Making A. Blob Slime!
Last week, I shared about my visit to an elementary school and the incredible conversations that were sparked by reading the picture book, This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos. This week, I will be sharing about the slime craft we did and the lessons we were able to learn as we created.
I have posted about the A. Blob Slime Craft in previous blogs. It’s such a fun craft with a perfect connection to the slimy A. Blob of the book that I knew I just had to do the craft with the students.
First, I brought out all the slime-making materials, set them in front of the students, and asked if we had slime yet. After looking at me like I was a crazy person, they gave a puzzled “no”. Of course we didn’t have slime yet. The ingredients need to be mixed together and then they will become slime.
Similarly, a mean word here or an exclusion there doesn’t,at first, seem like that big of a deal. However, those words, like the slime ingredients, add up and react with one another. They stick with people and burden them down, staying in hearts and minds long after they’ve been said.
I asked the students if they remembered something kind someone had said to them. A simple “yes” or a “no” was all I expected, but the students' faces lit up immediately as they raised their hands, dying to tell the class the compliment or act of kindness they had received. The answers ranged far and wide, from physical compliments, to befriending someone on their first day at a new school, to a simple “I love you” from a parent. Even children who had been moody or had come in with a bad attitude softened as they remembered a kind word and shared that bit of confidence with the class.
The first time I did this lesson with students, I asked them to recall something mean someone had said or done to illustrate how those unkind actions can stick with us. However, I found that asking them to remember words of kindness had a far greater impact. Not only did it open the students up, it provided a good example of why and how we should act with kindness. Children are told over and over to not be mean, but how often are they reminded to be kind? Sometimes, showing kids what to do is just as important as telling them what not to do.
Next, we mixed the ingredients. The students LOVED watching the purple water/glue mixture magically become a blob as the borax was added. Once the blob was mixed up, the librarian and I divided it into equal parts and allowed the students to take it back to their tables to play. It was such fun watching them get creative with their slime! In this day and age, children spend so much of their time behind computers, taking tests, or filling out worksheets. Giving them the opportunity to use their imaginations, get a little messy, and have fun was a true joy.
In more than one class, one student would try to snag another student’s slime or would say something unkind to another as they played. Just as I or the librarian would be about to step in, another student would say “We JUST talked about being kind and not bullying! Be kind!” Through a picture book and a simple craft, these children were learning the importance of kindness.
Before the students left, I sent them home with a simple reminder “Like A. Blob, your words will stick—kind or mean. Chose them wisely!” I also challenged each of them to do one extra thing that day to show kindness.
I leave you now with the same challenge.
Do you have a fun way of teaching kids about kindness? Let us know about it in the comments below!
For full directions on how to make your own A. Blob Slime, check out our previous post, This is A. Blob SLIME Craft! Kids learn how bullying can become a big, slimy blob!
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.
I have written before on the often overlooked benefits of using picture books as educational tools among all ages. While many have a tendency to write picture books off as simple entertainment for the very young, studies have shown that picture books can be powerful tools for teaching, even at the high school level (read some of the studies here, here, and here).
”To me, it’s an easy access point,” stated Brianna Crowley, a Pennsylvania high school teacher, in an article for The School Library Journal. “To them, it’s going to feel so accessible, but as a professional I’m going to know how to question to help them go deeper.”
This fact was driven home last week as I shared the picture book, This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos, with over 300 elementary students, ranging from Kindergarten through 5th grade. The younger students were immediately captivated by the cover illustration and excited to read the story. The 5th graders, on the other hand, immediately gave the book a wary eye.
This was a picture book.
Hadn’t they outgrown those years ago? If I’m being honest, this was my initial thought, as well. This is A. Blob is a fantastic book, but would 5th grade students be able to see past its illustrations and minimal language to appreciate the important message it communicated? It turns out, we were both surprised.
As soon as the book was opened, every student was drawn to the vibrant illustrations of Yuri Fialko. Even the older students were intrigued by the funny looking A. Blob on the cover and cringed at the sticky trail of purple slime it oozed over the other characters in the book. Captivated by the illustrations, the students were more open to the message of the story.
This nonthreatening quality is part of what makes picture books key tools for introducing difficult topics. Prior to reading the book, the students were asked to make some predictions on the personality of the main character, A. Blob, and I could tell that they were curious to see if their predictions were correct. I mentioned This is A. Blob was written, in part, because the author saw people around her not treating one another well and that she wanted to help people understand the consequences of unkindness. I never used the term “bully” or told them much more about the story.
Had I said we were going to read a book about bullying, I may have received some eye rolls or a barrage of stories and comments. The students, having been told not to bully so many times before, may have shut down. Instead, they lit up with curiosity when they saw a picture book with an interesting name and a unique looking character. Their walls were down and they wanted to hear what the author had to say.
The critical thinking prompted by the interplay of the illustrations and text in picture books is simply unmatched by any other medium; a fact which came through in my interactions with the students. There is one page in This is A. Blob that has just two short sentences: “This is A. Blob. A lonely purple gob.” With the opposite page showing a close-up of one of A. Blob’s eyes; a single tear streaming down its face. Even the most outspoken students were silent. This was a side of the character they had not expected. There were few words, but that one tear spoke volumes. You could see the wheels turning in their heads.
One student said he understood how A. Blob felt because he had moved schools last year and knew what it was like to feel left out. To him, This is A. Blob was a story about being different. Another student said her sister had been mean to her, like A. Blob, but she was nice to her sister and her sister started being nice to her. To this girl, the story was about the power of kindness. A kindergarten student said maybe A. Blob was mean because it didn’t like being purple. To her, this was a book about self-acceptance.
That’s the great thing about picture books. Their simplicity leaves so much open for interpretation. Over the course of 4 days, I spoke with over 300 students and the responses I received ranged far and wide. Because the story was simple, the students could insert their own experiences and interpretations. As a result of reading this short picture book, 300 students as young as 5 all the way up to 10, opened up to discuss empathy, the causes and consequences of bullying, how to deal with differences, self acceptance, problem solving, and other critical subjects.
So, were we reading a picture book? Yes. However, by the end of our discussion, none of the students were focused on the fact that we were talking about a picture book anymore. They were talking about real life problems and how to solve them.
Have you ever used picture books to open the discussion on a difficult subject? Have you read picture books to older students? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Check back here next week to read Part II of this school visit blog where I discuss how we made our own A. Blob slime and talked about the stickiness of words.
The writer visited two elementary schools with the picture book This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos. To learn more about the author, visit her author page, or follow her on Facebook!
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.
“Do something now that will make the person you are tomorrow proud to be the person you are today”
Have you ever looked back on a situation and been embarrassed by the way you reacted? Perhaps you were hurt or angry or caught off guard by something someone said or did. Whatever the reason, in the heat of the moment, you responded in a way that ended up hurting you and possibly others. I know I have found myself in this situation on more than one occasion. The truth is, when emotions run high and things happen unexpectedly, it can be difficult to remember to act with kindness and empathy.
In school, and even at work, we practice and prepare for emergency situations such as fires and tornadoes. Each month we rehearse exactly what we will hear, see, and smell, learning the best way to move and act in order to keep ourselves and others calm and safe. As a result, by the end of the school year, even a kindergartner is able to calmly line up and exit the building without panic when she hears the fire alarm sound. She has heard it before and knows just what to do.
Unfortunately, the same sort of regular drilling is not in place for social scenarios such as bullying. Children are taught that bullying is wrong and are even given guidelines as to what they should say and do. However, as we have all experienced, real life situations do not always go as expected. People can be caught off guard, emotions can take over, and when everything is said and done, everyone has acted in a way they wish they hadn’t.
So, how can we “drill” for bullying? The same way we drill for other harmful scenarios. Below, I have taken steps from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), as well as from several mom bloggers, including The Survival Mom, who specializes in emergency prep for kids, and tailored them to help prepare children for bullying scenarios. Here are a few basic steps to begin creating your Bullying Preparedness Plan:
Step 1. Education
Few things are as frightening as the unknown. When we don’t expect or understand something, our imaginations can go wild, causing our fear to build and build. The best way to combat fear is through education. The more we know and understand something, including bullying, the less scary it becomes. This first step includes education on several different subjects:
Bullying can take many different forms from cyber bullying, to exclusion, to verbal abuse, to physical harm. It’s important that students are able to recognize the subtleties of bullying and identify the differences between bullying and teasing. Stopbullying.gov offers some helpful definitions and examples of different types of bullying and how to identify them.
It’s equally important to address the frightening things children will come across in bullying scenarios, such as being bullied themselves if they speak up, being physically hurt, being embarrassed, freezing up, or being ostracized. Have an open discussion with your students about their fears; you may be surprised at what’s going on in their heads. Let them know that these are valid fears, but they can learn practices that will make these situations not so scary.
Be sure to discuss all the different sides of bullying: being the bully, getting bullied, and being a bystander. It’s important that children learn about the causes of each of these positions and what to do if they find themselves in any one of these three roles. Blogger, Glennon, of the blog Momastery.com, talked about how easy it is to freeze up and say the wrong thing in a difficult situation, especially when we fear embarrassment. Together with her son, she created some ready-made responses to tricky social situations that matched up with his personality. No kid wants to say something that sounds like it came out of teacher’s handbook. Help your students come up with responses to various bullying scenarios that sound natural and work with their personalities so that they’ll feel comfortable using them when the time comes.
Finally, discuss with your students what measures are already in place to keep them safe. It’s important they know that, while it’s important to know about and be prepared for bullying, there are processes and people already working hard every day to make sure that bullying never happens in the first place. Be sure to let them know they are not alone and that teachers are always looking out for their health and safety. The goal of education is to remove as much fear as possible to keep kids safe and happy—not to create fear or panic.
Step 2. Guided Practice
Now that your students have been told what to do in a bullying scenario, it’s important that they actually practice doing it. Professionals say students should know the sound of the fire alarm and how to respond instinctively, wherever they are in the building, even if they are alone. They recommend visiting other parts of the school and practicing what to do if they are at these locations when the alarm sounds.
Similarly, when practicing bullying scenarios, be sure to practice in several different locations using several different scenarios and responses. Practice situations where there is a big group of kids, situations that are one on one, situations where the people involved are friends, and some where they are strangers. This is the time to talk the students through what is happening and how to respond. Let them try on their own, encourage what they’re doing right, and correct what they are doing wrong.
Step 3. Surprise Practice
Panic can easily and quickly set in when we are surprised. It’s important that children learn what it feels like to be frightened and embarrassed and all the other feelings that can arise in a bullying scenario so they learn how to work through those feelings and do the right thing. When I was in elementary school, my heart would beat wildly and my legs would shake with fear every time the fire alarm sounded. While I knew fire drills occurred regularly, when one came there was always the thought “it might be real this time!” However, over the course of many drills, I learned how to calm myself down. I learned that even if the emergency was real, I had practiced for it and I knew how to stay safe, whether I was in the classroom, the cafeteria, or even alone in the bathroom. I wouldn’t have learned how to do this without the element of surprise.
Every now and then, throw a bullying scenario into what you’re already doing. If the class is working math problems at the board, role play what would happen if one student got the answer wrong and some other students started mocking him for it.. What if the bullying continued at recess? What if the teacher left the room and that’s when the bullying started? What would they do? Why do they think the bully called out the student for getting the answer wrong? Put yourself in different roles and let the students explore what they would say and do when placed in different positions. Try not to interfere other than playing your role and see how your students react on their own.
In their emergency preparedness guide, FEMA emphasizes the importance of making sure your child always knows at least two ways out of the house in case one escape route is blocked. The same can be applied to a bullying scenario. It’s very possible that one method of confronting bullying will not work, so it’s important to prepare children for this possibility. Things rarely go according to plan and it’s vital that kids practice what it feels like to be caught off guard or to try something and have it not work.
This drill doesn’t need to take much time. Some fire drills are as short as 5 minutes. Practice and repetition are what count.
Step 4. Review
The final step is review. After each drill, it’s important to have an open discussion about what occurred. What did the students feel they did well? What could they have done better? What kind of thoughts and emotions went though their head?
Will these drills take time? Yes. Will they be worth it? Absolutely. We spend so much time preparing our children for emergencies, but we fail to prepare them for the social interactions that they will face far more often. The reality is that social issues, such as bullying, drugs, and alcohol are responsible for many more deaths each year than any natural disaster and our kids will face them far more often. Let’s make sure they’re prepared.
Would you try bullying drills in your home or classroom? What other ways have you prepared your children to face bullying? Let us know in the comments.
Looking for a tool to help educate your students about bullying? 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.
Be curious, not judgmental
I love this quote by Walt Whitman because it gets at something we don’t often discuss when dealing with the issue of tolerance. In an effort to avoid being judgmental, we sometimes throw the baby out with the bath water, viewing everyone and everything through the same lens—or not viewing them at all.
When teaching kids not to bully, we sometimes tell them that everyone is the same, but this is just not true. Everyone is not the same--thank goodness—and it’s important that we teach children to celebrate, not ignore, differences. This begins by encouraging curiosity.
Curious : Eager to know, inquisitive
The definition of “curious” is “eager to know, inquisitive”. If you’ve ever spent time with a child, you know that this trait comes naturally. Everything is new, everything is exciting, and with this novelty comes a natural desire to learn and understand. Though they learn in many ways, the primary way children discover the world around them is by asking questions. As I’m sure you also know, these questions aren’t usually filtered.
Unlike adults, children don’t know what questions they’re “not supposed to ask”. They don’t know they aren’t supposed to ask why another child’s skin is darker or lighter than theirs. They don’t know they aren’t supposed to ask why a person “talks funny”. They don’t know they aren’t supposed to ask why someone gets around by sitting in a moving chair. So, they ask—much to the embarrassment of their parents. It’s not an uncommon site to see a parent harshly shushing a child and dragging him or her away quickly as they flash an apologetic look at the person in question. The question is…why?
The answer is usually backed by good intentions. Parents may scold their children for asking these “taboo” questions because they want them to focus instead on the things we all have in common. While this isn’t necessarily a bad goal, it can have some unintentional consequences. For starters, when we completely discount diversity, we imply that differences are bad; something to be ignored and hidden. Additionally, we have a tendency to fear what we do not know. How much more will children fear unknown differences when they are coupled with the idea that differences are bad?
Perhaps the most common reason parents discourage the curiosity of their children is for fear of hurting the feelings of another. While a child will rarely point out a difference out of meanness, the person to whom they are referring may still feel uncomfortable being singled out or may be painfully reminded of the many times they were made fun of or excluded for their difference.
So what is the solution? The truth is, when dealing with children, it’s impossible to avoid all embarrassing situations. However, there are ways to minimize hurt feelings while still encouraging natural curiosity. Here are a few basic guidelines:
As adults, it’s easy to think we have it all figured out; that we know all there is to know. However, just like squelching the questions of children, believing we know it all can rob us of the joy of learning something new and wonderful about the people around us. So today, ask questions. Look at things from a new perspective.
Who--or what--is A. Blob? Spark your child's curiosity with This is A. Blob, a beautifully illustrated tale of a unique bully's antics. Discover that A. Blob and, perhaps others like him, may not be exactly what they seem. Lesson plan for teachers or discussion questions for other adults accompany an order. For ages 4-8.
“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.
It’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. Roses, candy, sweet notes, and everything beautiful. That’s what love is, right? Well…sometimes. But sometimes, love isn’t like that at all. Sometimes love is tears, heartache, and vulnerability. Sometimes it’s biting tongues, saying hard things, and forgiving in difficult times. You see, somewhere along the way we forgot something:
Love isn’t easy.
Actually, love is often pretty hard. Love, real love, means caring for someone and wanting their well-being, even when they aren’t very likeable. It means sometimes sacrificing your own happiness for the happiness of someone else. True love means feeling the hurts of another as if they were your own hurts. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken… To love is to be vulnerable”.
Despite this, we continue to search and even fight for love. Why? Because, although love can be incredibly difficult, it is also one of the most powerful forces in this world. Love has the power to strengthen, lift up, change, and inspire people to heights never before reached. Love has an almost magical way of making the difficult bits not so difficult. When we love someone, we want to sacrifice for them. Even when they hurt us, we want to see them be the best and happiest they can be, because we love them.
"Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star."
-- E.E. cummings
You might ask why I’m talking about the difficult side of love right before Valentine’s Day. Why point out the cloud in an otherwise sunny sky? Because to ignore the difficult side of love is to do it a disservice. Believing that love is all warm feelings and roses is to severely underestimate its strength, power, and beauty.
In light of that, I want to pose a question: during this holiday where we like to celebrate the people we love, can we find room to love the people we don’t like? Can we do the difficult loving before we are able to experience that warm glow that makes it feel worthwhile?
Can we love bullies?
I know what you’re thinking: “Why—no, how—could I love someone who purposefully hurts others, not once, but over and over again?” I can’t imagine the pain of watching your child be bullied day in and day out. I can’t imagine what it feels like to see them come home from school in tears because of what another child said to them. I do know, however, that love has changed more hearts, behavior, and lives than hate or rejection ever has.
Don’t misunderstand me- bullying behavior should not be condoned. Children who bully must be taught that such behavior is unacceptable, but love doesn’t signify approval for actions; instead it demonstrates a belief in the person behind those actions. Discipline and guidance, though they don’t feel like it, are some of the most loving things we can do for children. Love can be hard, but only because it wants the best. Love is such a powerful force. It would be wasteful to only use it on those we liked and, if we’re honest, if we only gave love to the purely good, I imagine we would all be bankrupt.
We like to think of love as soft, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Real love is strong. Real love doesn’t give up when the going gets tough. It sticks around. It waits. It helps when it can. It loves even when it does not like.
No, love isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
So here is my challenge to you this Valentine’s Day: love someone who has not been kind to you. Try it, just once, and see what happens. If you try it out, let us know how it went in the comments below!
For a great book that helps introduce children to the idea of loving those who may act unkindly, check out This is A. Blob by L.A. Kefalos. This masterfully illustrated picture book is 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
In the past 10 years or so, awareness and education regarding bullying has risen significantly. Today, countless clubs, forums, and materials exist, each detailing how to prevent bullying and how to support those who have experienced it. However, there is one glaring gap in this abundance of resources: support for the parents of bullies.
Guidelines exist for how to handle a child that bullies, but actual support or advice for parents of bullies is rare to find. In an article written by Alissa Marquess for her blog Creative With Kids, the author talks about the shame and helplessness that come with parenting an angry child. Though her child wasn’t a bully, he was still displaying less than ideal behavior, so it would be reasonable to believe that Alissa’s feelings might be similar to those of parents of children who bully. The number one response to the article?
“I’m so glad I’m not alone”
Parenting isn’t easy in the best of situations and when your child is bullying, it can make you feel as though there is nowhere to turn where you will not be judged or accused of being a bad parent. If bullying is going to end for good, though, we must realize that it is a two-sided issue and begin to create resources to help both of those sides. We must create a safe environment for everyone to discuss their issues openly and without fear of judgment. To get the ball rolling, here are some things to remember if you are the parent of a child who bullies:
1.You are not a bad parent.
Hearing your child has been bullying others brings on a wave of questions and emotions. “MY child?? He/she would never act that way!” “How could I have missed this behavior?” “What did I do wrong?” “How could I not see he/she was hurting? ”The reality is, though some bullies learn the behavior at home, bullying has multiple causes, many of which are hidden, easily missed, and triggered only while in a school environment. A child who is helpful and kind at home, around those he trusts, may act very differently when placed in a stressful school environment.
Additionally, the causes of your child’s bullying behavior may be issues which call for the help of a professional to unravel. This doesn’t mean you have failed, it only means you need help, and there is no shame in that. The key is to do something about the situation once you become aware of it. Talk to your child and talk with teachers and counselors. Together you can understand why your child is bullying and work through those issues for the future.
4. Talk regularly.
This includes conversations with teachers, other parents, and students, in addition to making regular conversation with your child. Bullying is a complex issue and to fully understand why your child is bullying and to ensure it does not happen again, it will be necessary to keep in communication with those who are with your child when you aren’t.
3. Bullying behavior CAN be changed.
Despite what many Hollywood films would lead us to believe, your child is not doomed to be a bully for the rest of his or her life. Though some of the personality traits that may lead to bullying, such as aggression or narcissism, will always be present, they do not have to control your child’s life or actions. Aggression and other traits can be managed, children can be taught to recognize when their behavior is becoming harmful, and coping mechanisms can be put into place. Other root causes of bullying, such as loneliness, abuse at home, or need for popularity can be identified and minimized or eliminated. Let your child know that you are there for him and that he will never have to face his struggles alone.
Additionally, don’t forget to find someone you can trust to talk to about yourself. Find a friend, spouse, or confidant who will listen to your struggles without judgment or start a support group for parents of children who bully or have behavioral issues. Not only will you gain access to a wealth of knowledge and advice, you will learn that you are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence.
5. Be realistic. Understand there will likely be setbacks and be patient.
People can change, but this rarely happens over night. Your child will likely still exhibit bullying behavior off and on while they get used to handling their issues in a healthy manner. While bullying should never be justified, it’s important to be patient with your child and not write him or her off as a “bad kid”. Children have an incredible ability to rise or fall to the bars we set for them.
When setbacks do occur, address the situation immediately. Talk through what happened with your child. Discuss what the other person did, what your child did, why they did it, how they think it made others feel, how it made them feel, and how they could have behaved differently. Make it a point to have your child genuinely apologize to the person they bullied. It won’t be an easy journey, but the destination will be well worth the effort.
6. You are not alone.
It may seem that it is you and your child against the world, but the reality is, any good school wants to help all children, including those who bully, to become good, happy, and successful adults. Be open with your child’s teachers and ask them to help you develop a plan to stop the bullying behavior. Chances are, they will be grateful for your willingness to be involved and you will benefit from their support and experience.
No one wants to shout their problems to the world, so it can often seem as though you are the only one struggling, but it simply isn’t true. Whether it’s bullying or something else, every child and every parent is dealing with something. The important thing to remember is, while we are all struggling, we don’t need to struggle alone. By putting aside anger, shame, and judgment, we can all work together to create a better world for our children and better children for our world.
Are you the parent of a child who bullies? What advice do you have for other parents? Let us know in the comments!
Laughing Leopard Press's newest picture book, This is A. Blob explores bullying from the perspective of the bully and those being bullied. Whether your child is the bully, the victim, or is just learning about bullying, This is A. Blob provides an easy way to begin the discussion about bullying behavior. Each copy comes with a free Material Discussion Guide filled with discussion questions, lesson plans, and a craft to help your child understand this important topic.
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.
A New Year, A New Approach to Bullying Prevention: How Setting Small Goals Can Make A Big Difference- Part I
"If you want to achieve goals you've never achieved before, you have to do things you've never done before."
This is a quote by author and motivational speaker, Stephen Covey. To me, this quote embodies the spirit of the New Year. If you’re like most people, each year you develop a list of goals to achieve in the coming new year and, like most people, you set aside at least half of those goals by February. This regression is often chalked this up to busyness and this is certainly part of the problem; however, I would argue that the bigger culprit is routine.
When busyness kicks in, it becomes easier to stick with what we know. Upon re-entering the “real world”, we naturally fall back into our real world routines. Don’t get me wrong—routines can be great. They create efficiency and help us get things done. However, as Stephen Covey implied, routine will not create change. If we want to achieve something new, we have to do something new. The same truth applies to bullying prevention.
These new actions don’t need to be big. In fact, when setting goals with younger children, experts urge you NOT to make goals too big. At least, not initially. In a podcast for the parenting website, Kids In the House, psychologist Edwin A. Locke states that children should absolutely set goals for anything they want to achieve, but it’s important to break larger goals down into smaller, incremental goals. According to Locke, it’s also essential to track goals through measurement and to set deadlines for achievement. Because young children are still in a concrete state of learning, parents and teachers should provide consistent and visual benchmarks and evaluations of progress. Dr. Lock emphasizes:
“Make sure the goal is clear, make sure the goal has a deadline and that you measure your progress”.
These expert tips inspire the question: is it possible that this incremental goal setting is also key to ending bullying? Perhaps one reason why 25% of students are still being bullied is partially due to having too broad of goals in school. We tell children they need to “end bullying” and, while we provide them with some tools to achieve this large goal, we rarely, if ever, provide small, incremental goals that can be seen and measured to help reach that long term goal. If we, as adults, find bullying a complex issue, how must it appear to a child?
Telling children to “end bullying” is vague, but encouraging them to “Say hello to someone new in the hallway each day this week” is specific and it’s measureable. Better yet, these are goals that can be set and tracked throughout the year, not just during Bullying Prevention Month, and that is really one of our overarching goals. We want kindness to become a lifestyle so that bullying isn’t even in our kids’ vocabulary.
We want to create a habit of kindness.
January brings a new year and a new semester to begin making changes in our routines that may ultimately change our lives. If we want to see bullying stomped out like never before, we must venture to try things we’ve never tried before. Check back here next week for some specific, measureable goals to help you and your children to reach the ultimate goal: Ending Bullying Forever!!
What's something new you want to try this year? Let us know in the comments!
Looking for some new literature to read this year? Check out This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos! With its vibrant illustrations, rhyming verse, and a sticky, purple blob as a main character, this 20 page picture book is the perfect tool to introduce young ones to the difficult topic of bullying. Readers will learn to put themselves in the shoes of another, discover why bullies might behave the way they do, and what can be done to help.
Have you ever stumbled across a song or a poem that perfectly captures your inner thoughts and feelings? Though sometimes viewed as a lesser genre, poetry has an incredible ability to take the most profound truths and put them simply in a way that makes sense. The rhythm and verse have a way of gently speaking to our souls and revealing things we were never able to see before.
I recently came across a poem that beautifully portrayed a unique way of dealing with bullying. The poem is Edwin Markham’s “Outwitted”:
“He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle that took him in.”
Though short and simple, “Outwitted” has undertones and intricacies beneath its surface that make it an excellent choice for opening up conversations on dealing with bullies.
First, the poem is empowering. Rather than encouraging children to ignore those who are hurting them, the speaker takes action, and that action changes things. The one being mocked takes control of the situation, not by fighting back, but by refusing to engage in war at all. Children are often told that it takes two to fight; that if they ignore the bully, the bully will get tired and ignore them too. While this is one version of “not engaging in war”, for those children being pushed down, embarrassed, and tormented every day, waiting the situation out may not seem like a bearable solution. In the poem, however, we are shown a different way of staying out of battle. Yes, the taunted one refuses to taunt back or fight back, but he is not powerless. He takes action, but it is action for the positive.
Along this line of thought, I appreciate that the focus of the poem is on the positive. An article in The Dublin Villager shared the story of Drew Jones, an elementary school art teacher who wanted to find a positive way to educate students about bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month.
He came up with a unique idea: an interactive wall where students could leave notes of encouragement for one another. Using recycled cardboard and paper towel tubes, the students went to work creating a wall that featured multiple slots to house the notes, almost like a wall of mail boxes.
The wall was put up in the school hallway and painted orange, the color of Bullying Awareness. While they worked, the children discussed bullying honestly and openly, sharing their own experiences and coming up with solutions to the issue. Months after its creation, the wall continued to be popular, needing refilled every day. “It’s awesome,” one student stated, “It says I’m special.”
Bullying is a difficult and painful topic and it’s easy to get bogged down in discussing the negative causes and effects of the behavior. While it is important to educate children about the realities of bullying, we must not forget the power of kindness and positivity in stopping the problem at its source. We need to teach our children on how to handle bullying when it occurs, but it is imperative that we also take efforts to cultivate an environment of kindness, empathy, and positivity so that bullying is less likely to occur at all.
Another fantastic aspect of Markham’s poem is its description of love as something powerful. Love is sometimes portrayed as a weakness, or as something that is soft and delicate, but the reality is that love is the most powerful tool that we have and true love is tough. True love changes lives. Many children bully because they don’t feel loved. By loving the bully instead of simply telling him or her to “stop”, we cauterize the wound instead of constantly trying to staunch the blood. It was love that prompted the speaker in the poem to act. It was love that took a situation of pain and separation and turned it into one of forgiveness and togetherness. “Outwitted” teaches children that love is strength, not weakness.
Markham also draws a connection between love and wit. Not only is love often portrayed as a weakness, it is also frequently connected with foolishness and helplessness. People fall in love, they are blinded by love, or they act unwisely because they are in love. However real, true, love, takes all the wits you have. To love someone means to care for them, to want the best for them, even when they aren’t acting very likeable. True love isn’t always easy and it takes thought and wisdom to foster and maintain. Retaliating, ignoring, or running is easy. Loving someone that is hurting you takes intelligence and clarity of mind. This poem illustrates that.
A unique facet of “Outwitted” is that, unlike many other works of literature, it humanizes the bully. It doesn’t call him names, wish a horrible fate for him, or paint him as a villain. Instead, it portrays the bully as someone who can be loved. Many children bully because they feel inadequate or isolated. By creating a circle that includes the bully, the writer is not only saying “you were wrong about me”, but also, “you were wrong about yourself.”
Teaching children to draw others in builds empathy, a core skill in preventing bullying, and provides a concrete example of empathy for children who bully, as well. Our goal should not be to simply end the bullying, but to mold children into adults that will never bully, who will choose to always consider and value the thoughts of others, and who will always try to love first.
The final strength of this poem is that it is visual. Loving someone that is hurting you or trying to view the world from their perspective can be a foreign or even abstract concept, especially to a child. However, even a child can understand the significance of drawing an inclusive circle. This could even be carried into a classroom activity to help illustrate the point.
Have students stand outside on the sidewalk and draw circles around groups of kids. Ask students to describe what is similar about everyone in their circle. Without moving, change the circles (think Venn Diagram). Have the new groups find similarities, illustrating how they all have commonalities if they look for them. Discuss how they felt when they were left out of someone else’s circle or if someone was left out of theirs. Using the poem, connect this literal drawing of circles to the figurative boundaries that are frequently drawn amongst students.
On the surface, Edwin Markham’s “Outwitted” is short and simple, but like most poems, there is a lot going on underneath. Christmas time is filled with songs and rhymes. In this season of goodwill and togetherness, I would encourage you to add this poem into the mix!
Have you read this poem before? What did it say to you? Would you use this to help prevent bullying? Let us know in the comments!
Looking for some more rhyming verse that speaks about bullying? Check out the beautifully illustrated picture book This is A. Blob by L.A. Kefalos! In this story written in rhyme, a purple blob named A. Blob wreaks havoc on the playground with its bullying ways. But is there more to A. Blob than meets the eye??
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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