“Hello! My name is Mrs. Smith and this is ___...”
It’s a phrase I am sure many of us have heard on multiple occasions. We meet a new person and then she introduces us to her friend, giving a name followed by a quick, descriptive tidbit about her, such as “This is Jane, my assistant teacher. She’s been just great building the art program this year.”
Unfortunately, with so many new faces to meet, we rarely move too far beyond this initial elevator speech. Even more regrettably, this issue isn’t restricted to the adult world. The same situation often occurs with children who prefer to stick to those students they know rather than find new playmates. While it may seem harmless, such surface-based relationships often lead to misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and even bullying. It’s a lot harder to hate or hurt someone when you actually know them; when they are more than a face and a label.
This is why we have created the “This is…” Project.
Inspired by the picture book This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos, the “This is…”Project is a fun and easy way to build relationships and discourage exclusion in a group environment. While it’s designed for classrooms or large groups, any two people can try it!
Here's what you’ll need:
Begin by reading the picture book, This is A. Blob by L.A. Kefalos as a class. As the title suggests, this book explores the labels others use to define us, as well as the way our actions define ourselves. In the book, the narrator opens by stating “This is A. Blob. A slimy, purple gob.” Throughout the rest of the picture book, the narrator uses different words to describe A. Blob, such as “punk” and “thug”.
Vivid illustrations of A. Blob punching and sliming children on the playground drive these descriptions home. As the story progresses, however, the narrator reveals a different side to A. Blob, now using just one word to describe it--“lonely”. Images of A. Blob staring at a wall and sitting alone on the playground hint that there may be more to A. Blob than meets the eye.
When reading This is A. Blob as a class, pause after the first description of A. Blob. What do the students think of this character? What assumptions do they make? Why? Write these thoughts down on the chalkboard. Encourage them to really dig deep in their observations. For example, A. Blob likes to play catch and it does NOT like green or pink!!
After each additional description, add assumptions to the list. At the end of the story, have students observe how their perceptions have changed. Ask students: What do they think of A. Blob now? How have their opinions changed and why?
Next, discuss how assumptions about A. Blob could have been avoided. Could they spend time with A. Blob? Ask it questions? How would the story be different if the other children in the story had done this? Begin discussing questions students might want to ask A. Blob to help them understand it better. Some of these questions will be used later in the project as questions for students to ask one another.
*An important note to make is that, while we have a better understanding of why A. Blob acts in the way he does, it is never ok to hurt another person, either physically or emotionally. As a class, discuss the differences between compassion and condoning.*
Now that the students understand the danger of making assumptions and labels, explain how this lesson translates into the classroom. Ask them, how well do they really know their classmates? Could some of the things they think they know be wrong? Remind them that when they started reading This is A. Blob, they thought they knew just what A. Blob was. They thought they knew its character. In the end, though, the story was more complex. It’s the same with people. Like icebergs, there is so much more beneath the surface.
The Project: This is…
Just as in Kefalos’ book, we often put people into boxes: “This is Jon, a soccer player. This is Kelly, a nerd. This is A. Blob, a bully…” The goal of the “This is…” project is to take control of the “This is…” statement and, rather than allowing it to be the opening of an unfair, blanket statement, turn it into a gateway to real understanding.
To get started, divide the class into pairs by randomly choosing names out of a hat. Next, have each child interview their partners. This part of the project can differ depending on the amount of time you have and the age of the participants. These questions should go beyond “what’s your favorite subject in school” Here are some sample questions:
If you have the time and can get parents on board, extend the project for a couple weeks. Have partners visit each other’s favorite places, look through family photos, eat lunch together, or even volunteer together. At the end, each partner will write up a small report along with a drawn or printed picture featuring their partner and some of the facts that have been learned about them. I have inserted a template here, but you can feel free to get as creative as you like! Each partnership will then present their findings to the class.
Once the projects are complete, have students reflect. What did they learn about their classmates that they didn’t know before? What about their partner surprised them? Did they discover they had previously made some false assumptions? How will this project impact the way they treat and interact with others?
At the end of the presentation, put all of the projects on display under the heading “This is…Our Class”
I hope this project provides you with a fun way to break down walls and build deeper relationships in your classroom! Let us know if you try it out! What are some other ways to discourage assumptions and build community? 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.
A New Year, A New Approach to Bullying Prevention: How Setting Small Goals Can Make A BIG Difference-Part II
Last week we talked about a quote from Stephen Covey and how it can be applied to bullying prevention. Covey stated: “If you want to achieve something you’ve never achieved before, you have to do something you’ve never done before.” In the past 15 years, we have seen an encouraging increase in awareness of the true dangers of bullying. However, bullying continues to be a significant problem in schools today. In last week’s post, I posed the question: can Covey’s theory be applied to bullying prevention? If we approach bullying in a new way, would we see new results? I believe the answer is YES.
It’s not uncommon for schools to set goals for their students, including the goal to END BULLYING! This is a noble, if not large, goal. However, it’s somewhat vague. Though they’re young, children can and should set BIG goals, but it’s important that we help them to break those larger goals down into smaller, measurable short term goals. To help get you on your way to achieving things you’ve never achieved before, this week I will be sharing 6 specific, measureable goals to creating a bully free environment!
1. The Goal: A Word A Day: This may sound simple and perhaps even cliché, but words truly have incredible power. Set the goal to say one kind thing to someone each day. Encourage students to use their words of kindness on someone they don’t know very well and to think outside the box, going beyond external compliments, such as “I like your shoes!” Of course, such compliments are always lovely to receive, but we want to raise children that are able to see a multitude of good qualities in their peers, not only what’s on the outside
As a class, come up with a list of unique compliments, such as “you are kind” “you were brave today when you volunteered to solve that problem in front of the class” “You have good taste in books” or “you have a great imagination”.
The Measurement: There are many ways to measure progress on this goal and, depending on the time you have available and the learning style of your students, you can choose one or all of them. For visual learners, create a word board where students can write words of kindness they spoke or received. If you want to keep things more anonymous, or would just like to get into more detail, have your students write in a journal for 10 minutes (or however much time you can set aside) reflecting on the progress of their goal. You can write back to them and guide them as they move forward. If you are short on time (and who isn’t??), you could do something as simple as have a checklist of daily goals, including speaking a word of kindness, that students fill out at the end of the day. Meet with students one on one occasionally to chat about how they’re doing and how they can improve.
2. The Goal: Including others: It’s easy to stick with the same group of people, but this can sometimes leave others left out and alone. Set the goal to include someone new in at least one activity each week. This could be as simple as inviting someone to sit at the lunch table or could go as far as inviting a new friend over to play. To keep students accountable and avoid getting lost in a sea of vagueness, have your children write down a specific activity at the beginning of the week. It can be the same for the whole class or vary by individual.
The Measurement: Depending on the age of your students, this is a great opportunity to explore their creativity and integrate some other subject lessons along the way. Younger children could draw a picture of their experience while older students could write it out in story fashion, practicing writing and storytelling skills.
Keeping a journal is also always useful to track progress while simultaneously building writing skills. Encourage students to write about their expectations for new experience beforehand and then reflect on the actual experience later, comparing and contrasting the reality to the belief. This is a fantastic exercise to reveal some of our preconceived notions and to help students learn that there is usually more to most people than meets the eye.
3. The Goal: Thinking about words and their effects: We’ve all experienced that moment where we said something out of hurt or anger without really thinking. We’ve probably all been on the receiving end of that experience, as well. Set the goal as a class to become more mindful of the words that we say and the effect that they have on others. If you feel like getting creative, make bracelets as a class and wear them as a reminder to think before speaking.
The Measurement: As with the previous goals, keeping a journal is a fantastic way to remain accountable and track progress. As they reflect on their days, encourage students to pay special attention to the words they spoke and received and to consider the effects of those words, as well as why they may have been spoken.
Since the goal is to become more aware of all words and their effects, encourage students to write down their observations of conversations outside of their own, as well as their personal interactions. What do characters on T.V. say? How do other characters react? How do the words of the characters affect the viewer? At the end of the journal entry, have students write down what they learned from the reflection and what they will do to make tomorrow’s interactions better. Are they becoming more aware of the power of words?
4. The Goal: Become an Upstander. Studies show that bullying behavior ended within 10 seconds of peer intervention 56% of the time. Standing up to bullying lets the bully know his or her behavior is not ok, provides strength in numbers, and lets the victim know he or she is not alone. However, standing up can also be very scary. As a class, discuss why people might be afraid to take a stand against bullying and work through those fears.
After a while, I would encourage you to take parts of the script away. Provide lines for the bully, but have the victims and bystanders improvise their responses. At the end of the role play session, have students reflect on how they think they did and what they could have done differently. That is their goal for the next week.
The Measurement: Before beginning the above discussions and training, have students fill out a survey detailing whether or not they would stand up to a bully, how they might react to a bullying situation, and the reasoning behind their thoughts and actions. At intervals throughout the year, give the survey again and see what progress has been made. Do students feel more prepared? Are they exhibiting less fear? What areas still need improvement? At the end of each role-play session, have a short discussion to assess whether or not the students changed what they wanted to change from the previous week.
5. The Goal: Increasing Kindness. This is a fun and simple one. Kindness is contagious and can go a surprisingly long way towards ending bullying. It’s a lot harder to be mean to someone who is consistently kind to you, and a child is less likely to bully when his or her emotional needs are being met. As a class, come up with a list of acts of kindness that can be achieved throughout the year. Some can be broad, such as opening the door for the person behind you, and some can be specific, such as choosing a random student in the class and bringing him or her a special treat or writing a kind note.
The Measurement: There are many ways to count your random acts of kindness. Here is an idea borrowed from the book Service Learning in the Pre K-3 Classroom, by Vickie E. Lake, Ph.D, and Ithel Jones, Ed.DA . Lake and Jones suggest drawing out goals to help younger children to visualize what they would like to accomplish. For example, on strips of paper, have the students draw a variety of random acts of kindness they would like to achieve. As they accomplish the acts, move the strip of paper from one side of the board to the other. At the end of each week, students can count how many goals have been met and create a paper chain with the strips. As the acts of kindness grow, so will the chain, providing a concrete measure of achievement.
6. The Goal: In My Shoes. Bullying is sometimes the result of a lack of understanding or a lack of empathy. To build these skills, set the goal of learning more about everyone in the classroom by the end of year. One way to do this is to name a “student of the week” (or student of the day, depending on how many students you need to get through or the length of your school year). The goal of the week is to learn more about that student by the end of the week than you did at the beginning. Set a goal of how many new things the class should learn about that student. Throughout the week, students may ask the student of the week questions to get to know him or her better.
Encourage students to sit with the student of the week at lunch or play together at recess. To avoid bombarding that student, be sure to set boundaries such as: no swarming the student of the week, no talking during class time, etc. For shyer students, interactions could take place through letters, as well. Encourage the children to learn through observation as well as conversation. For example, “I observed Sophie during recess and learned that she is very good at kickball.” Make it clear that all observations and interactions are to be kind and be on the lookout for any negative interactions.
The Measurement: Provide students with a sheet of paper with two columns. One column will be labeled “What I know about BLANK” and the other “What I want to know about BLANK”. At the end of the week, write the new observations on the board and count them up. Did you reach your goal?
Though some of these ideas may seem unrelated to bullying, remember that we are trying to break the abstract “end bullying” into more tangible, concrete goals that will create habits of kindness so that bullying is no longer a go-to action for children. These goals strive to dig in and address the root causes of bullying as well as to instill habits of kindness and spirits of empathy. A good deal of bullying occurs in schools, right under the noses of teachers. We want to train children that will choose kindness, even when there are no rules telling them they have to.
As you work through these goals with your students or children, help them to understand how these smaller, short term goals can help them to reach a larger, long term goal. In addition to the measurement tools outlined above, there are many more fun, creative ways to do this! You can create charts, timelines, or even use computer programs to track your progress. Students could use observation, surveys, interviews, and a variety of other techniques to learn if their short term goals are helping them to reach their long term one.
Would you try these goals in your classroom? What new approaches to bullying prevention would you like to try in the new year? How will you measure progress? Let us know in the comments!
Did you know reading is a great way to begin building empathy? This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos is just the thing! With its rhyming verse, vibrant illustrations, and unique view of the bully, this picture book will encourage children to put themselves in the shoes of another and help them to understand that bullies come in all shapes and sizes. This is A. Blob provides the perfect way to begin conversations about bullying at a young age—before problems become too severe.
It’s Picture Book Month!!
For the entire month of November we get to officially celebrate the often underrated art of combining words with illustrations to create a magical dynamic that impacts readers in a way no other medium can. The picture book, unlike any other form of literature, invites readers to analyze, not just the words in the story, but also the images on the page. With their shorter prose and beautiful images, picture books are often the first taste of the world of books that young people get. They gently introduce difficult topics, speak complex truths simply, and bring to life worlds and characters we could never imagine.
Yes, picture books are fantastic for kids and -- let’s admit it -- we all have at least one favorite picture book sitting on our shelves that we like to page through every now and then. I know I do, and I’m not alone.
Picture book author/illustrator Molly Idle writes,
“Picture books are a mirror. A magic mirror. For picture books can show us, not only reflections of ourselves, but reflections of other people and places too. They can show us reflections of the past, the present and the future. Reflections of the possible and the impossible. The real, and the imagined…And in all of those reflections, we see ourselves.”
(Check out the Picture Book Month Website to read even more quotes from your favorite authors on why they believe picture books are important!)
Sadly, picture books are often brushed aside as “beginner books”. Many people believe that a child still reading picture books after the age of 8 must be stunted in some way. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Picture books are fantastic tools for introducing difficult or complex topics, encouraging reluctant readers, building analytical skills in readers of all ages, and growing observational skills, in addition to just being fun! Thankfully, thanks to recent studies, more and more people are beginning to realize the incredible value packed into the pages of the picture book. Author Debbie Ridpath Ohi wrote an excellent blog post that discusses this value and the many benefits of picture books in greater depth over on her site, inkygirl.com.
Another frequently overlooked detail about picture books is the incredible amount of collaboration that goes into their creation. Occasionally a brilliant author/illustrator/marketer appears on the scene, but this is rare. Typically, there is an author, illustrator, and publisher working together to make a story come to life. Pictures and text must work seamlessly to capture the most important essence of the page, revealing the depth of character and the tone of the story. Every line and every color is carefully chosen to ensure the message is communicated properly. Once completed, a marketer must identify the proper audience and find ways to connect that audience with the books that they enjoy.
It is teamwork, from beginning to end.
The idea of a lone author madly typing away in solitude cannot exist in this situation.
This collaborative quality, combined with the inherent power for teaching inside each picture book, makes this genre a fantastic instrument for integrating bullying prevention into the classroom (For more great ideas on integrating bullying prevention into other areas of the classroom, check out last month’s blog).
Not only do they offer an easy gateway into the discussion of a difficult topic and leave room for expansion, their collaborative nature provides an opportunity to discuss the value of teamwork and the bringing together of different talents to meet a common goal. Here is a simple project integrating bullying prevention education that you can do with your students of all ages using picture books:
An added bonus is that this project will open the door for students to talk to students about bullying. While they may not want to listen to what an adult has to say, they may be more open to the messages of their peers. Books are fun and nonthreatening and often bring together groups and individuals that would not typically meet. As Reddit user “Coolstoryreddit” stated:
“Seeing someone read a book you love is seeing a book recommend a person”
Picture books are more than just books. They are more than starter literature. They are examples of the magic that can happen when people work together using their unique gifts to achieve a common goal. This Picture Book Month, grab a picture book off the shelf and capture some of that magic for yourself!
What picture book do you still have on your shelf? What lesson did you learn from a picture book that you still remember today? Share in the comments!
Beyond Bullying Prevention Month: Integrating bullying prevention throughout the classroom, all year long!
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, which means that bullying is a topic T.V shows, magazines, and organizations will be talking about regularly. Schools will have units on bullying prevention and people will participate in runs and walks to raise awareness about the issue. All October, bullying will be on everyone’s minds. This is wonderful! But what happens when October comes to an end?
When the organized festivities stop, does bullying also stop? Sadly, this is not the case. Yet, too often, we hold our bullying prevention assemblies and then move on to math classes, vocabulary tests, and science experiments while the topic of bullying is pushed to the back burner. Many teachers recognize this problem, but are unsure of a solution when there is so much other material that must be covered throughout the school year. But what makes us think we have to choose one or the other? The truth is there are myriad ways to integrate lessons on bullying and bullying prevention directly into other academic lessons already being taught. With a bit of creativity, in fact, this integration can even improve those lessons!
Integrating bullying prevention into other subject matter helps students to see the real-world application of the lessons they are learning.
Math may seem intangible, but the idea of 1 in 3 students being bullied daily is a reality that children can see.
This integration also helps children to see that bullying prevention isn’t just a slogan or something trite they are forced to listen to in school. Bullying is about human relations and this does not end in school, nor do the effects of bullying. By integrating these lessons throughout the classroom, we show that this is a vital topic that can affect every part of life.
To give you some inspiration, here are some ideas for integrating bullying prevention education throughout the classroom. These ideas can be scaled up or down to work with children of all ages:
Art is probably one of the first subjects that comes to mind when trying to integrate bullying prevention. Art can be expressive, therapeutic, or socially active, and from painting to acting to drawing, there is something for everyone. Here are a few ideas for integrating bullying prevention into your art class:
Words have such incredible power for expression, making Language Arts another perfect subject for integration. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Math may seem far removed from bullying, however it is a very helpful tool to help us understand the true effects of bullying. Here are some ways to integrate math and bullying prevention:
Science helps us make sense of the world around us, making it a perfect subject to integrate with bullying prevention education.
Music is a powerful tool for expression and change:
Community and Leadership
Civil engagement is important and should be taught at an early age. Here are some ways to build leadership skills and teach about community involvement while also teaching bullying prevention:
This is another subject with nearly endless possibilities. Below are just a few ideas of many:
Investigate and report on different types of bullying, causes, effects, etc, and report it to the class. This can be used in any subject. Take this opportunity to highlight the importance of seeking out information for one’s self rather than simply believing what one hears or is told. Encourage students to seek out the truth rather than spreading rumors.
Lunch and Recess
Extend the lessons beyond the regular classroom and encourage students to sit with someone new at lunch or learn someone else’s game at recess. Learn games from other cultures and show students how different can be fun and make life more interesting.
I hope these ideas inspired you to integrate bullying prevention education throughout your classroom all year long! Bullying isn’t just something that happens in school and it isn’t something that just happens to children. Bullying can happen anywhere at any time and at any age. By boxing bullying prevention into a single day or a single lesson, we are being unrealistic and doing our children a disservice. Instead, let’s continue this vital lesson throughout the year and connect it to real people and experiences. Rather than just teaching our children about the world, let’s also teach them to change it.
Which of these ideas do you like the most? Do you have any special ways of integrating bullying prevention into your classroom this year? Let us know in the comments!
Looking for a good book to integrate bullying prevention into your classroom? 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 L.A. 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 to it 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
It was a simple idea thought up by a 6th grade teacher while on a bike ride, but it sparked a national movement.
In 2012, 6th grade teacher Eric Johnson noticed increasing meanness among his students. He wanted to rebuild the community his classroom had once enjoyed, but did not want to stand in front of the room and give one more lecture on bullying. Instead, he let his students take the lead.
On a sleepy Monday, as the students began their work, Johnson cleared the whiteboard and showed a video on how to stand up against bullying. The following morning, he wrote one word on the board: meanness.
As the week progressed, Johnson and his students watched more videos and had open discussions, led by the students, about how our words can affect others and define them, as well as ourselves. Together they brainstormed words that could erase meanness and replace it with kindness. At the end of the final day, the whiteboard was filled with a rainbow of kind words, all student written, surrounding the big question “How Do You Want to Be Remembered?”
Following this lesson, Johnson blogged the impact it had in his classroom and the idea spread like wildfire. Teachers around the country adapted the lesson for their own students and within two years, an entire website had been dedicated to the cause of erasing meanness. Today, people from countries all over the world can participate in Worldwide Erase Meanness Pledge Day on September 16th, joining with thousands of others to stand against meanness and stand up for kindness.
To get the full impact of this lesson, visit Johnson’s blog, which he still keeps up today, offering insights and tips for education.
Here is what I love about this activity:
1. It is easy to do regardless of location or budget. The videos are a wonderful addition to the lesson, but the whiteboard activity alone is impactful.
2. It provides an alternative to bullying. We often teach children not to bully and not to be mean, but sometimes we forget to provide them with alternative behavior. Choosing not to bully can stop meanness, but acting with intentional kindness can change lives.
3. It encourages children to draw a connection between their words and the effect of those words in a tangible and unique way. Students are constantly told to be nice, not to bully, and to stand up for one another. However, as we all know, regardless of how important a topic is, once you’ve heard it 100 times, you begin to tune it out, and even become annoyed that you are being forced to hear it one more time. But this lesson is different. In this lesson, the children take an active role in defining meanness, as well as defining kindness. They physically walk up to the board and replace mean words with kind ones. They can visibly see how small actions of both kindness and meanness can quickly add up to create an entire atmosphere of either negativity or positivity.
4. It provides a visual reminder that small words can add up to have a big impact. I think we have a tendency to believe that our words don’t matter that much. We all know that words matter in a conceptual way, but too often forget this in practice. Most of us would never berate someone to their face or outright “bully”, but we don’t always keep track of all our words throughout the day. How often have we called someone an idiot or a jerk? How often have we been short with a cashier? How often have we ranted about another person without taking the time to consider their perspective? You might say, “But they never heard what I said!”, but with each word of meanness, you are training yourself to not think the best of others. You are attaching those negative words to that person. What may have seemed like a minor slip of rudeness to you could have been the final straw in someone’s awful day or terrible self-perception. I think that this lesson created for children can also have a huge impact on adults.
5. It is age-adaptable. As soon as children can speak, they learn words that are both kind and unkind. If they cannot write yet, write the words for them, or have magnetic pictures representing words that they can manipulate.
6. Not every mean word was erased. As much as we would like to believe that meanness and bullying can be completely eradicated, it just isn’t true, and we need to prepare our children for this reality. However, as Eric states in his blog, “… kindness and caring can overwhelm the unkind.”
Sometimes it is the simplest lessons that have the most profound impact, and I believe this lesson definitely fits in that category. The fact that this idea started with one man and has blossomed and spread into a national campaign is a testament in itself to the fact that one person can make difference!
If you love this lesson as much as I do, visit Erasemeanness.org to find the full lesson plan and accompanying resources. You can also join over 30,000 others and pledge to #EraseMeanness today!
The question we'd like you to answer in the comments is:
For another way to open discussion on bullying and meanness with young children, check out our latest release, This is A. Blob.
This is A. Blob is a masterfully illustrated picture book suitable for children ages 4-8. This is A. Blob is the first of a series following 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 may 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 encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help
It's Labor Day!
For some, Labor Day is a day off to relax, maybe barbecue, and enjoy a day,well, not laboring. For others, it is the last hold on summer before school and commitments kick into high gear. But what is Labor Day supposed to mean? I decided to do a bit of research to find out.
According to the U.S Department of Labor: “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” The first Labor Day celebration was held in 1882 in New York City -- a hub of industry and a shining example of the achievements of the working man. In these early days, the holiday was celebrated with a parade showing off various trades and organizations, followed by a festival for the amusement of the workers being honored. Essentially, the day was built to celebrate the working man and to give him or her a much needed day off to show gratitude for the labor which keeps America running.
Labor Day is a day to say “thank you” to America’s laborers, but how many of us take the time to show our thanks? I recently came across an article by Amy of the blog, Teach Mama, describing how she and her family decided to take their day off and make a difference. Inspired by a show on PBS Kids, she decided to make Labor Day, Neighbor Day-- a day filled with helping those nearby and making their day a little bit brighter. I love this idea, not only because it spreads kindness—something we need more of in this world—but also because it brings us back to the original intention of Labor Day—showing our love and gratitude to those around us.
To help with your Neighbor Day celebration, I have created a list of 11 easy ways to show kindness to those right on your own street:
1. Take over a pretty potted plant for them to enjoy or collect a bouquet from your own garden.
2. Mow your neighbor’s lawn—This is probably one of the kindest things you can do as most people dread this chore. Make sure you ask first, though!
3. Place a kind note in their mailbox. It could be a note of encouragement, a compliment on the house or gardening, or even an invitation to have lunch together sometime.
4. Take in their trash cans. This is a chore I always put off for some reason. If you know your neighbors well enough to know where they store their cans and you know they won’t mind you walking up their drive, take a couple extra minutes to bring them up from the curb.
5. Offer to help carry in groceries.
6. Offer to weed your neighbor’s garden.
7. Smile and say hello! This seems simple, but it’s amazing how such a small act can brighten a day! Check out our post from June about National Smile Power Day to learn how a smile really can make a difference!
8. Collect any litter that has accumulated along your street.
9. Pay one of your neighbor’s utility bills while you are paying yours. This idea came from the blog Mom It Forward and I absolutely love it. You never know when someone may be struggling between keeping the electricity on and buying groceries.
10. Make some cookies and bring them over to your neighbor. Now, this is one that may require some previous interaction with your neighbor. For example, you wouldn’t want to make cookies for a neighbor with diabetes or a nut allergy! If you know the person is lonely, bring some lemonade too and offer to stay and chat.
11. Bring over some good books—what better way to share a piece of your heart? For some books that teach the importance of kindness check out our post In A New Light!
These are just a few ideas to get you started! The great thing about each Neighbor Day activity is that each can be done on any day of the year and by someone of any age! What a great way to teach our children that kindness starts at home.
If these ideas get you energized, consider checking out these organizations for even more inspiration:
Small Acts Big Change- This group was actually started by kids and continues to be run by children today! They operate under the belief that small acts of kindness can cause big change in this world and from the results of their work—they’re right! Right now and through the whole month of September, Small Acts Big Change is hosting an entire month of Random Acts of Kindness. Each day they challenge their followers and themselves to complete a certain kindness challenge. Are you up for the challenge??
RandomActsOfKindness.org- An entire website dedicated to random acts of kindness! Check out the website for kindness ideas, stories, and resources for spreading kindness in your school or workplace.
Let us know in the comments how you plan on celebrating Labor Day—or Neighbor Day—this year!
Our latest release, This is A. Blob, by L.A Kefalos illustrates to children what can happen when bullying, instead of kindness, is let loose on the school playground. Find your copy on Amazon.com or at LaughingLeopardPress.com
They’re all the rage these past few years as Marvel unleashes movies in its Avenger’s series. From movies to purses to backpacks and now even to library summer reading programs, it’s hard to miss the superhero sensation! Walking through my local library, looking at the capes and hero emblems decorating the walls, I had to wonder: why are we so captivated by these masked vigilantes? I believe there are two reasons. First, superheroes are ordinary people doing extraordinary things! They are standing up for the little guy and making the world a better place. Superheroes do what we are often too afraid to do ourselves.
The second reason for our superhero fascination is captured in the library’s summer reading tagline: “Every Hero Has a Story”. As much as we love to watch superhuman people perform amazing feats of bravery, we love it even more when we are given a glimpse of their humanity. We appreciate the real-life struggles each hero faces because we see ourselves. We begin to think, “If he can do it, maybe I can too…”
The truth is, there are no superheroes, but there are heroes.
They are ordinary people with ordinary stories who made extraordinary choices.
It is those choices that transform them. This is one of the most important lessons we can instill in our children. Not only can children look up to superheroes, they can BE superheroes! As our children gear up for another school year, this is an especially important message. School is filled with many wonderful things, but it can, unfortunately, also be full of hardships and trials. As hard as they try, teachers cannot be everywhere and situations will arise when children will have to take care of matters themselves. So what can we do to prepare our kids to make the choice to be heroes instead of bullies this school year?
Here is a list of activities to get you started:
1: Act like a hero
Talk with your kids about what makes someone a hero. Why do we look up to heroes? What qualities do we admire and how can we replicate them in our everyday lives? A fun way to visualize this is to create a collage. Have your child cut out pictures of people he or she admires (they don’t necessarily have to be superheroes) along with words that describe that admirable person such as honor, truth, and courage. Help them to see that this is how a hero behaves.
Discuss a few small ways your child can be a hero at school, such as always being respectful and honest with his or her teacher, sitting with someone at lunch who doesn’t have a friend, or refusing to participate in bullying activities. Marvel actually made some awesome special edition comic book covers in support of bully prevention month that show favorite superheroes preventing bullying. These could serve as great inspiration for ways your child can be a hero instead of a bully!
Also be sure to check out an earlier blog post we wrote called In a New Light for some tips and books to prepare your child to deal with bullying.
A quick word of caution: kids are still kids and while it is our job to teach them how to handle life on their own, we need to be sure to let them know when it is time to call for adult backup. Hey, even Batman called for reinforcements sometimes!
2. Talk like a hero
This is a tip I picked up from the fantastic blogger Carrots are Orange. When her children are fighting and the inevitable name calling begins, she asks them the simple question: “Is this how heroes talk? Would a hero say ‘stupid’?” If mean names and insults start flying, recall the hero collages and ask your child if he or she is acting very much like a hero right now. Chances are, they will see their words more clearly.
3. Dress like a hero
4. Be a hero!
With your child, act out different scenarios they might encounter at school, such as one student calling another stupid, gossiping about the teacher, pushing, or being left out at recess. Talk about how a hero would behave in these situations. What are words, phrases, and actions that could help the situation instead of make it worse? Discuss how it probably won’t be easy and it might even be a little scary to speak up and go against the flow. It might be hard to choose kind words over angry ones or to not call names in retaliation, but remind them that
difficult is not impossible.
Especially not for a hero! Remind your child to look down at his or her hero bracelet and choose to be a hero today. And remind him or her that sometimes heroes call for backup. Make a list of adults your child can go to in times of trouble and discuss what those situations might look like. Think of this list as a superhero tool-belt.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you and your child prepare to begin another school year!
To be a real hero today, consider donating to these worthwhile causes that work hard each and every day to end bullying, comfort victims of bullying, and make the world a better place:
Stand For The Silent
Small Acts Big Change
Stomp Out Bullying
Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center
To help young children (ages 4-8) understand the issue of bullying check out This is A. Blob by L.A Kefalos. In a beautifully illustrated tale of a playground bully’s antics, readers discover that A. Blob and, perhaps others like it, may not be exactly what they seem. Through this story, children are encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of another and consider what can be done to help bullies and the victims of bullying.
Let us know in the comments what your secret superhero name would be!
Books are a fantastic way to learn.
As we read, we begin to see ourselves and our own situations through those occurring on the page. Diving into adventures and immersing ourselves into created worlds, we hardly notice that lessons are being taught. Yes, books are an incredible teaching tool, and, as many parents and teachers have learned, the impact books have is compounded exponentially when combined with discussion and/or hands-on connective activities. We know this, so we bring you:
For those who may not know, This is A. Blob is a 20 page illustrated children’s book that explores the topic of bullying. Written by Lori Kefalos, author of several award-nominated animated shorts, This is A. Blob is the first of a series following 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 and encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help.
This is A. Blob Slime is a craft designed to help kids make connections with the story, inspire conversations, and internalize the message of the book. With school just around the corner, this is the perfect craft to begin discussions about the bullying that children will often face as they walk the halls.
We did this craft with 3 different children: One boy, J, age 4, and two girls, S, age 7, and N, age 5.
First, we sat down and read the book together
As we read, we let the children make their own comments, prompting them occasionally with questions such as “How do you think A. Blob is making the children feel?” or “What would you do if you were on the playground?” This started the girls thinking more deeply about the story. After the story was finished, we talked a bit more about bullying and standing up to bullies. It was interesting to see the different personalities of the kids shine through in their reactions—a good reminder that all children view the world differently and as caretakers we must be sensitive to their unique needs as we teach and equip them to face that world.
Both S and N responded right way that A. Blob was a “big meany”. They quickly recognized that this was why it had no friends. S said she would befriend A. Blob because it was lonely and that’s why it was being mean. This is how she would help it to be nice and how she would stop the bullying. N took a more direct approach and stated she would tell A. Blob to “Stop! Just stop being mean!” With the book and conversations fresh in their minds, we moved into the kitchen to begin the craft. They were very excited to make A. Blob!
Step 1: Gather your materials
You will need: 1tsp Borax, ½ C warm water, 1 8oz bottle of glue, 2 nonstick mixing bowls, 2 spoons, food coloring, plastic baggies (This made enough goo for 3 people to have decent sized globs to play with)
Step 2: Mix your ingredients!
-Empty entire bottle of glue into mixing bowl
-Fill empty glue bottle with warm water and pour into bowl with glue; mix
-Add desired color to glue/water mixture
-In the second bowl, mix 1tsp Borax with ½ C warm water
-Slowly add the Borax mixture to the glue mixture. Use hands to finish mixing for best results
As we added our ingredients, we talked about the ingredients that make up a bully. What makes people act mean? I pointed out how, on their own, the ingredients were not sticky, but as they mixed, they created a big gooey blob, like A. Blob. In real life, our harsh words and mean actions mix together and add up to a big, sticky, mean mess that can hurt others badly. This seemed to make sense to them.
Step 3: Play and learn with your slime!
One interesting thing happened that I didn’t expect while we were making the slime and that was role playing. Once the goo was mixed, N picked it up and said “I’m a big mean blob! I’m going to throw punches and be mean!” We didn’t have too much time and the kids were very energetic, but I can see doing this again and having N play out a situation similar to when the girl was mean to her and using the role play to try to understand why she (or the blob) was being mean and what could be done to help the situation.
S made a connection to the book when I didn’t expect it, too. She picked up the goo and let it fall down and said “It has no form or shape”, quoting from the book. This allowed me to mention how liquids will take the shape of whatever container they’re in. Not only is this a scientific principle, it can be connected to the story by saying that maybe if the container is love and friendship, the blob will take on that shape and stop bullying. Isn’t it cool how kids will make their own learning connections that we never even thought of??
Another fun addition N and S thought of was to put faces on the plastic baggies (We put the goo in baggies after we were done playing with it, but if you have a kid who can never keep his craft on the table, putting it in a baggie from the get-go might be helpful!). This way, they could show how the blob was feeling. Neat! You could even have a “before” and “after” blob to show how A. Blob felt and acted before intervention and after.
Always looking for a teaching opportunity, I tried to sneak some science into the craft, too. Because we only had red and blue dye, we were able to reinforce that blue and red make purple. We also talked about how the Borax would react with the glue to make a new substance. We hypothesized about what would happen if we added more water or more Borax. N thought more water would make the mixture “purpler” =)
Overall, all three kids loved doing the craft. It was such a cool way to mix science, literature, and feelings. Reading the story opened up the discussion on bullying and the process of making the craft and playing with the tactile goo was a fun and useful tool to keep that discussion going. We were able to talk about the mean girl, how her actions made N feel, what we can do when we see someone being bullied, different reasons why people bully, and how even mean people (and blobs!) can change. The book and the craft ended up being great, nonthreatening ice breakers for a very difficult topic.
Bonus- the goo wipes off of surfaces very easily
Caution: It will stick to clothes. Make sure the kids are wearing something durable. The glue will wash out, but the food coloring might stain lighter clothing. I would recommend plastic aprons for more energetic children, just to be on the safe side.
As the school year draws near, consider picking up a copy of This is A. Blob and trying the craft out for yourself as a way to prepare your children for the bullying they may confront in class. Get creative and experiment, adding bits to the goo to represent different parts of the bully or writing a storyline for your blob. Share your results with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and let us know in the comments what books or activities you’ve used to introduce and discuss bullying with your kids!
Purchase This is A. Blob from our website or Amazon
While bullying has been an issue for many generations, technological advancements we have today leave people open to threats in the comfort of their own homes. With progress comes challenges and unfortunately cyber-bullying is a byproduct of this. However, this doesn’t mean that other bullying isn’t happening, because it is. Bullying can also happen at school and during extra curricular activities. Bullying can be the cause of depression and suicide, which is why many people are speaking out about it and advocating for a bully-free world. Thanks to HelpGuide.org, we have new insights on ways to cope with and prevent bullying.
Many times children being bullied wonder why they’re the ones being taunted. Victims might feel that something is wrong with them. HelpGuide.org helps us understand what goes on in a bully’s mind and it typically has nothing to do with the people they target. Those who bully can be jealous of the target, act out to become popular, stronger, or more powerful than the target, to escape their own problems, or because they’re being bullied themselves. If possible, instead of becoming more introverted, it can be helpful to look at the issue from a different light. The following are some tips for reframing the bullying situation to help regain a sense of control:
· Try to view bullying from a different perspective. The bully is an unhappy, frustrated person who wants to have control over your feelings so that you feel as badly as they do. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
· Look at the big picture. Bullying can be extremely painful, but try asking yourself how important it will seem to you in the long run. Will it matter in a year? Is it worth getting so upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
· Focus on the positive. Reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. Make a list and refer to it whenever you feel down.
· Find the humor. If you’re relaxed enough to recognize the absurdity of a bullying situation, and to comment on it with humor, you’ll likely no longer be an interesting target for a bully.
· Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control—including the behavior of other people. Rather than allowing interactions to cause undue stress, focus on the things you can control, such as the way you choose to react to bullies.
If you have children, walk through these steps with them and help them to understand how and why to implement each suggestion. Role-play different scenarios where one of you is the bully and one of you is being bullied. How do you feel in each scenario? Why do you think the other person is acting or reacting in that way?
Another great way to help children understand and cope with bullying is through literature. Books open the doors to discussion and allow children to see situations from a new perspective. Here are a couple books that show bullying from the perspective of the victim and the bully. These books encourage children to consider the views of others:
This is A. Blob by L.A Kefalos
This picture book is the first in a series that follows the antics of a playground bully named A. Blob, a sticky blob of purple goo that wreaks havoc at school with its bullying ways. What is great about this book is that the bully is race and gender neutral, so children can project their own experiences into the story. As the story progresses, we learn that A. Blob has pain of its own and perhaps the acts of bullying are a cry for help. The text rhymes and the illustrations are beautiful, making this book a good tool for introducing bullying situations to young children.
The Weird Series by Erin Frankel
This is a series of 3 picture books, each showing the same bullying situation from 3 different perspectives (the bully, the victim, and the bystander). With each character getting her own book, children are able to get a more in-depth view of each situation than they might if everything was put into just one story. The Weird Series is geared for 8-11 year olds. Like This is A. Blob, The Weird Series is perfect for helping children to understand both the causes and effects of bullying.
Bullying is a difficult issue to deal with and understand. It’s complex, sticky, and nuanced. Thankfully it is not unsolvable. By using tools such as those provided by Helpguide.org and authors like L.A. Kefalos and Erin Frankel, we can help children to gain a new perspective on bullying, understand the issue, and begin to end bullying once and for all.
What tools have you used to help children understand the issue of bullying? What helped you to gain a new perspective? Share your experiences in the comments or talk with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!
Purchase This is A. Blob from our website, or check it out on Amazon!
See the trailer for This is A. Blob
Purchase The Weird Series
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
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