It’s hard to make a tough topic like bullying fun for students, so here are a few interactive ways to help.
We start by giving a definition of bullying versus drama. Friends playing around in my classroom sometimes shout “They’re bullying me” just to get my attention. I remind them that bullying is an issue that I take seriously, that I know it is hard to be the “rat,” and to please talk to me privately with any concerns.
Thankfully this usually ends with a good-natured eye roll and a promise that they were just kidding. I want students to overhear me, though, and know that I am an adult who will listen.
A great article to read is Is It Bullying or Drama? from Choices magazine. I read each scenario and we discuss as a class whether the example is actual bullying or if it is just the tough drama that happens in middle school. (Not that being mean is okay either- it’s just not the same as bullying.)
Then we watch the Dateline show My Kid Would Never Do That: Bullying. (4o minutes) In the episode, students are put in situations where actors bully another actor while hidden cameras are rolling and parents are watching. It does a great job balancing student feelings, parent and adult influences, and research. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes (great book) is the featured expert on the show.
It is important to pause and discuss after each question. One I find especially important to stress is how, in the episode, students lie to the adults and say everything is fine even when blatant bullying has taken place.
After the video we play a few games.
First is Face Value, which I have blogged about before. It never fails to amaze me how accurately kids can play this game. I require no talking- just body language and facial expressions. This proves my response when kids get in trouble but retort, “But I didn’t SAY anything.” Clearly, from the accuracy of this game, students can be made to feel badly without words.
Then, to show the importance of encouragement, we play a positive/negative game of hot and cold. I have blogged about that one before as well. We have found it to take more than three times as long with negative feedback instead of positive.
These activities take two days for my middle school students to complete and I am happy with how well they are received. I hope you can find space to squeeze a few of them in.