Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Bullying Education: Weird Series

Bullying awareness is a topic widely covered by most schools and often presents a similar message: Don’t be a bully.  This year I knew I wanted to address bullying awareness with my upper grade girls, but hoped to try a different approach. Obviously I want our students understanding that they should not be a bully, but also want them thinking of how it may feel to be bullied, how it may feel to witness bullying, and maybe even wonder why a person is bullying.

At Edna Maguire Elementary, I held 3 optional lunch meetings with our fourth grade girls.  Rather than discussing “What is bullying?” or “How not to be a bully”, I decided to read books from the Weird Series by Erin Frankel. These books tell the same story from three girls perspectives: the victim, the bystander, and the bully.  The stories present an opportunity to see what each character goes through in a bullying situation, offering many explanations for how someone feels when they’re being targeted, how it feels to see others being bullied and why someone may use bullying behavior.

Lesson #1 “Weird!” - During our first lunch meeting I introduced the Weird Series by reading the first book, “Weird!” The Weird! story is about a girl named Luisa, the victim, who normally is very funny, colorful and unique.  However, Sam, the bully, targets Luisa by calling her and everything she does “weird”. When she jokes with her friends, Sam calls her “weird”. When she participates in class, Sam calls her “weird”. When she wears polka boots, Sam calls her weird. Sam's behavior affects her so much that Luisa stops being herself. With some help from her parents, peers and teachers, Luisa decides she must change her way of thinking.  She went back to being herself no matter what Sam said about her, and she acted like she didn’t care.  She soon noticed that Sam began to leave her alone.

Activity 1: For our activity, each student got 3 white paper dots and wrote negative thoughts that they had about themselves (i.e. I am not smart). Next, they got 3 more white paper dots and wrote positive thoughts that challenged their negative thoughts (i.e. I am very smart or I am a hard worker). Then the girls shared their dots in smaller groups. Once everyone finished, we all gathered around the recycling bin, crumpled our negative thoughts, and threw them in. We discussed how we can recycle our negative thoughts into positive and how we have the power to make ourselves feel good. Many students chose to share some of their positive thoughts with the class, and some even used their positive thoughts to decorate their desks or classrooms. The students really enjoyed doing this!

I concluded the lesson by reading Luisa’s notes she included in the back of the book. She included 5 notes in a WEIRD acronym.

Lesson #2 “Dare!” – For our second lesson, we read “Dare!”, a story about Jayla, the bystander. One thing I really love about the series is the corresponding story line.  The main character, Jayla, is often seen standing nearby in the “Weird” book.  In “Dare!”, we are given the opportunity to learn more about what Jayla was really thinking when she saw and heard Sam bullying Luisa.  We even discovered that Jayla was afraid to stand up to Sam because of her own past experiences with bullying. However, she soon realizes that doing nothing is unfair to Luisa and to herself.  She decides to make her own “dare” by standing up for Luisa even though she is scared.  She prepared herself with responses to give just in case Sam lashed out at her for saying how she really felt.

Activity 2: For our “Dare!” activity, we discussed the courage it takes to stand up for someone and how being prepared can give us confidence to follow through, even when we’re scared.  Jayla has a Courage Club that encourages people to be prepared to be a positive bystander. In order to be prepared, the students wrote statements they can make or actions they can take when they see or hear someone being bullied.  The students were able to share their ideas with the group, and then they taped their star to our “Courage Club” poster.  

The lesson was concluded by reading Jayla’s DARE acronym.

Lesson #3 “Tough!” – For our final lesson, we read “Tough!”, the much anticipated story about Sam., the bully.  The students were hooked after the first book.  They were all ears during the second lesson and were very excited to hear the last book of the series.  The students have enjoyed discovering similarities between the books.  Each had a signature symbol- from polka dots (Luisa), to stars (Jayla), and now hearts (Sam)- which helped drive home a similar message:  Know Yourself. Be Yourself. Sam is the main character in Tough!  Readers get a peek into Sam’s world at the beginning of the book as the author reminds us of situations and comments she’s made to Luisa and Jayla from the previous two books.  As Sam tells the story, we see her brother calling her names and taking her guitar away from her.  It appears Sam has had her share of being picked on, and it turns out she stays “tough” in order to keep others from bothering her.  Her teacher, Mr. C, reaches out to her, and she soon decides to accept his help.  Just as we hoped, Sam begins to listen to her heart and takes a turn for the better and uses her kindness instead of her toughness.

Activity 3: For our final activity, each girl got a paper heart and was given the following instructions:
  • On one side, write how you want to be remember when you leave Edna Maguire.
  • On the other side, write one random act of kindness you will do during break (winter break).
The students then were given the opportunity to share. They came up to the front of the class, said in one word how they wanted to be remembered, and then added their heart to a string that held all the hearts together. 

After everyone had a chance to share their hearts, we red a “Kindness Pledge” as a group:

I concluded the lesson with Sam’s TOUGH acronym and briefly discussed who and where a student can go if they find themselves in weird, dare or tough situation.

I was not only impressed with our turn out, but also so inspired by how kind and thoughtful our students are. Their participation and effort in each lesson provided us with a fun and memorable learning environment. Because the lessons were so well received, I’m planning on taking these lessons to our 5th grade classes next.

If your child is being bullied, witnessed bullying, or used bullying behavior, please never hesitate to contact your school counselor or your child’s teacher. We are here to help!

Thank you all!

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