Ways Teachers Can Try To Stop or Reduce Bullying
Instalment Three: Increasing Pupils' Sensitivity to Victims' Feelings, Teaching Ways to Control Anger, Fun, and Discussing Types of Bullying in Class

By Diana Holbourn

Article Summary

This instalment of the article has to do with teaching the class how victims often feel when they're bullied, in the hope of encouraging bullies to develop empathy for the feelings of victims they've bullied or people they might otherwise bully, so they realise what impact they're really having, and at least some will hopefully care too much to continue to bully them.

It also describes ways children can be taught to control anger, and how it can be explained to bullies that the reasons they have for getting angry with others in the class are often not good ones.

It goes on to make suggestions for bringing fun and laughter into the class and giving the children ideas about amusing things they can do together, and teaching children that though it can be good to laugh, even at themselves sometimes, laughing at people in a demeaning way can be hurtful. It then advises on ways teachers can teach children to be more aware of what kinds of behaviours cand be described as bullying.

Skip past the following quotes if you'd like to get straight down to reading the self-help article.

Things People Have Said About Teachers and Teaching

Education is the movement from darkness to light.
--Allan Bloom

Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?
--Erich Fromm

A gentleman need not know Latin, but he should at least have forgotten it.
--Brander Matthews

Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know.
--Daniel J. Boorstin, Democracy and Its Discontents

I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly.
--Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

If a man is a fool, you don't train him out of being a fool by sending him to university.  You merely turn him into a trained fool, ten times more dangerous.
--Desmond Bagley

The Main Contents

  1. Classroom Activities That Can Help Children Think About the Feelings of Victims and Bullies and Want to Behave Better
  2. Giving the Children Ideas About Controlling Anger
  3. Bringing Enjoyment Into the Classroom Whenever We Can
  4. Helping the Class Become More Aware of Different Types of Bullying and Ways of Dealing With Bullying

Part One
Classroom Activities That Can Help Children Think About the Feelings of Victims and Bullies and Want to Behave Better

There are a range of activities that can help children come to a deeper understanding of what it's like to be victimised and of other things related to bullying, so some bullies at least hopefully won't think it's such fun.

Helping the Children Develop Empathy


Some children learn to be caring by taking on the attitudes of their parents. But if they come from an environment where they're not likely to pick up a caring attitude, they naturally won't display one at school. But it can be taught to some extent. Bullies are likely to become less eager to bully if they start really thinking about and identifying with the feelings of their victims. If we can help them to do that, it can be a way of reducing bullying.

Arranging things so bullies work together in groups with children who are caring can go partway to helping bullies develop a more caring attitude. (Obviously it's important not to tell the bullies we're putting them with caring children to help them learn to be more caring, or they'll likely rebel and do uncaring things just to prove they don't have to do what we say.)

Role-plays can help as well, where a bully might first pretend to bully someone else who plays the victim, but then the roles are reversed and they pretend to be the victim while the other child pretends to be the bully. Each one expresses out loud what they imagine to be the thoughts, feelings and words of the one they're playing, either victim or bully.

Talking Through the Feelings of Victims and Bullies With the Class


Discussing the feelings of bullying victims with children is a way to help them realise that bullying makes people feel bad. A lot of bullies might just not think about the feelings of the people they're bullying, not really realising what psychological impact their bullying has. When they realise the impact is more serious than they thought, some might stop.

Discussing feelings with children can also help them learn more words for different kinds of feelings, which could help them explain how they're feeling in situations where that's useful, such as if a friend of theirs is teasing them and they don't like it, and telling their friend how they feel might stop it, because their friend cares enough about their feelings not to want to hurt them. We can also explain to them that one reason it can be a good idea to explain their feelings is that it can keep things calm because their friend can understand them better, which won't happen if instead they make their friend angry by arguing with them so things escalate into conflict.

Learning a bit about how to handle feelings can be good as well. For instance, we can suggest that if they feel angry or a bit down, instead of taking it out on someone in the case of anger or doing something like rushing to get a chocolate bar if they feel down, they stop to think about why they feel that way and what they might be able to do about it. For instance, if they feel a bit down after they've been bullied, they can think about whether reporting it to a teacher might make them feel better; or if they feel angry because they've been shouted at by someone and they don't think it was fair, perhaps they could think about polite ways of putting their point of view across to the person who shouted at them next time they meet them, or venting their anger by writing down what they'd like to say to them and then keeping it secret or destroying it rather than actually giving it to the person. That kind of thing.

An Activity to Encourage the Class to Think About the Way Bullies and Victims Might Feel When the Bullying's Happening and Afterwards


We could have a lesson on feelings where we start by telling the children we're going to discuss feelings, especially those of bullies and victims.

The idea will be that they think about how when someone's called names, or excluded from a group of friends, or physically hurt, or stolen from and so on, the effects can be more serious than some might think. The aim will be to help them develop empathy for victims, and at least a superficial understanding of the reasons a bully might be bullying.

We can ask them to write down what they imagine the feelings of bullies and the feelings of victims might be. If they're using paper, perhaps they could draw two pictures, one looking sad and one looking cheerful or angry or something. They could label the sad one 'Victims' feelings' and the other one 'Bully's feelings', and underneath each, write down what they think victims' and bullies' feelings are likely to be.


After a while, we could tell them we're going to make a big list of the feelings of bullies and victims, and we'd like them to shout out things they've written down. We could make two columns on the chalk board, one headed Victims' Feelings and one headed Bullies' Feelings, and we could write the feelings down as the children mention them. We can tell them we're going to discuss the feelings when we've done that, and to discuss the ways people's feelings and the way they act because of them can affect the feelings and actions of others.

If we're asked what we're doing it for, we can say we'd like bullies to be aware of just what they might be doing when they bully, and for everyone to understand how their feelings affect what they do, as well as how what they do affects their own and others' feelings.

If we think it might sound a bit abstract just asking children to come up with the possible feelings of victims and bullies, we can talk about typical bullying situations or situations where children are unkind to others, and ask how they think the victims and bullies might feel in those situations.


For instance, we could ask them to imagine how a boy might feel if he was in the playground and two other boys came and pushed him around till he fell over, and how a girl might feel if everyone in the class was invited to a party except her and she heard children jeering at her, saying she was too ugly to deserve being invited, and how a boy might feel if he was sitting all alone at lunch and heard boys on another table calling him names and they threw bits of food at him sometimes, and how a girl might feel if she overheard a couple of other girls discussing how they were going to bully her and spread a nasty rumour about her. That kind of thing.

We can explain the meaning of the words for feelings any of the children come up with if others might not be sure of their meaning, and suggest that if they think they're useful words, they can write them down, and they can keep the paper with the feelings words on them if they think it will help them find words to describe what they're feeling in future.

When we've written the list of feelings they come up with on the chalk board, we could ask them if anyone's thought of any new ones, and if they have, we can write those down as well.

Then we could ask them if they think all the words on the board are good ways of describing the feelings of bullies and victims and why they think they might have those feelings.

One thing we could ask is whether they think there are ever similarities in the way bullies and victims feel, and if so, why? Or what differences are there likely to be? For instance, sometimes, victims and bullies might both feel angry. The victim might feel angry because of what the bully's doing, and the bully might feel angry because he was victimised at home by someone else and got angry and wanted to take it out on someone, for example.

We can also discuss with them how exactly the same situation might make different people feel different things. For instance, if three children are showing the class pictures they've drawn and some children laugh at them because they don't think they've done a good job, one child might get angry, one might be sad and start crying, and one might shrug, telling themselves they don't care and the children laughing at them are just a bunch of losers anyway. We can discuss with the children how just because one person feels one thing, it doesn't mean everyone will feel that way.


We could ask how they think bullies and victims could change the way they're feeling. For instance, bullies could release their anger by doing energetic exercise, or if they're bored, they could try thinking of other things to do, and maybe we could make suggestions for things they could do. It might seem at first as if bullies wouldn't want to change the way they feel because they obviously like bullying, but we can discuss feelings bullies might have with the class that make them want to bully, because they might not like those. Such feelings could be anger, boredom, frustration, feeling upset if they're being victimised by others, for instance at home, and so on. Being victimised in some situations can sometimes be the reason bullies want to bully others, to take anger out on them, or because they don't like feeling powerless in the situations where they're victimised, and bullying makes them feel good because they can compensate by feeling like the powerful ones then. Or they might bully out of envy, because they don't like it that some people in the class are more successful than them. We could discuss how, if a bully's feeling like that, they could try solving the problem instead of bullying, by, for instance, asking the teacher about getting extra help.

We can also ask how people are likely to feel when they see bullying going on. One issue raised might be that some will be upset by it and some will think it's fun, or think the victim's getting what they deserve. We can ask them whether they really think it's fair to laugh when people get bullied, bearing in mind how it might be making the victim feel.

Grinning maliciously

Naturally, one reason why they might not think all bullying's bad is because not all victims will have the same feelings. There might be quite a lot of what seems to be bullying going on against people who don't like it but who don't protest much or seem to be showing much feeling, so it can be assumed it isn't affecting them badly so it's allright to laugh at it. Some bullying is, after all, very amusing. Some bullies can make funny jokes about their victims when they're bullying them. We can raise that kind of issue, and talk about how if we're uncertain about how bullying's affecting a victim, instead of just assuming it can't be affecting them because they're not doing anything that makes them seem that upset, we could ask the victim how it's making them feel, perhaps saying we'll speak up for them if they don't like it. If the children are aware that such bullying might be making the target of it feel bad, they might be more concerned and slower to laugh.

As for students who feel bad when they see bullying, we could discuss with the class the things they could do to try to stop the bullying, such as reporting it.

It may be that when some bullies realise just how their victims and those around them feel when they're bullying, and also when they think about how there are other ways they could deal with the feelings that make them want to bully, they'll want to bully less.

Telling Stories to Help Children Become More Tolerant of Differences and Cause Them to Think More Deeply About Victims' Feelings


In some lessons, we could ask the children to sit in a circle on their chairs or on the floor around us, and we could read them a story about bullying. Or if we're reading a longer book, we could have several lessons where we read them a chapter at a time. The stories could be about people being discriminated against or bullied and their feelings and what they did to stop it. The idea would be to teach the children how unfair it is to bully someone just because they're different in some way.

We could consult the school librarian or look on the Internet to find good short stories about bullying. If we find some that seem promising, it'll be best if we read them ourselves first to decide whether they'd be appropriate for the age group of our class. If they're not, we could maybe let other teachers borrow them.

The stories could maybe feature characters with differences, perhaps differences in race, physical size, gender, and other things. Some could have disabilities.

When we've read the story, we could ask the children questions in the hope they think about the issues in it more. For instance, we could ask them how they felt about the story, and whether they could sympathise with the victims. We could ask them who the victims were and how they might have felt. We can also ask who the bullies were in the story and how they might have felt, and the possible real reasons why they bullied the victims, for instance, a possible fear of difference or being led along by a crowd thinking it was fun or something. If potential bullies and people who've been content to let bullying happen without speaking up become more sympathetic to victims through really thinking about their feelings, they might oppose bullying after that. And some bullies who get a greater insight into their own feelings by thinking about the feelings other bullies might have might feel more awkward about carrying on bullying, and realise their feelings aren't entirely rational, or they might decide to vent them in more healthy ways.

We can also ask the children whether anyone in the stories spoke up for the victims and how they did. We could ask them how they would have helped the victims in the story. Also we can ask them how the bullies were treated, and whether that was a good or bad way to treat them. We can ask them whether the bullies and victims got what they should have had in the end.

If we happen to be teaching the children about people from history who got bullied or discriminated against or who fought against injustice as part of the school curriculum, we can emphasise the aspects that involve any kind of bullying and discuss them, asking what was wrong with the way those people were treated and what should have happened instead.

An Activity Involving Discussing Unkind Words

Saying angry words

The activity will be meant to help students think more carefully about the things they say to others, since we'll be discussing how they feel when someone says unkind words to them, and also the effect their own unkind words might have on others, so they might decide to try to be nicer.

First, we could perhaps read the children a story where there's a victim of unkind words who's upset by them. Then we could discuss the story with them.

Then we could give each pupil some paper and crayons or pencils. We can ask them to draw a box or waste paper basket, or some other container. This will be so they can imagine putting the unkind words they say themselves in it. The idea is that they can think about what unkind words they say to others, and then pretend to throw them all away, as if they're getting rid of them because they want to use different ones from then on.

If they're having trouble drawing a nice container, or if they're having trouble spelling the unkind words they'd like to put in it, we could help them.

When they've finished, we can ask them in a playful way to hold their mouths tight shut so the words don't jump off the page and back into their mouths. We can hold a waste paper basket or bin at the front, and ask them to all come up, tear their paper with the unkind words on it up, and throw it in our bin.

When everyone's done that, we can put the bin outside the classroom, and tell them the words are going away for good.

Then we can talk to them about the types of things it'll be nice if they say more of to people, such as complimenting them, or saying patient words to people instead of unkind ones when they say or do something that isn't quite what they'd like. We could ask them to think of nice things people can say and shout them out, and we can write them down on a chalk board as they do.

Then we can have a discussion about unkind words and nice words:

We can ask the children to tell us if they've ever used an unkind word, and what happened when they did. We can ask them if that was what they wanted to happen.
Then we can ask them if they can think of something else they could have said in the situation.
We can ask them if their feelings got the better of them and made them want to say something unkind when they knew it was best not to really.
Then we can ask if they can think of ways they can try to stop that happening in future.

Then we can ask them how they feel when they hear other people use unkind words. If some think it's funny, we can ask them how they think it would feel to be on the receiving end of them.
Then we can ask them what they think the best thing to do is when they hear someone say unkind words. When they've had a chance to come up with ideas, we could suggest one or two of our own, for instance suggesting they could say something like, "That's an unkind thing to say", or that they could come and tell us, so we can talk to the person who said the unkind thing about ways they could rephrase what they say so they get their meaning across better and at the same time it doesn't sound so bad.
Then we can ask the children to think of other good ways we could keep unkind words out of the classroom.

Using Play to Give an Anti-Bullying Message

Nurse taking child's blood pressure

One activity that can help children think about just how disruptive bullying can be is if we split them into small groups and they play a game where they each pretend to be a character, and one person in each group pretends to be a bully who disrupts what the others are doing. For instance, they could pretend they're doctors and nurses and one child's the patient, and they have to take their blood pressure or check for a broken bone or something, and one child's the father of someone else who's waiting for treatment but only has a minor injury, and he's the bully, shouting and saying abusive things to the children pretending to be the doctors and nurses treating the patient, getting in their way and demanding his child's treated right then. Or they could pretend to be firemen who've just got a message saying there's a big fire they need to deal with immediately, and they're trying to get into the fire engine or trying to put the fire out when one child who's playing the bully shouts abuse at them, gets in their way and threatens to damage the fire engine to stop them doing their job. Or they could pretend they're doing important exams and one child's disrupting things and won't let them concentrate. And so on. The idea is that they try as hard as they can to do what they're supposed to be doing despite what the bully's trying to do, and see how successful they are. They can't stop what they're doing and spend too much time dealing with the bully, because then they won't be able to get the important thing they're doing done. And they can't use physical violence or shout abuse back, because they have to remember the public are watching, expecting them to behave well. The play might get noisy. But we can tell them that though that's allright, no one will be allowed to attack anyone physically. But the idea of the lesson is that they see how much more difficult it is to do something when a bully's disrupting things, so they hopefully get a greater understanding of why bullying's a bad idea and how it feels to be on the receiving end.

Another Activity to Prompt Students to Think More About the Feelings of Victims

The idea of this activity is to encourage pupils to realise bullying's serious and think more about what they might be able to do about it.


We could start off by talking about the feelings of victims, for instance saying that when someone's a bully their actions can hurt others; some victims are scared to come to school; some feel sick before they come to school because they're nervous; some try to play truant from school; and some can believe unkind things bullies say about them or think they're inadequate when they're rejected or they can't stand up to a bully. And if the bullying goes on for a while, they can feel bad for years and years, even until they're grown-up.

Then we can ask the class to think of all the ways they can that bullies hurt their victims, since it might not have occurred to them that some things are bullying before, such as spreading rumours, and whispering bad things about people when they're just within earshot. Also, it'll help ground the conversation in reality if they think of examples of what goes on rather than thinking in abstract terms. For instance, some types of bullying they might list could include kicking or hitting, calling people names and gossiping about them, not inviting them to parties, choosing them last in games, and so on.

Then we can discuss with the class what they think it feels like to be a victim and not to feel as if the school or classroom is a safe place.


We could give the pupils an example of bullying and ask them how we think the victim might feel in the situation. For instance, we could ask them to imagine a boy called Andy gets chased and kicked and pushed in the playground by a group of bullies who are all friends every day. He doesn't have anyone to play with because the group tells the other boys they'll hit them if they play with him. Yesterday he was playing a lively playground game with the girls, and one of the group of bullies headed for him and tripped him up, and everyone laughed.

Another example could be where we ask them to imagine three girls who are all friends have been calling two other girls names and spreading nasty rumours about them. One of the victims hasn't been to school twice in the past week, and another has started asking to see the nurse at playtimes, saying she's got headaches and stomach aches.

We could ask the children to draw a picture of someone looking the way they might look after they've been bullied, or if they're a victim worrying about being bullied. They could perhaps write words around the picture describing the feelings victims might have, if they're old enough to be able to think of some.

We could have a class discussion where we ask various questions such as:

An Activity to Increase Pupils' Compassion for Victims of Bullying

We could maybe do this activity with the class several weeks after the previous one, as a reminder.

The idea of the activity is to help students realise bullying can have more serious consequences for victims than they might ever have realised, so they might be more concerned for victims than they might ever have been before. It will also hopefully help them realise there are things they can do to help victims of bullying.


We could start the lesson by telling the class about some of the consequences of bullying for victims. For instance, we could ask if they know bullying is a big worry in some children's lives. Some feel sick with nerves every day before they come to school. Some don't dare come to school or try sneaking out. Some come to school but they feel scared all the time. Some are so upset by continual bullying that they don't get over it for years. For instance, if they often get called a name that makes them feel bad enough, they might come to believe it's true. If it's something like "loser", and they're mocked for not making friends and not doing very well in class, they might come to believe they're a loser who can't do anything right, and they might be still believing it and feeling depressed about it years later, especially if because they thought they were a loser, they didn't bother trying hard at school, so they didn't achieve much when they might have done if they had tried, but they never get to find that out because they don't try, because they don't believe they'll succeed so they think there's no point.


We can say it isn't fair that so many children have to feel that way because someone at school is hurting or upsetting them; it would be nice if school was a place where everyone felt safe and free to make friends. We can say if we all help, we can have a good go at stopping bullying in the class and school, so no one has to feel that bad because they're being bullied anymore. We can suggest enthusiastically that we all make an agreement to help.


We could give each of the children a piece of paper, and ask them if they could draw little pictures or symbols, or words or phrases, to illustrate the way victims will hopefully feel when they know they've got a lot of support and bullying's being reduced. We could ask them to show the class when they've finished if they want.

We can talk with the class about how they'd like to stand up for the victims of bullying or help them in other ways, asking them what they think they could do, if anything, and whether they've got ideas about who they could go to for help.

Hopefully that'll help them identify with victims with their imaginations and feelings, rather than just understanding the problem theoretically so they don't feel so strongly about it.

When they've thought about how victims might feel when they know everyone's supporting them and drawn little pictures of happy faces or written words about feeling good, or whatever they've chosen to do, we could again ask them to show the class their pictures if they'd like to.

Then we can ask various questions the class can discuss, such as:

It's possible some children will voice the opinion that some victims aren't worth feeling sorry for because they're just pathetic wimps who don't deserve sympathy or something. If they do, we can discuss with them how some children aren't as good at standing up for themselves as others and some might do things others look down on, but that doesn't mean they deserve to be picked on; it might mean they could do with being taught the skills that would help them stand up for themselves better; or it might mean they have differences some people might not like for some reason, but which aren't actually bad in themselves. We could discuss that with the class some more, asking whether they have any ideas on how they could help victims stand up for themselves more, and discussing the reasons people's differences shouldn't be a cause for them to get bullied.

We could discuss various ways victims could stand up for themselves more, and think through with the children the advantages and disadvantages of each one. That might be easier if we give them some examples of the kinds of situations some victims might be in. For instance, we could ask them how they think it would be best for them to stand up for themselves if they were sitting at lunch and some boys on another table threw food at them, or if they were new to a school and wanted to make friends but the people they tried to make friends with didn't want any more people in their group and were bitchy to them, or if they were clumsy and sometimes dropped things and some girls would call them slow and stupid in front of the whole class, or if a bigger boy threatened to beat them up for their lunch money.

They might realise standing up for themselves isn't always as easy as it might seem. If some people start blaming victims for things that happen to them, we could try to refocus the conversation on something else, or ask them how they'd feel if the victimisation happened to a friend or brother or sister of theirs, or themselves.

Issues might be raised, such as that if a victim's been teasing a bully or pushed them, they might deserve to be beaten up. We could ask the class if they really think something as severe as a beating really fits the offence, and whether there aren't much better things anyone being annoyed by someone could resort to than violence.

An Activity to Encourage the Class to Think More About Feelings in the Hope They Develop More Empathy for Others


This activity will hopefully help to prompt students to begin to care about the feelings of others more. It might also help them increase their ability to describe how they themselves feel, which might help reduce conflict, since if they explain how another person's unpleasant behaviour makes them feel rather than retaliating against the person, the other person might sometimes realise their behaviour was hurtful, apologise and change it, whereas retaliation would simply have led to a fight.

We could introduce the lesson by saying we're going to talk about feelings. We could say feelings are often our first reaction to things going on around us or the thoughts going on in our heads. They're a good way we can tell if things are going well for us, or whether something's going wrong in our lives and we need to ask for help. Sometimes feelings come on because we're worrying much more than we should be about something, so they can get strong and make us think something bad's going to happen when it isn't really. But sometimes feelings tell us something bad is happening and we need to do something quickly to change things if we can. For instance, if a bully comes towards us, we might feel fear, and that fear will be telling us to get away quickly or do something else to stop the bully hurting us. Or after we've been bullied, we might feel sad. That sadness will be telling us we need to get help or do something else to change things. Or if we feel anger, it'll be telling us the same thing. Bad feelings mean there's something in our lives we need to change. That can sometimes mean we're thinking and thinking about something bad till our feelings, perhaps worry or unhappiness, get strong, but it wasn't that bad really so we need to change our thoughts to nicer ones, perhaps by doing different things that take our minds off our unpleasant thoughts; but it can sometimes mean there really is something bad going on in our lives and we need to change it somehow, perhaps getting help to change it. So knowing our feelings can help us decide what's best for us in life.


When we've explained that, we can ask the pupils to shout out as many feeling words as they can think of. As they say the words, we can write them down on a chalk board or something equivalent. After that, we can read out each word, and ask the students to pull the kind of face they might be making if they felt that emotion. For instance, if one of the words is 'unhappy', the idea is that they'll all pull an unhappy face. And so on.

Then we can read various scenarios aloud to them, and ask them to tell us how they think each person in them feels. For instance, some could go like this:

Scenario One

The teacher Mr Walker tells the class he's having a drawing competition. Some of the children are enthusiastic to do their best, especially since he says the winning drawing will go into a book of stories the class is putting together. Sharon, for instance, takes time over her picture, making sure it's really good. She loves drawing and knows she can do well. She's pleased when she's finished, and hands the drawing in to the teacher. But the next day, he announces that Wayne has won the competition.

How is Sharon likely to feel? (Possible answers could include disappointed, sad, upset, frustrated and so on.)

How is Wayne likely to feel? (Possible answers could include happy, excited, proud and so on.)

Scenario Two


Barry's walking along a corridor when he sees two bullies, Anthony and Adam, walking towards him.

What are Barry's feelings likely to be? (Possibly scared, alone, worried and so on.)

How are the bullies likely to feel? (Possibly tough, powerful, sneaky and so on.)

Scenario three

Christopher sits at lunch all on his own. He can hear some boys on another table making fun of his clothes and calling him names. Sometimes when the teacher isn't looking, they even throw food at him. None of the other children want to sit with him.

What are the feelings of Christopher likely to be? (Possibly sad, left-out, lonely and so on.)

And the feelings of the boys? (Possibly amused, happy, powerful and so on.)

Scenario Four

Two girls, Jenny and Jocelyn, like to play together. But Jocelyn's a bit bossy. She says that no other girls are allowed to play with them and that they have to play together every day or they're no longer friends. One day Jenny decides to play with another group of children who are playing tag. Jocelyn tells Jenny she's stupid and can't play with her anymore, and then she starts teasing Jenny and the group of children playing tag.

What are Jocelyn's feelings likely to be? (Possibly anger, feeling betrayed, or in control).

As for Jenny's feelings? (Possibly upset, trapped, betrayed as well, frustrated and so on).

Scenario Five

Sarah has only recently started going to school. She likes to help people and has lots of friends. Her teacher's just recently started talking about bullying and what everyone can do to make school a safer and happier place. One day, Sarah is on the bus when she sees some girls picking on another girl, calling her names, squeezing her against the window and saying she smells. Sarah knows the girls are being bullies and immediately tells the bus driver. He stops the girls and tells their parents. Sarah's teacher finds out about it and praises her in front of the class.

What are Sarah's feelings likely to be? (Possibly excitement, pride, pleasure at being helpful and so on.)

As for the feelings of the girl who'd been bullied? (Possibly happy, relieved, thankful and so on.)

Questions for Discussion

When we've discussed the feelings the pupils think the children in the scenarios might have, we can move on to asking other questions, such as:

Another Activity for Helping Students Recognise When They Might be Hurting Others' Feelings


We can do more work with the class to help them recognise when they might be hurting victims' feelings, and to help them identify with them so they can imagine what it feels like to be victimised, so they care more if the victims' feelings are being hurt.

In one activity, we can prepare for the lesson by making a bit of artwork, maybe on the computer, where we put together several faces with different emotions. They can all be on the left-hand side of a page we create. Over to the right, we can write one-sentence descriptions of bullying events and other things that would be likely to make someone feel certain emotions. We can print the page out. There will have to be enough space underneath each face for someone to write down what emotion the face has on it. We can print out enough for the children to have one each. The idea is that we can tell them to write a word under each face that describes what emotion it has on it. If they need help spelling the word they want to write, we could help them. Then, They read each of the sentences on the right of the page, decide what kind of emotion someone who that happened to would be likely to feel, and draw a line from each sentence to the face that most fits the emotion they think the person the sentence is about might feel. The sentences could be things like:

We can explain to the children that there's no definite right or wrong answer, except if they say someone would be sad after something good happened to them or that kind of thing.

When the children have done that, we can ask them questions to encourage them to think about feelings more. For instance, we could ask them when they themselves have felt happy, sad, scared and angry, what people look like when they're experiencing those feelings, what other signs there might be that they're having those feelings, and what people experiencing those feelings might often want to do. If they think about having felt sad or scared or angry themselves at a time they were perhaps picked on, they might come to understand that a victim of bullying might feel the same way, so they might care about what's happening more.

Part Two
Giving the Children Ideas About Controlling Anger

Talking to the Children About Anger and Illustrating What We're Saying With Pictures


When children are more confident they can succeed, stand up to certain amounts of verbal abuse, and work through difficult situations in their lives, they will be more likely to achieve something in life.

One thing that can help them increase their confidence is if they know they have good anger management skills. If they know they always lose their temper and look foolish, or get angry but think anger's bad so they don't dare express it in case something goes wrong, they won't be confident. And bullies could do with learning there are good ways of expressing anger, but that bullying isn't one of them.

So we can discuss good and bad ways of dealing with anger with students.

We can discuss how people handle anger in different ways, before discussing the best ways of dealing with anger. We can try to make the lesson fun, by illustrating with pictures and actions. For instance, one thing we could do is draw pictures illustrating the various ways of dealing with anger on the chalkboard and then explaining what kind of anger they're illustrating.

Very angry

For instance, we could draw a picture of a dormant volcano, saying what it is. We could explain that the way some people deal with anger is by burying it inside. They don't express it, so at least they don't cause conflicts at the time they become angry most of the time, but it's bubbling away inside them, just like before a volcano becomes active there are gases and boiling liquid rock bubbling away underneath. But the pressure's building up all the time, partly because hot gases naturally rise, and then, just as the pressure will become too much for the liquid rock and gases to stay in the volcano and they burst out and the volcano erupts, people with lots of anger buried inside might feel more and more angry as they feel more and more provoked, until someone might only say something just a little bit aggravating, but they can't take the pressure any more and all the anger bursts out, so they lose their temper with the person and react far more strongly than the person deserved. We could draw a picture of a volcano erupting to illustrate.

But some people shout and use bad language every time someone provokes them. A roaring lion might deal with anger like that, always roaring, whatever anyone says, even over little things.

Another way of dealing with anger is like a rubber band snapping. We could bring a rubber band into school maybe, wrap it around some papers and then ping it to illustrate how it can snap hard on them. It can symbolise people who don't say or do anything when someone makes them angry, perhaps because they're not very good at standing up for themselves; but then they feel irritable for the rest of the day, and they keep snapping at people for the slightest little thing, for instance if someone takes just a little bit longer doing something than they'd like.


Then there's another way of dealing with anger that can be compared to a mouse running away and sitting quietly in a corner, thinking, "I'm not angry; I never get angry; I don't like anger". Some people don't like to admit they're ever angry, because they've come to believe anger's always bad and can often be frightening, so they'd hate to think they're capable of anger themselves, so they try never to let themselves feel anger.

Speaking out

But there's also a good way of dealing with anger. Not all anger is bad. Anger can sometimes be like an energy motivating people to do things that end up making the world a better place, or to stand up to people and get conflicts sorted out. Anger's only bad if people let it carry them away and they do things they shouldn't, or they let it fester and it comes out as spite. Dealing with anger in a good way might mean being willing to listen to what the other person says before boldly discussing our own point of view with them.


Just as a rose looks and smells nice but contains thorns that are there to serve the function of protecting it, good anger could be symbolised by something nice but with bite. It could even be symbolised by the dove of peace, because the person who has it won't let it get out of control, but will use it as an energy to try to get something good out of what's happening or change things. It won't hurt people recklessly, but will be under control so it can be used as a tool to help get something good done.

I'm not sure if it's true, but I've read that part of the reason doves symbolise peace is because they don't attack other animals like some birds do; they eat seeds rather than other animals. They also mate for life, are very loyal to each other and work together to build their nests and raise their offspring. They're easily domesticated and will eat out of a person's hand. But they can do useful things for the war effort in times of war. They'll take part in conflict if called upon to do so. They have been used as homing pigeons, carrying messages that have given people valuable information that's saved lives.

So a dove can represent the way anger can do good things if it's under control. If anger's strong, it can make people over-react to things. But if they have a way of calming it down a bit, it can then be like an energy that motivates them to resolve conflict.

For example, they might explain to the person who made them angry how they feel, and then ask them to sit down with them and talk about how things can be different in future so that doesn't happen again. Talking over problems and coming to an agreement about how things can be better in future is a skill many children can learn.

Drawing funny pictures to represent the different kinds of anger and talking about them can lead into a discussion where the children describe how they think they handle their own anger, and what they could do in future to handle it better.

Encouraging the Class to Think About Resolving Conflicts Peacefully

Conflicts can often be resolved in a way that makes everyone satisfied with the outcome. Not resolving them can mean resentments fester and just come out again later, perhaps over something else.

Clenching fists

Bullies might not feel the need to resolve conflicts in a friendly way, since they might think they get what they want by intimidating people. But we can explain to them how that kind of behaviour's disadvantageous for them as well as for their victims, because it means people think badly of them, including school staff, and they'll get punished much more than they would if they tried to resolve disagreements in a friendly way.

A fun way we could talk to the children about good ways of resolving conflict is if we read them a story where some children have a big disagreement, and we stop for a while before we read to them about how the conflict gets resolved in the book, and we ask them to think of as many ways as they can of how the disagreement can be resolved. First, we could ask them to say in their own words how the conflict came about, and also who is participating in it and what each one is unhappy about, to make sure they all understand and have been listening. We could ask them how they imagine each person in the conflict might feel, so they can sympathise more with any of them who've been treated unfairly. Then we can ask them to think of good ways the people in the story might be able to settle the conflict. The class can then discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each idea they come up with to see if we can try and come up with one that's more likely to work than the rest. Then we can read them about how the conflict was solved in the book, and the class can see if we think it was as well-handled in the book as the people might have handled it if they'd followed the suggestions we came up with.

Bullies Can View the World a Bit Differently From Others


Bullies can see the world a bit differently from well-adjusted children, because of the way they've learned to think because of their experiences of the way some people in their lives behave, and perhaps partly because of the temperament they were born with. They can have a paranoid outlook, interpreting little things that might or might not be provocations as attempts to start an argument or fight, or threats.

That reminds me of something that happened on an Internet forum that sounds as if that was going on. One member had bullied another one for some time, and he thought he was about to get banned. He did get banned, but his behaviour when he thought he was going to be might have had a lot to do with it. Someone criticised him for the things he'd said when he was bullying the other person, and said he was lucky he was anonymous so he was protected. The bully must have interpreted that as meaning protected against him. He responded, saying his critic was lucky he had his own anonymity, because if he didn't, he'd ... and then he went into a list of gruesome descriptions of violent things he'd do to him. Not surprisingly, he was banned within hours.

Bullies often tend to use violence to solve problems instead of talking them through.

They can often be intolerant and disrespectful of others. And they can just assume they're going to be victorious over them.

Helping bullies learn to control their anger will be part of teaching them a range of things so they hopefully develop different attitudes.

Discussing Dealing With Anger With the Class

It might help some bullies think about their behaviour and change it if we teach the class about signs anger's coming on that they can recognise so they can do something to try to prevent it before it comes on in full force. We can also talk to them about reasons why talking to people angrily often makes it less likely the angry person will get what they want, so it can be in a person's best interests to keep calm.

We could perhaps give them an illustration like this:


Imagine if a teacher was angry because a pupil hadn't done their homework very well. Imagine if the teacher just shouted in front of everyone, "This just isn't good enough! You should have done much better at that homework! If you don't do better next time, it'll prove you're just no good!" That wouldn't let the pupil know just what they'd done wrong and how to do better next time. So the pupil probably wouldn't do better next time, and then in any school tests, they probably wouldn't do very well. If the teacher's attitude to several of the children was like that, lots of them might not do well. And then the teacher wouldn't look as good as they would have done if the pupils had got better results.

The pupils might have all been willing to try harder if only they understood the work. But when the teacher shouts at them and makes them feel stupid, they don't feel like explaining what they don't understand, so they don't, and they never learn how to do the work better.

Instead of shouting at the pupils for not doing very well, the teacher could have asked them what it was about the homework they found difficult. Then the children would have explained what they couldn't do very well, the teacher could have helped them understand the things they didn't understand, and they could have done the work better from then on, and for one thing, then the teacher as well as the pupils would have looked better in the school tests.


Sometimes, if people just explain what their problems are with what someone else has just done or said, and explain the way it's made them feel, the other person can understand and change their behaviour. For instance, if someone writes a note in class and gives it to someone else who thinks it's insulting them, the person who feels insulted might go up to the one who wrote the note after class who might have half forgotten what they said and shout some bad language at them. The one who wrote the note might wonder why they're being shouted at and get angry and a fight might start. But things might keep calm if instead, the person who feels insulted goes and repeats back what the child who wrote the note says and tells them that if it was meant to insult them, they don't understand what the point of writing it was but say it annoyed them, so they'd prefer not to receive any more notes like that.

How Anger Can Be Caused By False Beliefs or Unfairly Hostile Thoughts, and How it Can be Diminished If They're Changed

Angry conversation

We could teach the children that anger is often caused by false beliefs we've grown up with and the thoughts those beliefs make us have. If we can question those beliefs, it might stop us feeling so angry. For instance, if one child wants to walk out the door but there's a child standing in the doorway, the child who wants to go out might assume they're standing there deliberately to annoy them and start verbally abusing them or might even hit them. But maybe the child wasn't deliberately trying to annoy them at all but just hadn't been thinking. The reason the bully might think the other child's in the way deliberately might be to do with the way they've been brought up; perhaps their parents always seem to assume people who stand in awkward places are doing it deliberately to be annoying, so that's the way their child learned to think. But the reality might be that often, people who stand in awkward places don't mean any harm but just aren't thinking. If bullies stop thinking the worst about people's behaviour, they might not get so angry about it, so they might not bully so much.

Concerned about going insane

But also, we can teach them that when people are angry, it's a lot more difficult to think clearly. It's the same with any strong emotion, like depression, anxiety and so on. When a surge of anger comes over someone, it's difficult for them to think things through intelligently. It's much more difficult to reason with someone who's angry and can only think about how they want something now than it is to reason with someone who's feeling calm. The brain's like that because whenever humans are put in danger, they need to make snap decisions quickly without thinking things through much. For instance, if someone was about to hit you, you wouldn't have time to think, "Now would it be best to fend this person off by hitting them in the face, by hitting them in the stomach, by running as fast as I can or by calling for help?" By the time a person thought through all those options to decide which was best, they'd probably be lying on the ground with a black eye. So the brain shuts down the thinking part and people just do what seems best to them on the spur of the moment. But that facility in the brain means that when a person's angry, thinking there's a threat when there isn't really, the intelligent part of their brain shuts down just the same, and they can behave much worse than they should. For instance, it might not occur to them to think that someone standing in the doorway might not be doing it deliberately to annoy them; they might just feel provoked and hit them when the person didn't mean any harm at all but just wasn't thinking.

But once a person's realised they have beliefs that aren't true about people's behaviour so they get angry sometimes when they shouldn't, they can think through how and why they get angry unfairly sometimes, and next time something happens that used to make them angry for an unfair reason, they'll be more likely to realise there's no need to feel angry, so the surge of anger that used to come on automatically just might not any more. Or if it does, we might have thought about things enough to be able to tell ourselves, "Hang on, am I being fair here?" and if there's a possibility we're not, we could maybe back off for a few minutes to ask ourselves whether we're being fair and wait for ourselves to calm down a bit. When a surge of anger comes on, it's typical to think immediately and automatically something like, "Right! I'm going to get that person! They deserve it!" But when we get used to recognising anger and labelling it as just anger rather than a righteous impulse to give someone what they deserve, we can slow down. Instead of immediately having an impulse to hit out at the person who we think made us angry, we can just think, "This is anger." Then we can wait a little while for it to calm down a bit before we decide what to do. It might often only take a few seconds for it to calm down enough for us to make a more sensible decision.

Encouraging the Class to Think About False Beliefs That Make Them Angrier Than They Need to Be

We can tell the class about those things. Then we can encourage them to think through all the times they can remember that they've been angry in the past few weeks, and ask them if they're sure there was a good reason to be angry, or whether they might have been getting angry because of a belief they had that isn't really true, such as that children laughing near them are likely to be laughing at them, when in reality there might be dozens of things they could be laughing at; or that someone who dropped a bit of dinner on them just must have done it on purpose, when in reality they might not have done.


We can also instruct them to think over the times they get angry from then on after each one has happened, and to ask themselves whether their anger was really justified, or whether it's possible they got angry unfairly. For instance, if someone bumps into them, they might usually automatically assume they did it on purpose and get angry; but often it might not be deliberate.

Teaching the Class Ways of Defusing Anger


Sometimes it can help if when people feel angry, they imagine themselves as an outside observer looking in and trying to see things from both sides, to work out what's really going on.

Another thing that can stop anger building up is if people respond to little taunts and things by making jokes of them. For instance, there was a boy who was called chicken by some other boys in his class, and he went into the playground and pretended to be a chicken. They all laughed and no one teased him like that again. So, for instance, if a child accused another one of being fat, the fat child could agree and exaggerate how fat they were to make people around them laugh, such as saying, "I know; it's terrible; I'm so fat they have to take the door frame out to let me in the classroom and then quickly put it back again when I've come in; and the floor in the classroom had to be specially reinforced to stop me falling through it because I'm as heavy as a train full of people." That might not always stop the teasing, but it might sometimes, especially if the person being teased carries on the exaggeration if anyone around them makes a joke about what they just said to tease them some more.

Children could also be taught to watch out for the signs that they're getting angry, for instance the emotional feeling of anger coming on, clenched fists, muscle tension, pounding heart, faster shallow breathing, and an urge to say or do something hurtful to another person. They could be talked to about how those signs can mean a person's in danger of over-reacting to a situation, so when a person notices those signs in themselves, it can be best if they back away, take some deep breaths, either tell the person they're angry with they'll speak to them later and go off and do something like strenuous exercise to work the anger off, or talk right there and then, if they can become calmer through such things as breathing slowly, unclenching their fists, untensing other muscles, counting to five, and trying to think reassuring thoughts such as that they might think the other person has made them angry on purpose but it isn't necessarily true.

Another thing it might be possible for bullies to do after rehearsing the technique in role-plays a lot where they imagine they're thinking out loud is to replace some of the negative thoughts that lead them to feel aggressive with calming ones. For instance, if a bully sees someone with nice new shoes, his immediate aggressive thought might be, "That boy's showing me up!" The thought might make him want to go and attack the boy. But if he can be coached to try to quickly replace the thought with one like, "So what if he's got nicer shoes than me?" then if he gets into the habit of doing that, the idea of someone showing him up by looking nicer will stop making him want to bully.

Other examples of hostile thoughts that could be replaced with calming ones could be:

If the children can be asked to think about what kinds of things annoy them most, and maybe write them down, it may be that a lot of them are things that only annoy them because of the way they think of them, and we could help them to think about them another way.

Teaching the Class About the Benefits of Controlling Anger


Some bullies might think that if they're going to feel obliged to be polite to people in future and not hit out at them when they feel like it, they'll no longer be in control. They might not like that idea, but we can point out to the class that thinking about things more actually gives them a better kind of control, for two reasons: Firstly, when they control their angry responses so they think about things more and respond in more sensible ways than they might have done before when they just hit out at people, it'll be good for them as well as for other people, because they'll respond in better ways sometimes that make it more likely they'll get what they really want. For instance, if someone knocked some papers off their desk, they might jump up and start a fight with the person, and their papers might be trampled underfoot. The person might not even have knocked their papers off their desk on purpose. So they might have made the person dislike them and ruined their own papers in the process. Controlling their anger means they might stop to consider that the person might not have knocked their papers off their desk on purpose. They might question them fairly politely about whether they did; or hesitating before doing anything might give the person who knocked the papers off the desk time to turn around, apologise and help pick them up. So controlling their anger means they don't start unnecessary fights that just cause them more trouble in the end.

Also, controlling their anger means they're more likely to get what they want often, because they'll be calm enough to ask for it politely. For instance, if a bully wants to work on a computer but other people are there, their old response might have been to throw a tantrum or to shout and try to push people out the way, and then they might just get in a fight and not get on the computer at all, especially if the teacher banishes them from it for fighting over it. But if they control their anger enough to ask the teacher politely if they can have a turn on it instead of trying to muscle in, then the teacher will probably organise things so they can have a turn. So controlling their anger has got them what they want much more effectively than an angry outburst would have done. Angry outbursts might sometimes get them what they want, but they come with drawbacks, such as losing friends and possibly getting hurt. Controlling their anger and responding in a better way can get them what they want without such things happening.

We could have lessons where we explain things like that to the class and get them to practice asking for things politely where they might once have tried to fight for them.

An Activity For Helping Children Control Their Anger


We could do an activity with the class to help them understand that anger is a normal part of life and isn't always bad, but that there ought to be rules for how to deal with it. There are good and bad ways of dealing with it.

The activity would take the whole lesson. We could start by telling the children that anger is a normal, natural emotion that everyone experiences. Then we could discuss with them what words come to their minds when they think of anger. We could ask volunteers to act out what people look like when they're angry, and ask if anyone can describe what people feel like and look like. For instance, some feelings could be feeling tense or hot, and people who get angry might look red in the face.

We could discuss with them how anger's natural; we all have things that make us angry and it's OK to feel angry; but how we deal with that anger is very important, because it can make things better or worse for us.

We could tell them we have three rules for how not to deal with anger:

  1. Don't hurt yourself.
  2. Don't hurt others, either physically or by being verbally abusive.
  3. Don't Damage property.

We could ask students to volunteer to tell us briefly about circumstances where they got angry, without mentioning any names. Some circumstances might be quite similar. If so, we could use them to give ourselves ideas on situations to talk about next.

Without making any student feel bad for not responding in a good way when they were angry, we could think of a few situations, and ask pupils how best to respond to them. For instance, one scenario we could put to them could be:

"Jane pushes in front of Jackie in the lunch queue. Jackie gets really angry. What should Jackie do?

"Let's think. Jackie could push Jane back. What do you think would happen if she did? Would it make things better or worse?

"Jackie could ignore it or tell a teacher like me. What do you think would happen if she did? Would it make things better or worse?"

We could ask pupils to shout out suggestions as to how people could calm themselves down from feeling angry, and we could help them come up with suggestions, for instance taking several very slow deep breaths, counting to ten before speaking, going and doing something energetic like going for a run or kicking around a ball, asking an adult for help, walking away, and so on.

Then we could ask them several questions for class discussion. Questions like:

It'll help the children keep up any motivation to change they develop if we ourselves can be seen to be handling anger in a good way, not punishing anyone more harshly than we should under provocation, for example.

A Relaxation Technique, and a Suggestion on How to Handle Problems When Relaxed


One piece of advice we could give pupils on how to calm down when they feel upset or angry is for them to tense all the muscles in their body, hold the tension for several seconds and then very slowly relax. The idea is that they'll be more relaxed when they've done that than they were before. They'll be slowly letting go of the tension that was contributing to making them upset or angry. They can do that several times if they like. At the same time, we could instruct them to breathe very slowly and fairly deeply several times. That's a calming technique.

We could get them to practice it in class sometimes for a few minutes. We could see if they like it.

We could tell them that when they're relaxed, they could try thinking through their problems. Problems are easier to work on when a person's relaxed than when they're stressed, because people can't think so clearly when they're feeling strong emotion, and they can also blow things out of proportion so they can think problems are bigger than they are.

One problem-solving technique is to come up with several possible solutions and then choose one. For instance, if they couldn't do their homework, one way out of it they might ponder on might be to simply ignore the problem and not even try to do the homework. Another might be to try and get someone else to do it for them. Another might be to do their best and then ask the teacher for help the next day. So we can suggest that whenever they have a minor problem, they think about several options for solving it and then choose which one seems the best. For more serious problems, the best option might always be to tell an adult and ask for help.

We could get them to practice thinking through sample problems after they've practised relaxing by breathing slowly and tensing and relaxing their muscles. We could perhaps ask them whether any of them can think of a problem, real or made-up, that they'd be happy for the class to discuss. If anyone volunteers to tell us about one, we could go through it with the class, discussing various options with them, and then making suggestions about which ones are best. When we've practised doing that with the class several times, they may well have got into the habit of doing it themselves.

Whenever there seems to be quite a bit of tension in the class or when the children seem a bit hyperactive or upset, we could try taking a couple of minutes out to ask the children to relax by breathing slowly and fairly deeply, and tensing and untensing all their muscles. Maybe they could tense them as they breathe in, and slowly relax them as they breathe out.

And we could encourage them to use the techniques at home whenever they feel a bit stressed or angry, and at school when someone's done something that's making them feel stressed or angry.

An Activity to Help Students Become More Aware of When They're Becoming Angry and Think of Healthy Ways of Handling it

Smashing a computer

We could recommend to pupils that they think through what the main things are that make them angry, so they can plan how to deal with them better before they make them angry again.

Also, they could plan how to deal with the actual anger in a healthy way. They could imagine scenes where they're beginning to get angry, so they can practice doing things other than hitting out or saying something aggressive. Then when they're in the real situations that make them angry, hopefully they'll be able to stop themselves before they get carried away, and respond in a healthy way to their anger. It'll take quite a bit of practice before they can discipline themselves to do that though.

Talking to the Pupils About Signs They're Angry

To help students pick up on the signs that they're becoming angry, we can ask them to think through what happens to their bodies when they get angry, for instance whether their face goes red, whether their breathing gets faster, whether they clench their fists and tense other muscles, and also whether they have a strong angry feeling. The earlier they can pick up on signs they're getting angry, the easier it will be for them to stop themselves and decide to respond in a different way. It'll be a lot harder when the anger becomes very strong.

They sometimes won't have much time to pick up on signs anger's coming on before it does, because it can flare up quickly. But sometimes, they might be in a situation where they're slowly getting more and more irritated; and in any case, thinking about what signs of anger they're feeling might sometimes divert them sufficiently from their angry thoughts about what's bothering them for the anger to stop building up so they can deal with it better because they've caught it before it became overpowering.

They can think about ways they currently behave when they're angry, and think about more healthy ways they could react.


We could explain to the class how when someone says or does something we find annoying, things happen to our bodies, not just our minds. Our bodies get geared up for fighting, and that's one reason we can respond aggressively. But if we notice our bodies are doing that, we can do things to calm them down. We can explain how the body releases adrenaline when we think someone's saying or doing something bad to us, and that's designed to give the body more energy to fight. Our hearts can beat faster so more blood's pumped around the body to give us more energy to fight if we have to, we can breathe faster so more oxygen gets into the system so more of it can get pumped around into the blood to help us get more energy to fight if we have to, and we can clench our fists and tense our muscles to get ready to fight.

There are things we can do to calm the system down though. Breathing very slowly and fairly deeply counteracts the fast shallow breathing that the body starts doing to get more oxygen into the system. Slowly deliberately unclenching the fists and untensing other muscles can help relax the body as well.

We can explain what builds up to an angry outburst: that someone says or does something that annoys us, we feel annoyed, and then the body quickly starts making preparations to fight if we need to; we can tense up and our heart can beat faster, for example. people can often tell we're angry by the way we look, for instance our faces might go red. But it isn't long between the time our bodies get ready to fight and we can say or do something aggressive, if we don't make an attempt to calm ourselves down. So, for instance, if we're waiting for the bus and someone pushes us out of the way so they can get on first, we can quickly get angry and start shouting at them.

Asking the Pupils to Think About How to Calm Their Anger


We can give each of the pupils paper and pencils or crayons, and ask them to write in just a few words a few situations that have made them angry recently, either at home or school.

Then underneath, we can ask them to write words or draw little pictures to describe how their bodies looked and felt when they were angry.

When they've finished, we can ask them to draw or write words or phrases to describe what they did when they got angry, for instance yelling, kicking, calling someone names and so on.

Then we could discuss with the students whether the ways they reacted to their anger were good ways or bad ways. Then we can ask them if they can think of better ways they could have handled their anger. We can tell them that if they can, they can write them down or draw pictures of what they would do.

When we've given them a bit of time to do that, we can ask them various questions, such as:

Another Activity to Help Children Find Ways to Handle Anger

Road rage

It's useful for this activity to have some index cards or something similar, and a big brightly-decorated plastic or cardboard box.

We can tell the pupils we're going to be discussing some techniques they can use to calm themselves down quickly when they get angry. Then we can ask them to tell us all about some situations where they got angry, so the lesson seems to be about real things rather than just an abstract discussion. We could start the conversation off by giving them an example, telling them about a situation that irritated us, such as perhaps a time when we were driving to school and a driver pulled out in front of us.

We can tell the pupils that the reason we want to talk about what has made them angry is because we want the class to think about how their behaviour affects others, and we also want to talk about situations that make people angry so we can talk about how in future, people can find ways of controlling their anger when they're provoked like that, and we want to know if anyone has any good ideas.

When a pupil tells us about a situation that made them angry, we could ask them questions such as,

Then we can ask other pupils to join in making suggestions as to how anger in situations like that could be calmed down and how such a problem could be solved without anger making the person do something that isn't a good idea. We could write the good ideas they come up with on the chalk board.

Then, we could write each idea on a card, or ask the pupils to write them on cards, and put them in the big box. We could keep the big box somewhere and tell the pupils that if they ever need ideas on controlling their anger, they can go to the box and get some from reading what the cards say.

When we've done that, we can ask the children questions for discussion, such as,

An Activity to Help Students Understand How Provocation Makes Victims Angry And How Holding Anger In Isn't a Good Idea


We can ask the pupils to draw a big jug, or we could find a picture of one and copy it so we can give one to all the pupils. Then they can imagine feeling angry at various things, and imagine their anger's going into the jug until it comes out the top. It'll be to illustrate that people can only take so much provocation that makes them angry till they boil over with anger and do something bad, unless they've done something to calm their anger in the meantime.

We could start the lesson off by saying something like, "Today we're going to talk about the victims of bullying. Victims can feel a lot of things because of what happens to them. Often they can feel anger and frustration at the bully for bullying them and the situation they're stuck in. Let's talk about some possible bullying situations and how they might make you feel if you were the victim of bullying."

We can give the children the pictures of jugs, and some crayons or something they can use to draw lines on them. The idea is that we read out a scenario about an annoying situation, and they have to imagine how angry it would make them feel if it happened to them, and imagine whereabouts their anger would come up to in the jug. They can imagine that several different things happen to make them angry, drawing lines higher and higher up the jug each time to represent their anger getting worse and worse, till they imagine it steaming out the top and draw something that represents it coming out of the top of the jug.

We could either personally read out situations that might make the children angry if they happened to them, or if the students are a bit older, we can give them each a copy of a list of situations and direct them to take turns reading one.

We can ask the students to imagine the first annoying situation happened to them, and to draw a line partway across their picture of a jug as far up as they think their anger would get. For instance, if the situation would only make them a little bit angry, they can just draw a line a little way up the jug, perhaps representing a drop. We can tell them to imagine that before they've calmed down properly from the anger, the next annoying situation happens to them. So they'll have the new anger, plus a little bit of the old anger left over from when they were angry before. So their anger level might go a bit higher. With every new situation that gets read out, they can imagine it going a bit higher and a bit higher, until it spills right over the top. If it gets to the top, they can imagine it starting all over again from the bottom, using a different coloured crayon to signify the fresh bursts of anger. Then when it gets to the top again, they can start again with a different coloured crayon, and so on.

We can tell the children to raise their hand when their jug's about to overflow, and we can comment on how many hands are raised.

When we've read out all the anger-making situations or the children have, any child who wants to can show their drawing to the class.

The list of annoying situations could be something like this:

  1. One of your classmates pushes in front of you in the lunch queue.
  2. A group of kids in your class make fun of you by calling you names.
  3. Your sister or brother takes your favourite video game.
  4. You see one of your classmates push another person in your class.
  5. You're picked last for a team in a gym class.
  6. Your teacher ignores you when you have a question.
  7. Two other kids tell a friend of yours not to be friends with you any more.
  8. You get a bad mark on a paper.
  9. Someone makes fun of you for being too big or too small.
  10. Your mum or dad shouts at you before you come to school.
  11. An older kid at school pushes you into a corner and starts hitting you.
  12. You get in trouble for something you didn't do.
  13. Every day, a kid tries to steal your lunch.
  14. Every day, you hear someone making up bad things about you.
  15. You think your teacher doesn't understand you.

After we've read each anger-making situation out and the children have thought about how angry it would make them feel, we could ask several questions, such as:

Thinking About Whether We're as Good at Resolving Conflict With Students as we Could Be


We could discuss with fellow staff members how we all handle conflict with our pupils, and whether we handle it as well as we could or whether we could do with more skills to help us handle it. We could think through issues like what the most common kinds of conflict are in our classroom and how we handle them, what emotions we feel when we're trying to sort them out and whether we let them get the better of us, whether we've seen others use good and bad conflict resolution skills and if so, what worked and was good and what wasn't, and where we might go to learn new conflict resolution skills if we feel we need them.

Part Three
Bringing Enjoyment Into the Classroom Whenever We Can

Making Sure Fun and Laughter are Part of the Student Experience


Laughter is important. It can help people de-stress. Seeing the funny side of things can stop them taking life too seriously and getting anxious over things they might be able to laugh off if they were encouraged to have more fun. So laughter can literally be like a good medicine, helping people not to take life so seriously that bits of it become a drag when they don't need to be, and they don't enjoy it.

If we think a day's been particularly arduous for some students, we could have a relaxing time where we read them a funny story or show them a short funny film or something.

Sometimes, we can have a "joke time", where pupils can tell jokes they've learned or read jokes from children's joke books. We'll need to tell them beforehand that we don't want them to do anything like make fun of other pupils or groups of people like women, men, blondes, people from other cultures and so on to try to make them look bad. But as long as they keep the jokes nice, having a joke time might be fun for them.

There might be an opportunity for students to be silly and joke around at other times in class sometimes. For instance, some activities we give them could involve them playing funny characters they make up.

Some Jokes We Could Tell the Class


I know of some good jokes we could maybe tell the children. Here are a few:

Teacher: If I give you two rabbits and two rabbits and another two rabbits, how many rabbits have you got?
Patty: Seven!
Teacher: No, listen carefully again. If I give you two rabbits and two rabbits and another two rabbits, how many rabbits have you got?
Patty: Seven!
Teacher: Let's try this another way. If I give you two apples and two apples and another two apples, how many apples have you got?
Patty: Six.
Teacher: Good. Now if I give you two rabbits and two rabbits and another two rabbits, how many rabbits have you got?
Patty: Seven!
Teacher: How on earth do you work out that three lots of two rabbits is seven?
Patty: I've already got one rabbit at home now!

Teacher: Students, you have forty minutes to write an essay on a soccer match.
Richard: (After two minutes) Here's my paper, sir.
Teacher: What did you manage to write so quickly?
Richard: Match called off due to rain.

There was a little boy named Johnny who used to hang out at the local corner market. The owner didn't know what Johnny's problem was, but the boys would constantly tease him. They would always comment that he was two bricks shy of a load, or two pickles short of a barrel. To prove it, sometimes they would offer Johnny his choice between a nickel (5 cents) and a dime (10 cents) and John would always take the nickel -- they said, because it was bigger.

One day after John grabbed the nickel, the store owner took him aside and said, "Johnny, those boys are making fun of you. They think you don't know the dime is worth more than the nickel. Are you grabbing the nickel because it's bigger, or what?"

Slowly, Johnny turned toward the store owner and a big grin appeared on his face and Johnny said, "Well, if I took the dime, they'd stop doing it, and so far I have saved $20!"

A couple was going out for the evening. The last thing they did was to put the cat out.

The taxi arrived, and as the couple walked out of the house, the cat shoots back in. So the husband goes back inside to chase it out.

The wife, not wanting it known that the house would be empty, explained to the taxi driver "He's just going upstairs to say goodbye to my mother."

A few minutes later, the husband got into the taxi and said, "Sorry I took so long, the stupid thing was hiding under the bed and I had to poke her with a coat hanger to get her to come out!"

A man went to the store with his 3-year-old daughter in tow. Since he was just there to grab some essentials like milk and bread, he opted to save some time by not pushing a cart around the store.

"That's not the way Mommy does it," his daughter informed him.

"I know, dear, but Daddy's way is OK, too," he replied.

Leaving the store in the rain and without a cart, he carried the bag of groceries, his daughter, and the milk quickly to the car. Not wanting to set anything down on the wet ground, he set the jug of milk on top of the car, efficiently whisked open the car door with his now free hand, scooted the groceries in and set his daughter into the car seat in one swift motion. Then he hopped in himself.

"That's not the way Mommy does it," his daughter informed him again.

"Honey, there's more than one way to do things," he replied patiently. "Daddy's way is OK, too."

As they pulled out and headed down the street, he became aware of the scraping sound on the roof as the jug of milk slid down the length of the rooftop, bounced off the trunk of the car and splattered to the ground, sending a froth of white milk in every direction.

In the millisecond he took to process his mistake, his young daughter looked at him, and in a most serious voice said, "That's NOT the way Mommy does it."

Teddy came thundering down the stairs, much to his father's annoyance.

"Teddy,' he called, 'how many more times have I got to tell you to come down the stairs quietly? Now, go back up and come down like a civilised human being."

There was a silence, and Teddy reappeared in the front room.

"That's better," said his father. "Now will you always come down stairs like that?"

"Suits me," said Teddy. "I slid down the banister."

If we notice some students aren't laughing, it might be worth asking them why, privately. We could perhaps pass them afterwards and stop for a word, in the way we often do, and ask them what they thought of the jokes. They might just have not thought they were funny because their sense of humour's different. But if we notice some students look sad or are withdrawn, or seem to have difficulty having fun, we can ask a few more questions to find out how they are. If they seem to be depressed or are having troubles in their lives, we could maybe ask the school counsellor or psychologist or social worker if they could help, or try and help ourselves.

Letting Students Know it's Allright to Laugh at Themselves


When students make mistakes, some might be able to quickly laugh it off, whereas others might feel thoroughly humiliated, wondering what others are thinking of them, and hang their heads in shame for ages, even after only a bit of minor clumsiness. They might see mistakes, clumsiness or badly-handled communication with others as personal failure, a sign of inferiority. They might worry about them long after everyone else has forgotten them. Everyone might have laughed at them at the time but then quickly forgotten the incident. But the child who made the mistake might not realise they've forgotten, and think people must still be thinking badly of them and that it was far more serious than it really was. Or a more aggressive child might shout at other people, blaming them for what happened.

We could discuss such things with the children, assuring them that it's normal for people to be clumsy sometimes and make mistakes sometimes and communicate badly with others sometimes. It's just part of being human. We can assure them that people don't have to take their little mistakes seriously, especially because even if other people laughed at the time, most will probably have forgotten them soon; and just the occasional little mistake doesn't really mean anything significant anyway. Everyone makes mistakes.

We can assure them that laughing at themselves can be a good way of dealing with such a thing and brushing it off rather than having it cause anxiety or embarrassment. After all, some people make mistakes in front of thousands or even millions, for instance news readers. They'll usually speak clearly, but sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they'll giggle about it.

One fun thing we could do with students is to bring a recording in of mistakes people on the radio have made. There are some funny ones out there.

We might make mistakes ourselves sometimes. If we make ones we can laugh at and we do, it might help convince children that laughing at their own little mistakes is a good thing to do.

Some children might make jokes about themselves that only encourage other children to laugh at them more though. For instance, if one told a group of children he'd gone to the toilet earlier and forgot to zip his trousers up when he came out, he might be subjected to unkind ridicule. We can discuss with children how there's no need to draw special attention to mistakes among people who wouldn't otherwise know about them, but making a quick witty comment or just saying something like "Whoops" at the time when people do notice them can make other people think you're a good sport.

When we notice a child laughing at a mistake they made and handling it well, we can publicly praise them for doing so.

We could also suggest they try to find one thing a day about themselves or their lives that they can laugh at.

Teaching Pupils When It's Inappropriate to Laugh


We can teach children that there's a difference between friendly laughter when they're laughing with someone who's just made a mistake, and laughing unkindly at someone outside their group who might be embarrassed and think of it as hostile, especially if it's accompanied by pointing and whispering. Sometimes, the laughter might not be intended to be unkind; it might be automatic; but we can tell the children that it's best if they don't laugh so heartily that it doesn't occur to them to feel concern for the person. For instance, a boy might walk towards the front of the class, trip over an undone shoelace and drop his books and papers all over the floor. The class might burst out laughing automatically because it seems amusing; they can't be faulted for that. But since the boy might not have thought it was funny and might be quite embarrassed or a bit upset, we can discuss with them how it's good to stop themselves and wonder if he's allright.

We can also discuss with them how the boy could react confidently so he can brush the mistake off. We can ask them to brainstorm about it and try to come up with several suggestions as to how. Then we can ask them to think about each suggestion to decide how good it is, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each. For instance, if it's suggested that the boy could run out of the room, though that wouldn't be showing confidence, the children could discuss how that wouldn't be a good solution, because after all, he'd have to come back, and he might get laughed at more then. Another suggestion could be that he could maybe make a joke out of it by taking a theatrical bow for the performance. That way, he'd be in control of things, rather than being at the mercy of children who wanted to jeer at him.

We could make a class rule that laughing unkindly at or making fun of other children is not acceptable in our classroom. We could look out to see if anyone is laughing unkindly at someone else, and if they are, we could intervene to stop them.

Part Four
Helping the Class Become More Aware of Different Types of Bullying and Ways of Dealing With Bullying

An Activity Where Children Describe What They Think Bullies Are Like


We can have a lesson where we aim to increase the children's understanding of what behaviours are bullying behaviours. The idea will be to try to make them more dedicated to stopping bullying when they see it.

We can give them crayons or coloured pencils and so on, and ask them to draw a picture of what they imagine a bully to look like. We can tell them not to draw anyone in the classroom or name names. This is just supposed to be an imaginary bully character, looking the way a bully might look, for instance having an evil grin on their face, having their fists clenched and so on. We can ask them to write words around the picture describing what bullying behaviours are, and also the ways they think bullies come across to others when they bully.

For instance, the kinds of words and phrases someone could write around their picture could be things like: "Bullying is when people try to hurt someone who can't fight back very well by kicking or punching them or injuring them in some other way, or by saying unkind things to them, or by spreading nasty rumours about them, and they keep doing it." As for the impression bullies give of themselves, some of the class might say things like, "Bullies make people think they're mean and hurtful; they give the impression they think they're more cool than others and they think they know it all. They like to try to get attention." It'll be good if we can encourage them to try to come up with their own words to describe bullies.

When they've had some time to write some things down, we could stop them and ask each one to show the class their picture and tell us what definitions of bullying and descriptions of the ways bullies come across to others they've come up with. We could have two columns on the blackboard, one for definitions of bullying and another for descriptions of what bullies can make others think of them. We can discuss some of the children's definitions and descriptions with the class and see what they say. We can write the words the class think are good ones on the chalkboard.

When everyone's shown the class their pictures and told them their definitions of bullying and descriptions of the impressions bullies give of themselves, and there are several words on the chalkboard, we can discuss with the class which ones they think are best and why. When the class have come to a majority agreement on which ones to use, we could write them down on paper and put them on a noticeboard in the classroom. Perhaps we could even put the children's pictures and descriptions of bullying there as well. It'll mean that when they walk past the board, as they often will, they'll be reminded of what bullying is and how it's disapproved of.

When we've come to some agreement with the class about what words best describe bullying, we can discuss wider issues about bullying with them, such as why they think some pupils bully, how they think bullying makes victims feel, whether bullies know they're bullies and how they might feel, and what they do when they see bullying.

The exercise might make bullies feel awkward. The goal of it isn't to embarrass or humiliate them or to lower their self-worth; after all, they may have learned to bully in tough situations that were hurtful to them. The idea of the exercise is to help students recognise bullying for what it really is.

Picking a fight

I was talking with someone the other day who used to be a schoolteacher, and she said that one day, she went into class and there were two 11-year-old girls physically fighting. She pulled them apart, took them outside and discussed with each one why they'd been doing it. She had a conversation with each one, and it turned out that both of them had had upsetting weekends full of family arguments. One of them had had one of her parents walk out on the other one. So when they got to school, they were both tense and angry, and it only took a little thing to make them start fighting.

The teacher called all the children to sit in a circle, and she told them the two girls had both had difficulties at home over the weekend, and she asked any children who'd like to volunteer to look after them to put their hands up. Lots of children did, though she wasn't sure if that was just because some of them wanted to please her. She chose two to look after each of the two girls, and that was their job for a little while. The two girls didn't get in trouble again after that.

An Activity to Help Children Think About Good and Bad Responses to Being Bullied

As well as telling the class what we'd prefer them to do if they get bullied, such as coming and telling us, we could organise an activity for them where they can think a bit about what would be good and bad responses to bullying, making choices as to what would be better ones. The idea would be that they think about how the better responses would often be the non-violent ones.

We could perhaps do some artwork on the computer, making some pictures. We could make a page with several little pictures on it, alongside little descriptions of bullying situations. For instance, one could be, "Barry hits Kevin". With the description, we could have three little pictures, one where Kevin grabs quite a few of Barry's papers and books and pushes them all off his desk, one where he tells the teacher and one where he shouts at Barry. We could invent a few little scenarios like that and make pictures to go with them. Then the children would indicate which one they thought was the best response of the three in each scenario and which would be the worst. They could circle which one they think would be the best one with a pencil, and draw an X over the one they think would be the worst.

We can read each scenario aloud to them and explain what each of the pictures is in case it isn't quite clear to them. We can read one at a time, wait a minute or so for them to decide which would be the best and worst response and mark them, and then we can read the next one. And so on.

Other scenarios we could have could perhaps be things like these:


An older child steals a younger one's lunch. The younger one might tell the teacher (the best response), cry, or kick the older child (the worst response). After all, the older bigger child might get more violent.

Andrew calls Sarah a name. Sarah could call Andrew a name back, or hit him (the worst response), or tell him calmly to go away (the best response).

When they've looked through all the scenarios, we could discuss the way they respond to provocation with them. We could ask them how they decide how they're going to handle it, and how much thought goes into it, and why they tend to take the actions they do, what they think they could do better, and what changes they think they could make that would help them respond more calmly.

We could ask them why they think the responses they circled as the best ones would in fact be the best.

We could also ask them why the responses they marked as the worst would be bad. For instance, we could ask them what often happens if they hit people, for example whether the fight just gets worse, or whether they get in trouble with school staff.

We could ask them if they know anyone who handles difficult situations well, and if so, how they handle them.

And we could ask them if they know who they could go to for help in a difficult situation.

Talking About Different Types of Bullies With Students, and Illustrating by Drawing Pictures


Some school bullies are often aggressive, pushing other children around, stealing their lunch, calling them abusive names and so on. Other children will join in aggressive bullying if someone else is doing it, but won't otherwise. Other types of bullies, particularly females, bully by spreading nasty rumours about someone who's annoyed them so people stop wanting to be their friends. They can gossip together about them in a bitchy way, giving the impression it's uncool to be friends with them. They can exclude them from games, not invite them to parties, and that kind of thing. They might not realise what they're doing is bullying, but we can make the class aware that it is, and also how it's likely to make the victims feel. We can do that with the other types of bullying as well, sometimes using illustrations.


For instance, we could raise the issue in a light-hearted way to engage the pupils, by drawing pictures of animals on the chalk board, pretending they represent bullies and victims, and telling stories about them. We could draw the victim animals with sad faces or looking scared.

For instance, we could have an aggressive one called Bruto Bear, and draw him treading on food belonging to the other animals and looking as if he's going to fiercely chase or pounce on some. We could draw a few little animals around him looking angry or scared or sad. We could build up an image of him by telling the children more details, such as saying he likes to step on the other animals just so they know he's the boss. He boasts about being better than the rest and stronger and more powerful than them. He insists on getting his own way, and attacks any animal who tries to stop him.

Then we could draw some vultures flying in. They can represent the children who don't bully if no one else is, but will come in and swoop when something else looks like finishing an animal off. We can point out that in reality, vultures are often good to have around because they eat dead things that would otherwise cause a health hazard and a nuisance by lying around on the ground and rotting. But they can represent people who prey on other people when it looks as though the other people are going to be on the losing side. An example would be if a bully goes up to someone and kicks them and starts calling them abusive names, and a group of children all gather round them in a circle to watch and laugh and stop anyone seeing what's going on. They can be called "me too" bullies. A "me too" bully will copy other bullies when they've started the bullying, calling targets of bullying names when the leader bullies do and doing the things they do, but they don't bully when the ringleaders aren't there. It can seem as if they'll do anything to stay friends with the leading bullies, helping them do whatever they want to do.


We could maybe illustrate the other kind of bullying by drawing some geese swimming, and a little duck. We could tell a story of how the geese seem very polite and ladylike and pretty, but you have to be careful of them. They swim gracefully with their long necks poised perfectly, but they think they're superior to all the other animals on the lake. And they let the others know it, especially little Buttercup the duck. The duck wants to play with the other animals in the lake, but the geese make fun of her. People who know what they're really like call them the gossipy geese, because they like to spread unkind rumours about people, either making them up, or hearing something and not caring whether it's true or not or whether it's only partly true, but just enjoying the scandal and spreading the rumour. Some animals have been hurt by them because they've told the geese secrets and then found out they spread them to other animals. They're not trustworthy. And they're unkind. They tease Buttercup the duck, saying her feathers are a funny colour and not nearly as elegant and smooth as their own long feathers. They laugh and wink and whisper with each other whenever she goes by. She used to be proud of her feathers and of winning the swimming competition every year. But now she feels sad and lonely because no one will play with her or even bask in the sun with her. Whenever she makes a new friend, the gossipy geese will come and take the friend away with them, whispering bad things about her to them. They've made sure no one associates with "dumb dopey Duck" as they call her; no one will befriend her for fear of looking uncool.


After we've told the stories, we can ask the class if any of them would like to talk about similar experiences that happened to them, and how they felt about them. We'll tell them not to name names, but ask if any of them would be willing to talk about times they've been bullied and what effect it had on them. We can ask them to imagine how each type of bullying might affect the feelings of others. For instance, might aggressive bullying make people feel fearful most of all, while bullying by spreading rumours and taking away friends might make people feel sad most of all? We can ask the children to imagine and discuss how each type of bullying might make people feel and why. There are some bullies who will want to bully all the more if they know how bad bullying can make people feel because they'll feel even more powerful if they know what impact they're having; but some might be prompted to think carefully about their actions and decide they'd like to stop them.

If we notice that any of the children are bullying more after lessons on the feelings of victims, we'll have to try different means of persuading them not to bully, for instance appealing to their self-interest, emphasising that it'll benefit them if they don't bully, because they won't get into trouble with school staff.

But as for the lesson where we illustrate different types of bullies by drawing pictures of animals, We could talk about each of the three main types of bullying, and ask for pupils' opinions on what could be done to stop each one, and how the bullies could improve their behaviour. Perhaps we could start by asking them how the bully animals could improve their behaviour and how the other animals could stop them bullying, and then move on to a discussion of real bullies. We could perhaps ask them questions like, "What could each bully animal do differently, instead of bullying?" Perhaps answers could be things like playing nicely, talking disagreements through calmly instead of getting revenge for an annoyance, and other things. The children might come up with some creative answers. We could also perhaps ask them how they could help each animal stop bullying, and how things might be better for the animals if they stopped bullying. For instance, answers might be that if the animals stopped bullying, they'd make new friends, they could concentrate on achieving more important things in life instead, and so on.

An Activity For Helping Students Become More Aware of What Behaviours Constitute Bullying


We could do an activity with students where they themselves think about all the different ways bullies can bully, and then we discuss their suggestions.

We could ask them to close their eyes and imagine a bully, think about the words the bully might say and what they might do, and then draw a picture of a bully with crayons or coloured pencils, with the expression they might have on their face. We might have to help some children or give them basic pictures to start with that they can just fill details in. They can write words around the picture, the kind of words a bully might say. Or they can colour in the parts of the body a bully might use to hurt people. We could ask them to share their drawings with the class to give each other more ideas of what bullies do. Then we could ask them questions, such as what they think the most common physical ways bullies hurt others are, and what the most common non-physical ways they hurt others are, such as calling them names, spreading rumours about them and so on. We can ask them what have been some damaging forms of bullying in their experience and how they felt about them. And maybe we can ask them if they think bullies' feelings can ever get hurt and who can hurt them.

It's possible some students will think more about some of their own behaviours that could be considered bullying as a result, and think twice about doing them.

An Activity That Can Help Children Think About Whether They've Done Anything That Could Be Considered Bullying

Sticking tongue out

We could type a list of things bullies do and print one out for each of the children in our class. We could ask them to tick the ones they can remember doing. We can say they won't get into trouble for admitting things they've done in the past and no-one will think any the worse of them for it, because everyone probably behaves in ways that could be considered bullying sometimes, for instance some people do because they feel angry, or uncomfortable around someone, perhaps because they're different in some way that seems a bit worrying; or they want people to think they're strong and tough. We could say we just want them to think about their behaviour so they can think about how they might have affected other people, and what they could do differently instead of the bullying behaviour. We can ask them if they think they need help to behave differently, and if so, what they think would help them.

The list of bullying actions we could suggest to them could include things like:

We could include things on the list we give them that we've actually seen happen in the classroom.

We could read each thing on the list aloud, so if anyone's a bit slow at reading, it'll help them pick up what's written down.

Making a Bullying Form and Encouraging Pupils to Use it to Report Bullying


We could encourage the children to report bullying wherever in the school they see it. We can tell them they can feel free to report it anonymously. We could have a reporting box they could just drop reports in. Perhaps it could be a shoe box with a slit in the lid. If we tape the lid to the box so no one can just open it without anyone knowing it's happened, hopefully bullies won't go and take out reports about them very often.

We might be able to think of a better system than a shoe box with tape over the lid that we take off every evening to find out what's in the box, since after all, the shoe box would get quite tatty if we kept taking the tape off and putting more on every day.

We could encourage the children to take pride in taking responsibility for reporting any bullying they see around the school, telling them it's an important job. They won't have to tell anyone they're doing it, so they won't be put in danger of being bullied themselves for reporting bullying; but we can ask them to help us keep the school safe by telling us what's going on, saying we won't be able to see all the bullying that goes on ourselves, so we'd really appreciate it if they'd help us make the school a safer place by reporting bullying when they see it.

We could design forms that could be pages or half pages with questions on them on the lines of:

We can fill in a sample form in front of the children to illustrate what we'd like them to do, asking if they understand. We could even get them to practice filling in some themselves, imagining they've seen someone bullying someone else and that they're reporting it.


Once they start reporting bullying, we can perhaps give the reports to whoever teaches the classes the bullies concerned are in and discuss them, if we know who the children are. Most of the bullies might deny the allegations of bullying, and they'll be impossible to prove. The children reported as having been bullied might confirm them though. In any case, even if it's difficult to prove that individual reports are true, what could happen is that if there are several reports saying bullying is taking place at a certain time in a certain place, teachers could poke their nose in unexpectedly, hoping to catch the bullies red-handed. If it's somewhere like a playground, we could show the reports to the principal and try to press for extra staff in the playground so the bit where bullying's taking place is supervised. Bullies are less likely to bully in supervised areas. Or if it's somewhere like a toilet, teachers could start popping in every now and then to see what's going on.

The advantage of making an actual form and asking the children to use it is that we can put a section on it for the date and time the bullying happened, so maybe they'll be more likely to say roughly what time it happened. If we just ask them to put their reports in the box on plain bits of paper, We can tell them to tell us what time it happened and where it happened, but on a form, they might put details like that there more often because they'll be reminded to all the time. We could tell them it isn't necessary to put the details on a form, but it might help.

We can encourage pupils to fill in a form every time they see bullying, and tell them we'll keep lots of forms in a place where they can find them easily, which we'll decide on beforehand. We can assure them they don't have to worry if they end up filling in several in one day. We can tell them to either give them to us or put them in the reporting box when they've filled them in.

We can tell them it's up to them if they put their names on the forms or not, but that they can come and see us if they'd like to say more about what's happened or speak to a school counsellor about what they've seen or experienced. We can discuss with the class different people they could go to for help, such as us, the school counsellor, the principal, some other staff member, other students, and/or their parents.

Every day, we can ask the class if any of them wants to discuss any of their experiences witnessing or being bullied in the previous day, and remind them to keep filling in the forms.

When we first ask them to fill in the forms and show them to them, we could discuss bullying with them, asking them questions such as where they've seen bullying happen in the school, whether they think bullying happens rarely or whether they think lots of children bully, and what type of bullying they've seen most of, for instance whether they think milder forms of bullying like pushing and name calling happen much more than people being beaten up and having their lunch money stolen and that kind of thing.

We could also ask them questions like:

Hopefully, by thinking about the feelings of victims more, the children might be more motivated to report bullying, and feel more strongly that it shouldn't happen.

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