Back to school time means lots of thinking on how to make your classroom the best for your students. Supporting their social development is just as important as their academic development.
Bullying has been a hot topic in schools for quite a few years now and with that has come a different message than when I was in elementary school: SPEAK UP!
Of course we want students to do what is right, but I don't remember ever having open discussions on empowering those who see bullying happen and how to help stop it when I was a kid. Now, it is an expectation (especially with the program we use), but how can we get students to do this?? It's asking quite a lot of them to defend those who are getting bullied, knowing there is risk and even danger if you try to step up for others.
As always, children's literature comes to my rescue. They are great conversation starters and reminders when we need them. I've used these books to teach students about standing up for others and have implemented some things to help translate it to our classroom.
The first book we read during the first weeks of school is the book, One by Kathryn Otoshi. It is cleverly written using numbers and shapes and has a super powerful message. This author has come out with other books called, Zero and Two. I have read Zero and it also has neat message (haven't read Two yet, but would like to).
It made a great display and students wrote ways they could help someone out as they learned, "It only takes one."
The book Say Something is similar in the way that it shows lots of different students getting bullied and the main girl seeing and hearing it happening, but not participating in it. The tables turn when it is her that is being picked on and she wishes that at least 1 person would help her out. However, that makes her realize that she could help those that are being bullied by befriending them and learning the importance of getting to know others.
The Juice Box Bully is also a great read. Now, I will say that it is a pretty "ideal" scenario- which makes it a great example of how powerful it can be when we stick together to help others. But I also like stories sometimes that don't end happy, as this is often times our reality. Anywho, this book is a great one for showing the power of standing together and to hold each other accountable. After we read this book, we initiate our Bully Box, which I have renamed:
I allow students to submit notes or messages about bullying behavior they may see by placing it in this box (I've used a cardboard box before too- this is a new addition this year). We create a reporting form together and I run copies and put them in that little pocket about the defender drop box. We do a lot of talking about the difference between tattling and reporting, but I also let students know that if they don't know if it's tattling or reporting, they can put it in the box and we can discuss it. You might think I get floods of small tattles, but surprisingly, I haven't. And it can be very insightful. This is also a 'safe' way we discuss on how to be an UPSTANDER and stand up for others. If you don't feel safe enough to say something in the moment you see bullying happening, if you report it, it's better than nothing! And this system has allowed me to track common/repeated behaviors, hot spots, those who exhibit bullying behaviors, those who are supporters of that behavior, etc.
When we create our form, we try to keep it as quick as possible, by adding little check boxes. In years past we included the following information on the reporting form:
Reporter's name, victim, person showing bullying behavior, supports, and bystanders
List of common places bullying occurs
Type of behavior
List of possible behaviors such as physically hurting, teasing, name calling, threatening, gossiping, etc.
We also include a space to check if this is the first time it's happened, or if it happens often
Which adults were around/who have you told
They can elaborate here
It sounds like a lot, but it takes students less than 3 minutes to fill them out because a lot of it is just checking a box.
I know I want to empower my students to stand up for what is right- but I also know how hard that is to do. Giving them tools and chances to do this in a safe way is a great place to start.
What books do you use for teaching students about bullying?