According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, almost one out of every four students will experience some form of bullying this year.
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, which is an ideal time for teachers and administrators to join forces with parents, community groups and national organizations to reaffirm the importance of anti-bullying lessons and initiatives. Through the messages shared in the classroom each day, teachers have a unique platform for empowering students to identify, understand and eliminate bullying among today’s youth.
Anti-Bullying Resources for Educators
The National Education Association has compiled an extensive list of activities, games, lesson plans and background resources to help teachers integrate anti-bullying messages into their classrooms and curriculum.
While not specifically for teachers, the new Sit With Us app—created by a 16-year-old bullying victim—empowers students to create connections with peers who may be feeling isolated. Educators will want to be familiar with this valuable digital tool.
Teaching Tolerance offers a free documentary film, Bullied, to help teachers and administrators create safer school environments in grades 6-12. Standards-aligned lesson plans are included.
Using Literature to Talk About Bullying
We never get tired of talking about the many, many ways you can integrate books into the classroom—and bullying is no exception. When students read and discuss stories about bullying, they gain a better understanding of its effects, the many forms it can take and how to deal with similar situations in their own lives.
At ReadWriteThink.org, you’ll find two complete anti-bullying lessons that center around books:
A Bad Case of Bullying: Using Literature Response Groups: This lesson focuses on the book A Bad Case of Stripes (Grades K-3, Level P, AD540) by David Shannon—be sure to check out our Teacher Resource for more ideas to complement your teaching of this text.
A High Interest Novel That Helps Struggling Readers Confront Bullying in Schools: This lesson focuses on the book The Bully (Grades 9-12, Level Y, Lexile HL700) by Paul Langan—be sure to check out our Teacher Resource for more ideas to complement your teaching of this text.
More Books and Collections That Support Anti-Bullying Lessons and Discussions
The neat thing about using real books to teach subject matter is that different authors can explore the same topic in a million different ways. Which means that, as a teacher, you have the freedom to choose which stories will resonate most with your current students and curriculum.
You also have the ability to touch on a wide variety of topics—like empathy, kindness and bullying—while still focusing on comprehension strategies, reading and writing workshop, media literacy and more. A few of our favorite books and collections for integrating classroom discussions about bullying into your lessons include:
Elementary Books and Collections
Culturally Relevant Mentor Texts: Kindness and Bullying (Elementary): For younger students in a preschool or early elementary classroom, this collection features seven fiction titles that encourage tolerance and acceptance, promote diversity and can easily be incorporated into reading and writing workshop, social studies lessons, discussions of current events and more.
Discuss point of view, repetitive text structure and themes of self-esteem and acceptance with a title like Chrysanthemum (Grades K-2, Level M, Lexile 460). This book features a little girl who must come to terms with being made fun of for her unusual, “flowery” name.
Use a title like Hooway for Wodney Wat (Grades P-2, Level M, Lexile AD360) to work on inferring. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly about bullying, and then ask students to make logical inferences about how the bullying makes Rodney (the main character who cannot pronounce his name correctly) feel.
Confessions of a Former Bully (Grades 2-5, Reading Level U, Lexile 810)
Not every student is a victim of bullying; some students can be a bully. In this elementary title, Katie gets caught teasing a schoolmate and slowly comes to realize that bullying hurts everyone—including herself. Because this title is written from a first-person perspective, teachers can use it to foster rich classroom discussions surrounding the different types of behavior that might be viewed as bullying and what it means to be a good friend.
Middle Grade Books
Runt (Grades 3-7, Lexile 740)
What makes a bully and what makes a victim? Sometimes, it’s all a matter of perspective—as middle grade readers discover in this title from award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin. With multiple shifts in various first-person perspectives, Runt explores the complicated dynamics of the middle school environment.
By encouraging students to think about how the shifting narrators shape the reader’s understanding of the characters and their actions, teachers can help them see the complexities and motivations surrounding different forms of bullying, and recognize that it is rarely a black and white issue.
Booked (Grades 4-7, Lexile 660)
This Kwame Alexander title focuses on 12-year-old soccer player Nick, who stands up to a bully at school while dealing with his parents’ impending divorce at home. Language is at the forefront of this novel-in-verse, giving teachers an opportunity for in-depth exploration of Kwame’s rhythm, poetry and structure.
And because the main character uses the power of language as a response to bullying, the book also provides insight into tools and strategies students can use to deal with bullying in their own lives.
High School Books and Collections
Bullying Grades 9-12: The ten fiction titles in this collection are geared toward upper level readers with the maturity to tackle subjects like abuse, suicide and school shootings. They lend themselves to complex classroom discussions about the subtle nuances and serious consequences of bullying.
Explore the difficult social issues teenagers face with a coming-of-age story like The Body of Christopher Creed (Grades 7-12, Level Z, Lexile 720). This suspenseful mystery revolves around the disappearance of an unpopular, bullied teen, but in an interesting twist, is narrated by the popular teen who bullied him. (Note: although written for ages 13 and up, the age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.)
Bullying can have dire consequences, as evidenced by the sequence of events recounted in Endgame (Grades 9-12, Lexile 870). The title deals with severe physical and emotional abuse that leads up to a violent school shooting, allowing students a peek into the main character’s motivation and a better understanding of what might drive a student to become a bully.
Combining Anti-Bullying Lessons with 21st Century Literacy Skills
Today’s students live in a digital world, so it’s important to help them build digital literacy skills and learn to critically analyze various forms of media in addition to traditional texts. This can be especially relevant when it comes to an issue like bullying, where so much occurs online.
When you use books to integrate anti-bullying lessons into your classroom, consider complementing the texts with a few media resources. Have students watch a video like this McGruff Anti-Bullying Video or visit an informational website to read an article like PBS Kids: What Is a Bully? Then ask them to compare and contrast what they learn with the stories they have read.
Teachers have a tremendous amount of influence over the messages children hear and the lessons they learn each day. By arming students with the tools they need to identify, understand and eliminate bullying, educators have the power to make a difference during National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month—and beyond.
In honor of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, we’re hosting a giveaway of elementary and middle grade titles you can use to tackle the issue of bullying with your students. Enter below to win the entire set!
This contest is closed. Thank you for your participation and congratulations to the winners!