If you look up “the steps of problem solving” on Google, nearly every expert will tell you that the first step is to ‘define the problem’. While this may seem almost insultingly obvious, it's a step that is easily and often skipped.
As an example, let’s say your coworker arrives late every single day. What is the problem? The most basic answer? She’s late, of course! Lateness is the problem. Or is it?
What if, instead, lateness is actually a symptom of the true problem?
When rephrased this way, the issue--and the resulting solution--becomes far more complex. If the true problem is traffic, solutions could include going to bed earlier to make it easier to wake up earlier and beat traffic, or finding an alternate route to work. If, however, the true problem is that your coworker is dealing with a negative family situation that keeps her up late, disrupts the sleep, and delays her each morning, finding a backroads route to work will do little to solve her problem.
Defining the problem--the true problem--is the first step to good problem solving. This is just one of several reasons that schools, parents, students, and educators struggle with defeating bullying. Like the situation with your coworker, the question 'what is bullying?' is deceptively complex. Conflicts and teasing get mislabeled as bullying and true bullying is too often mislabeled as teasing or a conflict. Until the problem of bullying is well defined, students will continue to struggle to enact solutions.
To help you and your students tackle step 1 of solving the problem of bullying, we’ve put together this fun cut-and-sort printable activity. Keep scrolling to grab your free, downloadable copy.
Below is the definition of what bullying is, along with the definitions of 3 situations that are often mislabeled as bullying.
After discussing these 4 situations with your students, work together to decide if the scenarios described on the 'Is it Bullying?' worksheet are bullying, mean, teasing, or conflict, or use the worksheet as independent practice to assess student understanding. This worksheet can also easily be pasted into a notebook for easy reference.
Get Your Free Template!
If you’re looking for picture books to help introduce the concept of bullying, check out the titles below:
November 1st marked the beginning of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal: to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November. While this may sound like a daunting task, the organization that founded the challenge all the way back in 1999 doesn’t expect--or even want--you to do it alone. A cornerstone of their philosophy is the power of community. Now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, they offer tools, goals, networking, mentoring, and more to encourage writers of all stages to, well, write!
If you’re one of the brave souls who has decided to take on this challenge (or anyone working on a piece of writing), then you are probably well acquainted with the dreaded “Blank Page Syndrome”. October may have prepared you to be scared of ghosts and ghouls, but no one told you that the most frightening thing you would have to deal with would be a black cursor flashing judgingly on a blank word document.
‘I think writer’s block is when you say to yourself, “I could write something, but it wouldn’t be good enough.” There’s no such thing as a complete inability to write a sentence.’
-Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert
Writer’s block is something every writer has faced. Not even the greats can outrun that looming phantom. The good news? There are plenty of tips available to help you to conquer your fear and get down to writing. Today, we will share 10 ways to face the blank page with confidence.
1. Try Drawing
Sure, not everyone is an artist, but just about anyone can pull out a stick figure or two. If you are struggling to put your scene into words, try drawing it out instead. It can be quick sketches or even simple swaths of color defining the moods and emotions you want to convey. A book is made of words, but words are not what you see when you read. Instead you see sinister characters inching closer to the protagonist, fields bathed in morning light, and flowers sparkling with the evening dew. If you aren’t sure how to build your world with words just yet, create it visually first.
2. Use Comic Sans
This next tip certainly falls into the “strange but true” category. Despite its seeming absurdity, countless writers swear by the technique of switching their font over to comic sans. There is no exact scientific explanation for this phenomenon, though multiple theories have been offered up. One blogger suggests that the font’s purposefully distinct letters make reading and re-reading smoother and more entertaining. She also shares that the letter shapes help to melt words together so that she is able to view her lines as one cohesive whole rather than individual sentences that need picked apart.
Another writer chalks the productivity increase up to the disarming quality of the childlike font. How can you be judgemental of something that looks like it was written by a 2nd grader?
Whether there is a science to it or the placebo effect, there are enough positive testimonials to warrant a try!
3. Start with something easy
They say the best way to get over writer’s block is to just write--easier said than done. If you’re feeling lost or intimidated by where to begin, write something you know you can write with ease. Put a twist on an old fairy tale or rewrite a scene from your favorite sitcom from the perspective of one of the characters. Get your creative juices flowing and show your inner critic that you CAN write and you’ll likely find yourself revving to begin your new piece.
4. Stop when you are going good
This next tip applies more to general writer’s block than to beginning a piece of writing, but it was such great advice, we knew it had to make the list. It comes from one of America’s greatest writers, Ernest Hemingway.
In a 1935 article in Esquire ( "Monologue to the Maestro: A High Seas Letter") Hemingway offered this advice to a young writer:
"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it."
Most of the time, getting started is the most difficult part of writing. By stopping while you are still in the middle of something you are excited about, you will always begin your next writing session with enthusiasm.
5. Interview Your Characters
They say to write what you know, but it is unlikely that Tolkein knew too many Hobbits and Elves personally (though we could be wrong). So how do you get to know people and worlds that don’t exist? The same way you get to know people in real life--talk to them. If you aren’t sure how to begin your story, try writing an interview with your characters instead. Ask them about their likes and dislikes. Ask them about their childhood and goals for the future. What do they think about another character?
The better you understand your characters, the easier it will be to know how they will react to the conflicts you place in front of them, or to create conflicts you would like them see react to.
6. Outline It
This is an oldie-but-goodie. Looking at a blank page can be intimidating for two reasons: (1) you have no idea where you’re going, or (2) you have too many ideas and don’t know where to begin. Creating an outline give you anchors to work towards and provides direction as you write.
Some writers don’t like outlines, fearing that they stifle creativity, but the reality is this is only as true as you make it. Who says once something is in the outline it’s there forever? There is nothing wrong with changing plot points as you go. An outline simply offers a suggestion so that you don’t have to start from zero.
Everyone outlines differently, so try a few methods and see what works for you. Maybe you begin by deciding the 6 major plot points, taking you from the beginning of the story all the way to the end. Or, maybe you prefer to map out your main character’s arc and fill in the action to support that change. There is no right or wrong way. The most important thing is to get something down on the paper. If you hate it, at least you know what not to write!
7. Write Nonsense
Our next tip was sourced from lifehack.org. One primary cause of blank page syndrome is the dreaded inner critic. Each time you make a running start at a sentence, that critic yanks you back, telling you that you’re no good. A simple way to push past this is to write something meaningless. “The cat walked up the tree and sent down an apple. The girl plucked it out of the basket and jumped for joy.” Meaningless. But, words on a page. Sometimes, you just need to get your body into the writing groove.
After 5 minutes or so, write down one line that relates to your piece. Throw in another and another. Once you put start putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys), you'll find it much easier to get down to your real piece.
8. Re-Read a Piece You’re Proud Of
It’s easy to think of yourself as a talentless hack when you’re staring at a blank word document. The next time you feel unworthy to be sitting in front of a keyboard, take a moment to read something you’ve written that you are proud of. Not only will this help put you in a writing mindset, it will remind you that you have written well in the past and can do it again.
9. Write in White
This is a fun trick from Ink Copywriters. Tired of hearing your inner critic? Don’t give her anything to critique! By writing in white, you give yourself license to not only write without overthinking wording, but you avoid stopping to correct every spelling and grammatical error the spell-check points out to you.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Skip
While Maria Von Trapp said that the beginning is a very good place to start, this isn’t always the best path to take. If you are having trouble setting up the beginning of your story, don’t be afraid to jump to another part that you feel more confident about and begin from there. Writing is writing and you can always go back and fill in the blanks later.
We hope you found these tips helpful--or at least a good distraction from that blank page you’ve been staring at!
If you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo, let us know in the comments below so we can cheer you on!
Be an Upstander...It’s a phrase we give to students and encourage regularly--and for good reason. Studies show that 57% of the time, bullying stops within 10 seconds of peer intervention. Students standing up for other students has proven more effective than any other kind of intervention.
However, for a young child, standing up to a bully is anything but easy. In the heat of the moment, things like fear, uncertainty, shyness, and self-consciousness can quickly take over and render the bystander motionless.
Every child is different, which means some upstander strategies may work for one student and not the other. Children are not one-size-fits-all, so why should the strategies we teach them be any different?
In today’s post, we will be sharing instructions for how to put together a personalized Upstander Strategy Handbook with your students so that when they are faced with bullying, they know exactly what to do!
Scroll to the to download the FREE TEMPLATE!
Section 1: Definitions
The first section of the upstander handbook is a quick reference guide for students to help them remember the differences between bullying, joking, mean, and rude behavior so that they know when it is necessary to step in or find help.
This section also highlights the 4 roles in a bullying scenario-- the target, the person who bullies, the bystander, and the upstander--and lists some of the effects each of the behaviors can have on an individual.
Section 2: Upstander Strategies
This is the section of the book where students can really personalize the resource to meet their needs. The first page includes a basic list of upstander strategies that students can flip to for a quick reference. In the following pages, students have the opportunity to list their own personal reasons for being reluctant to intervene in a bullying scenario. As a class, choose a few of the most common reasons for being a bystander and talk through some ways to overcome students' fears.
In the third part of this section, students identify places where they have seen bullying occur. There is space to draw the scenario along with space to write a description of what is happening. Students should choose an upstander strategy that they think would be appropriate for the scenario described above. If they have any concerns about what might happen if they intervene, they should list those in the space provided.
The next page leaves space for students to draw a new scenario--one where they are an upstander! What do they predict will happen if they try the upstander strategy? How will things change for the better? If they are concerned something might go wrong, how can they prepare?
Space for 3 scenarios is included in the template provided, but students can create as many pages as they desire.
Now, each of your students has a book filled with upstander strategies made just for him or her! The books are small so that they can easily fit into a folder or backpack and be readily accessible if needed.
Would you try this in your classroom? Let us know in the comments!
Like this craft? Check out some of our other bullying prevention activities!
Of all the posts on the Laughing Leopard Blog, one of the most popular by far is our series on integrating bullying prevention across the classroom--and with good reason! Between testing, lunch, recess, core subjects, specials such as art, music, and gym, teachers are pushed to- and sometimes, beyond- the limit on time and resources. Adding one more thing to the schedule, no matter how important, just doesn’t seem possible.
As we contemplated what to share this week for National Bullying Prevention Month, more ideas for integrating bullying prevention into the classroom seemed liked a no-brainer!
In today’s post, we will share a few fun bullying-prevention lessons that can easily be integrated into your current curriculum. While they do not cover every age and subject, we hope these lessons will act as a jumping-off point for your own social-emotional tie-ins.
An important part of being a good writer is understanding what makes your characters tick. By understanding their moods, thoughts, opinions, and personalities, you are able to understand how they would realistically react to conflict and other characters, helping you create a believable and relatable experience for your readers.
This fun writing exercise helps children practice character development, challenging them to rewrite a well-known story from the perspective of a different character. In doing so, they gain greater insight into the character while practicing the process of writing and developing a character themselves.
As students write from the perspective of another, they learn that other people sometimes see the world differently than they do. Everyone has unique experiences and hardships that influence what they do and how they do it. When teaching this lesson, introduce the idea of empathy and encourage your students to spend some time after the assignment journaling their thoughts about the ways their classmates’ perspectives and experiences might be different than their own and how this might influence their personal stories.
Play around with the experiment by placing some of the flowers in water with nutritious plant food and others in a beverage such as coffee. Record the differences and hypothesise what may be the cause.
As you work this experiment with your students, compare the water and beverages to the way others treat us. The words and actions of others can affect our health, both mental and physical, just like the water and its nutrients determine the health of the plant. When we are fed negative words, they don’t just bounce off. Like the water, they become a part of us and impact the way we see ourselves and the way others see us. Encourage your students to select their words and actions with care and help one another grow with nutritious words of kindness.
History is jam-packed with upstanders, people who saw injustice occurring around them and decided to stand up and do something. History is also, unfortunately, packed with countless bystanders who turned a blind eye or were too afraid to step in, when they witnessed others being harmed. As you teach through these events, take a moment to discuss why people allowed such atrocities to happen, and how others found the courage to take action to stop them.
Relate the events in your history book to real issues the students are dealing with today and talk through ways they can follow in the footsteps of heroes such as Martin Luther King, Miep Gies, or Harriet Tubman. Have students select a history hero and place them in a modern day scenario. How would he or she react and why?
This next project is designed to help students learn more about their peers and come to a better understanding of the meaning of community.
Pair students off and have them interview one another. What do they like to do and why? What are they good at? What is something not many people know about them? Next, students will draw a portrait of their partner that reflects what they have learned. In the background they should include colors, items, and experiences described by their partner.
For a project with a shorter time window, assign each student a word. Some of the words should be kind, others mean. Students will then paint a visual representation of their assigned word. Once complete, have each student share his or her painting with the class, explaining their artistic choices.
Following the presentations, open a discussion on words. While we cannot see them, we all clearly understand that words carry emotions, influence, and power. As we speak to those around us, we must be careful with how we wield these tools.
On the surface, it may seem that math has little to no connection to bullying prevention; however, the world of numbers and figures can do a lot to teach teamwork and togetherness.
One fun game to play is “Same but Different”. This game gives children practice in going back and forth between fractions and decimals as well as practice in simplifying fractions.
To play, pass out a stack of cards to each student. The cards will have either a fraction or a decimal number on the front. Students must then go around the room and find the people with cards representing the same quantity. This includes students with variations of the same fraction (½ and 2/4 for example).
Here is where the social-emotional learning begins. Once a student finds a number partner, they must find one thing they have in common with that person and write it on the back of their card. By the end of class, your students will have practiced their fractions and decimals and also learned more about their classmates. Talk about how, though we all look different on the outside, there is a lot we have in common, just like the fractions and decimals. We are all people with thoughts, feelings, and experiences. We all have happy memories and sad memories. We all have hopes and fears. More often than not, we can find at least one thing we have in common with those around us. As we interact with one another, remember to treat each other as we would want to be treated.
Let us know if you try any of these activities in your classroom and how they worked for you! If you’re looking for more ways to integrate bullying prevention into your classroom, check out the blogs below.
It’s October, which means it’s also National Bullying Prevention Month! This month, we join with communities all over the country to raise awareness about bullying and equip schools and families with the tools to prevent it. Today, 1 in 5 children between the ages of 12 and 18 experience bullying. Sadly, the effects of such treatment can last a lifetime.
In 2006, PACER’S National Bullying Prevention Center founded National Bullying Prevention Month, initially as a one day event, to bring awareness to this national epidemic and begin working towards a solution. The event took off and became so popular that in 2010, PACER expanded it to encompass an entire month of activities. Today, thousands around the nation rally together each October to continue the crusade for kindness.
Books can be powerful tools to help us see life from the perspective of others, begin conversations, and broach serious topics in an approachable manner. This month, we hope to help you harness the tool of literature by sharing a few of our favorite book-based crafts and activities that broach the topic of bullying. We’ll also include a few ideas for ways to integrate bullying prevention into what you are already doing each day.
Today, we tackle the issue of bystanding--what should you do when you see bullying occurring. Or, a better question, what can you do? Standing up for what is right is rarely easy. This fun and simple craft helps children confront and discuss their concerns about standing against bullying and empowers them with tactics they feel comfortable with.
This craft is paired with the picture book, A. Blob on a Bus, by L.A. Kefalos, but could easily be used with other books on bullying.
I CAN BE AN UPSTANDER
Children learn positive ways to be upstanders
Step 1: Read A. Blob on a Bus out loud
Step 2: Begin a discussion on the importance of treating one another with respect and standing up for others.
Why do you think it took so long for anyone to stand up to A.Blob? What do you think would have happened if no one had said anything to A.Blob? What are some helpful ways to stand up to bullying? What are some unhelpful ways to stand up to bullying?
Step 3: Sometimes people don’t intervene when they see someone else being hurt because they don’t know what to say or do.. Today we are going to talk about some positive and helpful ways we can stand up to bullying, encourage others, and make our community a safe, welcoming place.
Begin by asking the students to offer suggestions of ways to stand up to bullying. Some ideas include:
Expand the list to acts of kindness that students can do to make their community a better place:
Step 5: Hang the pictures up around the classroom as a reminder that the students CAN impact their communities for the better!
Will you be participating in Bullying Prevention Month? If so, share how in the comments!
If you liked this craft, check out these activities, designed to help children be upstanders!
Fall is here and the leaves are beginning to, well, fall! What better time to turn over a new leaf or, as this craft will illustrate, a new attitude?
When it comes to the issue of bullying, children often feel powerless, believing their actions don’t count. However, as we see in L.A. Kefalos’s picture book, A. Blob on a Bus, it only takes one person to create change--for better or worse!
This fun A. Blob on a Bus companion craft helps children learn that their actions matter. As they work through the discussion questions with their parent, teacher, or leader, children will learn the importance of standing up for others and brainstorm safe, positive ways to be upstanders.
The craft itself serves as a visual reminder of the impact that can be made by the actions of one.
TURNING OVER A GOOD ATTITUDE
Helping children learn that their actions can shape their community
A companion craft to A. Blob on a Bus, by L.A. Kefalos
Step 1: Read A. Blob on a Bus out loud
Step 2: Discuss how the bus changed when A.Blob boarded.
Step 3: Make your transformation craft! Remind students that we all have the responsibility to work together to create a safe, enjoyable community and that they have the power to change their communities for the better! They can be upstanders!
Step 1: Color the pictures on the craft template (you can also wait until everything is cut, glued and dried if students find it confusing to color the pictures while they are apart)
Step 2: Cut out all 6 rectangles
Step 7: Follow steps 2 and 3 with your remaining rectangles and lines. The rectangles will overlap—this is ok!
Step 8: Flip the rectangles to reveal what the bus is like with a bully on board, and what it is like with an upstander on board!
We hope you find this craft helpful and that your students feel empowered to make their community a safer, more positive place! For more fun connection crafts, check out the links below.
The A. Blob on a Tour Blog Tour has officially pulled into the station and come to an end. If you missed one of the stops, don't worry--we'll make sure you reach your destination! Each of the stops on the tour to celebrate the launch of A. Blob on a Bus, the second book in L..A. Kefalos's picture book series, is linked below.
If you would like to pick up your own copy of A. Blob on a Bus or the first book in The Blob Series, This is A. Blob, head over to the Laughing Leopard store! Each book comes with a FREE Material Discussion Guide for teachers, parents, and leaders that is filled with lesson plans, discussion questions, and connection crafts designed to help children end bullying and become upstanders.
Making an impact. It’s something we all strive towards, especially when talking about bullying. Research states that 1 in 5 children experience bullying and making an impact on this statistic is something towards which teachers, parents, and leaders have been working for many years. Along with equipping students with tools to deal with conflict and emotion from a young age so that they do not become bullies, educators have striven to also provide tools to those adjacent to the bullying--the bystanders.
While studies show that 20% of children are bullied, it also reveals that nearly 71% of children witness bullying. The encouraging news is that 57% of the time, that bullying ends within 10 seconds of peer intervention. This means that a large population exists which can be leveraged as a force for good.
But what happens when standing up to bullying (often referred to as being an upstander) goes wrong? Like fighting fire with fire, things can quickly go from bad to worse. While standing up to bullies is vital, doing so through the use of violence, mocking, or returning the bullying will only cause more trouble. So, as we teach children to be upstanders, it is just as important to teach them how to be upstanders.
In the picture book A. Blob on a Bus, by L.A. Kefalos, we once again meet A. Blob, the purple bully introduced in the 3-book series inaugural book, This is A. Blob. In this new tale, A. Blob is back to its bullying ways and, for a while, it seems like the children will never be able to ride the school bus in peace. That is, until one brave girl decides to take a stand. A. Blob on a Bus introduces the idea of being an upstander to young readers and opens the door for conversations on what to do when they see bullying occur. The companion craft below is designed to help leaders begin discussions about why it is important to stand up to bullying along with how to do this in a positive way.
The kids will love making their own "A. Blobs" and you will love the learning happening along the way!
MAKING AN IMPACT
A companion craft for A. Blob on a Bus, by L.A. Kefalos
Step 1: Read A. Blob on Bus out loud
Step 2: Open a discussion about the story. How did A. Blob’s presence change the environment of the bus? If no one liked the way A. Blob was behaving, why did it take so long for anyone to stand up to it? What are some helpful ways to stand up to others? What are some not-so-helpful ways?
Step 3: Craft time! As you make the craft, continue the discussion on being an upstander.
Begin mixing your ingredients. As you mix, talk about some of the “ingredients” that create a bully. Why do some people bully others? Talk about what it means to have empathy and why it’s important to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Even though some people bully others because they have been bullied or hurt themselves, does that make their behavior ok?
The school bus before and after A. Blob's arrival. Which bus would you rather be on?
-Images from A. Blob on a Bus, by L.A. Kefalos, illustrated by Jeffrey Burns
Using examples from the book, remind children that the way we treat one another has an impact on them and the situation. We have the power to change and so it is important to stand up against bullying, even when we aren’t the ones being bullied. We must be upstanders, not bystanders!
However, there are helpful ways to be upstanders, and not-so-helpful ways. When we react to bullying with more bullying, the problem only becomes worse. Show the students how when we hit the mixture, it becomes hard and resistant. However, when we treat it gently, it is soft and pliable. Discuss positive ways to stand up against bullying.
If you use this craft in your classroom or home, we’d love to see! Tag us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and use the hashtag #ABlobCraft.
Welcome to day 5 of the A. Blob on a Tour blog tour, celebrating the release of A. Blob on a Bus, by L.A. Kefalos! Today the bus stops at the Library Lady's Kid Lit blog! Along with reviewing L.A.'s newest picture book, Jane--AKA The Library Lady--interviewed L.A. to give us the inside scoop on everything from L.A.'s favorite genre to read to what inspired her to write A. Blob on A Bus.
In addition to keeping up her blog, which reviews books for all ages, Jane is also a children's librarian! Thank you to Jane for joining the tour!
Check out her interview with L.A. over on Library Lady Kid Lit!
Thank you for joining us on the A. Blob on a Tour blog tour! We hope you've had fun, learned more about A. Blob on a Bus and the important message it has to share, and have added some new bloggers to your blog roll. We would love to hear YOUR thoughts on A. Blob on a Bus and to see how you use it to combat bullying and raise up UPSTANDERS! Visit Amazon to pick up your own copy and be sure to tag us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with your thoughts.
Welcome to day 2 of the A. Blob on a Tour blog tour, celebrating the release of A. Blob on a Bus, by L.A. Kefalos! Today the bus stops at the Mom Read It blog! In addition to being a mom and blogger, Rosemary is also a children's librarian who shares her thoughts on a wide range of kid lit, covering everything from YA to picture books.
Rosemary also loves comics and writes about comic books, pop culture, and books for adults on her second blog On Wednesdays, We Wear Capes. Keep up with her on her blogs or over on Twitter at @roesolo.
A big THANK YOU to Rosemary for joining the tour and helping us to share the message of A. Blob on a Bus! To read Rosemary's blog tour blog, head over to Mom Read It!
Don't miss the bus! The A. Blob on a Bus Blog Tour continues Friday on the Library Lady's Kid Lit Blog! Head over there to check it out, or check in here where we will be posting links to all the stops along the tour!
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.