Bullying is still very much a part of life for school children in the United States. In fact, one out of every five students reports being bullied at some point during their academic careers. However, there is also a strong correlation between anti-bullying efforts and a decrease in incidences: studies have shown that school-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25%.
While anti-bullying efforts can and should be a school-wide initiative, they can also start right in the classroom. Here are some tips about bullying prevention and 8 anti-bullying activities to try with your students.
What is Bullying?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines bullying as any “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.”
While identifying bullying can sometimes be tricky, as a rule of thumb it must check two out of three of these boxes:
The behavior is aggressive in nature.
There is a clear imbalance of power between the parties (physically, socially, emotionally, etc.)
The behavior is repeated or will likely be repeated.
Types of Bullying That Teachers Should Be Aware Of
There is some fluidity across the categories of bullying. But by and large teachers should look out for any of the following types and examples of bullying that are common in schools:
Verbal bullying: Saying or writing mean, insulting, or derogatory comments. Examples include:
Social bullying: Using physical or verbal abuse to hurt someone’s reputation or relationships. This is often retaliatory behavior. Examples include:
Cyberbullying: Using electronic devices such as computers and cell phones to tease, torment, harass, humiliate, or target someone. Examples include:
Physical bullying: Hurting someone’s body or their possessions. Examples include:
8 Anti-Bullying Class Activities for Teachers
Teachers can be the first line of intervention in instances of student bullying. To help put anti-bullying initiatives into action, many teachers implement activities and/or classroom management steps that target bullying behavior. Here are some things you can do, too:
In-class presentations can be a great way to face a bullying issue head-on. Invite guest speakers, play one of the Stand Up to Bullying TED Talks, or even host an open forum where students can role play bullying scenarios. These help students see and hear about bullying first hand which can be an important step in prevention.
2. Creative Writing
Have students find creative ways to talk about bullying, the impacts of bullying, or how bullying can be prevented. Creative writing exercises, such as poetry or essay writing, can help students express how they feel and can be a healthy outlet that simultaneously serves as an anti-bullying exercise.
3. Artistic Works
Anti-bullying messages don’t only have to be communicated through words. Encourage students to use artistic methods, such as drawing, painting, collage, or even large-scale mural design to discuss respectful behavior and how bullying negatively impacts them and/or their school community.
4. Classroom Town Halls
Hold in-class town hall meetings where you as a group can discuss the current classroom climate and state of peer relationships. Depending on the age group, this can be a difficult exercise, but encouraging students to speak out about any bullying behavior they have seen or experienced can help decrease occurrences.
5. Read Books
Not just any books, but books about bullying and the effects it can have on people. The good news is that there are bullying-centric books for all ages, from elementary picture books to longer novels for middle and high school kids. Here is a quick list of books about bullying that you can pull from.
6. Encourage Journaling
Journaling can be a great and safe way for students to communicate their feelings about bullying to you or other school leaders. Writing can help kids process the world around them, while also helping you as the teacher know more about what is truly going on in your classroom and your school. You can give students prompts or allow them to free-write about their experiences.
7. Teach Students to Be An Upstander
It may be easier said than done, but teaching your students to be upstanders — those who actively stand up to bullying — can be a great way to empower students with the skills they need. Standing up to bullies takes compassion and courage, but there are great resources available for teachers who want to help their students get more involved.
8. Create a No Bullying Pledge
While many schools do this on a school-wide basis, consider creating a “no bullying” or a “stand up to bullying” pledge for your classroom. You can find many templated resources online, or you can create your pledge together as a class. This is a great way to set expectations and empower students to look out for one another.
Anti-Bullying Education Resources for Teachers
Many schools have in-house anti-bullying resources and strategies that they implement at various grade levels and school-wide. However, if you’re looking for more classroom-specific information or new exercises to share with your teaching cohort, consider these outlets:
If a more formal education opportunity is more in line with what you’re looking for, there are long-form opportunities in the form of continuing education credits and certificates. For example, at USD we offer a Bullying Prevention in Our Schools certificate program that is designed for K-12 teachers, counselors, administrators, and other school staff. This program will help school officials better identify, prevent, and address bullying by building a “toolkit” for improving school and classroom safety.
FAQs About Bullying & Anti-Bullying Activities
Q: What is bullying?
A: Bullying is any unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
Q: What are the different types of bullying?
A: In school settings, the four main types of bullying are:
Q: How effective are anti-bullying measures?
A: Anti-bullying activities in schools have been proven to be very effective: research shows that school-based anti-bullying programs reduced incidences of bullying by 19%–20% overall, with some statistics pointing to a 25% reduction in bullying.