Bullying is a significant issue in United States schools. In fact, according to a recent report by the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, nearly 6 million American children are involved in some way with bullying—whether as the bully or the victim. A survey of kids grades six to ten indicates that 13 percent say they bully others, 11 percent say they’re bullied, and six percent say they’re bullied and also bully others.
The act of bullying occurs when one child manipulates another child through threats, violence or verbal abuse, or uses other intimidation tactics to force the child to do something or exclude the child from a group. Also, in most cases involving school bullies, the bully is more physically imposing than his victim. Plus, says Kathy Knoll, author of the book ‘Taking the Bully by the Horns’, bullies most always have low self esteem. “If there is something about themselves they don't like, they feel that by putting you down, and teasing you, they are distracting from their own problems,” she says. “Bullies are also angry. Most likely they were also bullied at some point. We call this the ‘Bully Cycle.’”
Anti-bullying classroom activities, when implemented efficiently, have proven to have a positive effect on bullying in schools. Research by Dr. J. David Smith suggests that there hasn’t been adequate investigation into the subject. But, he says, ”The positive results obtained in several studies suggest that prevention programs have the potential to significantly reduce bullying, but more information is needed to understand how they can be improved and made more effective.” Dr. Smith also feels that when parents and educators take a more active role in preventing bullying, better results are achieved. This is where anti-bullying classroom activities can help.
The first thing a teacher can do to begin to combat bullying is to implement an anti-bullying classroom code. That is, the teacher should involve the students in creating classroom rules which prohibit bullying and encourage camaraderie among the students. Then, to seal the deal, the teacher and each student should sign a contract agreeing to the new rules. This helps to put the students in control and makes the rules more personal to each. Teachers using this activity should ensure that all students are involved in writing the anti-bullying code, and particularly those who are known bullies. Another fun way to raise students’ awareness of anti-bullying is to hold a contest. First, offer a lesson about bullying. Then, ask students to draw posters or decorate t-shirts with an anti-bullying slogan. Hang the anti-bullying slogans in the hallway and ask the students to vote for their favorite. The winner gets a small prize.
You could take a different approach to anti-bullying. For example, consider creating a classroom award that you present, along with a small prize, once a week (or month) to a student who is witnessed engaging in kind or helpful acts with other students. Alternatively, you could use an overall behavior system, in which students start the day with three stars. As the day progresses, students who display behavior that goes against classroom or school rules lose a star for each offense. At the end of the week, remaining stars are added up and students are allowed to save them or purchase privileges, candy, or other small gifts.
While anti-bullying classroom activities won’t completely eliminate the problem, they can help to significantly reduce it. Parents can help by reinforcing the ideas at home. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center’s report, bullies are less likely to strike in schools which offer more adult supervision, especially during unstructured times like lunch and recess periods. Plus, the report states, when there is a school wide commitment to fight bullying, incidents can be reduced by up to 50 percent.
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