The bystander effect reveals a harsh reality of human nature. However, it also reveals the potential for good inside everyone. While the people in the bystander studies did not help initially, they were quick to help as soon as someone else led the way. It just takes one person, one act of bravery, to inspire bravery and goodness in others. The bystander effect is real, but it is not insurmountable. With careful education and awareness, it is possible to turn bystanders into leaders that will change the world for the better.
Books are excellent tools for helping children build empathy and become upstanders! This is A. Blob is a masterfully illustrated picture book suitable for children ages 4-8. Written by Lori Kefalos, author of several award-nominated animated shorts, This is A. Blob is the first of a series following this bully. This first installment follows the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that there might be more to A. Blob than meets the eye. Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another. The book demonstrates that a bully can come in any shape, size, or color and encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of summer, I think of blockbuster films. I’m instantly transported back to warm summer nights at the drive-in, sitting under the stars and watching epic stories unfold. As a child, it felt like I could be and do just about anything as I watched those fantastic characters dance across the screen.
As we discussed in an earlier blog, while filled with many wonderful things, summertime can also be filled with bullying and unkindness. Even during the summer months, it is important to continue working on building kindness and empathy. This doesn’t mean fun has to take a backseat, though! There are plenty of ways to build social/emotional skills while enjoying all your favorite summertime activities—including going to the movies!
One fun new movie that recently hit theaters is an animated film called The Secret Life of Pets. In this movie, we humans are given a rare glimpse into what our pets think and do when we aren’t around. Children get to see how their animals might feel when they get left at home and how they might react when placed in a difficult scenario, providing the perfect opportunity to begin a conversation about empathy and the importance of considering the thoughts and opinions of others.
Inspired by the movie, I decided to create another movie-based empathy-building activity called:
The Secret Life Of…
In The Secret Life of Pets, we get to look at life through the eyes of our pets. This activity takes it one step further and allows children to step into the shoes of any character they like best!
Step 1: Choose a character
Have your child pick a character from a book or movie. This can be any character, however, it works best if children choose someone they have seen or read about recently.
Step 3: Tell the story
Keeping in mind the details outlined in the previous step, write out the character’s backstory using the first person perspective. The story should include details from the movie or book, but also fill in gaps that were not included in these tales. When writing the story, children should be sure to include how their character feels about the things that happen to him or her and why he or she chose to do certain things. For younger children, you may pick specific scenes or events for them to focus in on while older children may be given more free reign to explore character’s story and choices.
Again, you may get as creative as you like with this step. Stories may be illustrated, acted out, told completely in Tweets, or recorded in a diary!
Step 4: Continue the story
Create several different scenarios, with everything from bullying scenarios to everyday classroom situations, or even extending a scene from the character’s movie or book. How would your child’s character respond and why? What thoughts would run through their head? How would they feel?
As your children imagine their character’s responses, they are practicing, not only how to respond to different situations, but also putting themselves into the shoes of others.
Have conversations about why your children’s characters would respond the way they do. Ask if this is different than how they themselves would respond. Open up about how you would respond, as well. By the end of the activity, your children will have experienced at least three different thought processes, reactions, and responses to the exact same scenario.
So there you have it! A fun, simple little lesson in empathy that your children will think is just playtime! And really, aren’t learning and playing the same things?!
Would you try this activity at home? Which character would you choose? Let us know in the comments!
This is A. Blob is a masterfully illustrated picture book suitable for children ages 4-8. Written by Lori Kefalos, author of several animated shorts, including “Who’s that Knocking,” “Chug,” and “Croc, Pots and Wildebeests,” which was nominated for Best Independent Short Short, Ages 5-8, at the 2009 Kid’s First Film Festival and for best short at The Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival, This is A. Blob is the first of a series following this bully.
This first installment follows the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that A. Blob may have more than meets the eye.
Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another. The book encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help.
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.