Integrating Anti-Bully Lessons into Your Curriculum

May 20th, 2016

In the last several issues, we talked about how to identify potential targets of bullying, and steps to take to minimize the likelihood of bullying both in the classroom and the school at large. In this issue, I’d like to share some examples of how teachers have been able to incorporate concepts related to bullying while they are teaching seemingly unrelated lessons. Of course teachers need to be mindful of age appropriateness when integrating bullying lessons (and lessons about respecting differences in the classroom, school, society, etc.) into other areas of the academic

For younger students, teachers have incorporated these lessons into their Language Arts curriculum by including words such as respect, tolerance, diversity, responsibility, etc. on spelling lists. When going over the definitions of these words, there is a natural opportunity to segue into a classroom discussion about their meanings in daily school conduct, and their applications to behavior towards each other. For example a teacher could ask “What are some examples of a way you can act with ‘tolerance’ towards each other?’” or “How can you show ‘respect’ for another person in our class?”

Another way to incorporate the themes surrounding bullying into the Language Arts curriculum would be to assign the class a book that (either in whole or in part) deals with the topic. There are, of course, myriad age appropriate stories that deal with one person or group ostracizing, belittling or targeting another person or group. The classroom discussion would provide the opportunity to bring up topics such as: how did the victim or victims feel?; how did the victim respond to the actions of others?; what could others have done to help in the situation? These discussions could serve to spark ideas for future responses by potential victims as well as encourage bystanders to take action.

I have heard of teachers incorporating the issue of bullying into math classes. When teaching percentages, one teacher posed the question “There are 20 students in the class: one is the bully,
one is the target, and the rest are bystanders. What is the percentage of bystanders in the group?” With those numbers and percentages established, the teacher then steered the discussion to show that only 5 percent of the group is a bully vs. 90 percent of the group which is composed of bystanders. With this information, the concept of caring bystanders can be introduced and reinforced to show the power of standing up as a group against bullying behavior.

Social Studies curriculum provides ample opportunities to discuss conflicts in history where one group was targeted, harmed or mistreated by another and what the effects were (e.g. Nazi
Germany, etc.). Indeed the poem by Martin Niemoller (“…and then they came for me…”) is a perfect way to discuss one’s obligations to deal with bullying behavior, even if the person is not being bullied themselves.

These are just a few examples of how teachers have been able to creatively incorporate concepts surrounding the issue of bullying into their curriculum. The hope is that by sharing these examples
with your colleagues, it will encourage them to think ‘outside the box’; surely there are hundreds of other ways that imaginative educators can bring these topics into the classroom in an age appropriate manner.

Next issue we will talk about other steps a teacher can take their within the classroom to foster a bully-proof school. So until next issue, remember you can help create a Bully-Free School.