October is National Bullying Prevention Month and schools around the country have highlighted ways to unite students against bullying behavior. Some alarming statistics from StopBullying include:
- 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying
- 30% of young people have admitted to bullying someone
- 70.6% of students have witnessed bullying in schools
- 70.4% of staff have witnessed bullying in schools
Bullying is undoubtedly a critical problem that is on the rise, especially with the issue of cyberbullying. Bullying from student engagement on social media and texting outside of school transfers into the classroom, affecting achievement, self-esteem, and more. So how can you do your part in solving the problem? Classroom climate, management, and student-created classroom rules have long been the go-tos for managing student behavior and conduct. However, there are some things you can do in your content lessons to explore bullying and its consequences.
Literature, short stories, biographies, and poetry abound with stories of bullying, victimization, and abuse. Narratives, writing, characters, and discussion are an effective combination in having students explore situations, consequences, and emotions. They can explore the varied perspectives of the bystander, victim, and perpetrator. A great example is The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. In this activity, students experience the emotional discomfort described in the book under bullying/peer pressure situations.
Some additional ways you can explore these topics include:
Character analysis: Have students select a character and describe their role as a bully, victim, or bystander. Have them site evidence of the text of their motivations, reactions, actions as supporting evidence.
Journaling: Allow students to write about their personal experiences as a bully, victim, or bystander. Have them analyze their feelings, emotions, motivations, and consequences.
Compare and Contrast: Relate characters from various novels that serve as bullies, victims, or bystanders. Have students find the similarities and differences between them and seek out patterns of history and behavior.
Letter Writing: Have students write letters to characters who are victimized. Help them provide encouragement and advice on what they should do , how they should handle the situation and their emotions, and seek help.
History and current events are rich in situations of bullying. It is also a great opportunity to relate the past to the present and analyze if we have changed as a society or moved forward. Here are some ideas:
Historical events: Find moments in history that may have involved unfair treatment or oppression. Analyze who were victims, how bullying may have occurred, and if it was impacted by legislation or bystanders. Explore the consequences on the victims and society.
Current events: Relate current events to historical events that they may either be paralleling or in conflict. Is our society fighting similar conflicts throughout history? Has past resolve created new issues?
Taking action: Join an organization that protects and defends the oppressed in writing letters to legislators, donations, or spreading awareness.
Science and Math
These classes can be integrated to explore statistical analysis and alternative abusive situations. This can include animal behavior, hierarchy in habitats, and even environmental abuse. Students can explore the consequences of not acting and or being indifferent to the damage they may be causing the environment with their own actions.
Here are additional resources for integrating bullying with the content that include lesson plan ideas:
“Embedding Bullying Prevention in the Core Curriculum: A Teacher’s Guide K-12” from Boston Public Schools
“How Teachers are Integrating Bullying Prevention Through the Curriculum” By Nicola Anne Wyslobicky
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