I’m always tweaking and working to improve my lessons and units – I want to make sure that they’re meaningful and engaging, and that kids are learning and applying what they’ve learned in real-life settings. Also, I am addicted to just love figuring out how to incorporate new ideas and techniques! (Which may have something to do with why my to-do list is completely ridiculous.) Most recently, I set my sights on my fourth grade bullying prevention unit. Even though this unit has been impactful and well-received, I wanted to: (1) experiment with how integrating technology and art might expand kids’ understanding about bullying; (2) see how this could help me assess student learning; and (3) increase my knowledge about how best to address the Common Core standards within the counseling curriculum. It was a LOT of work, but the outcome has been amazing!
The foundations of the unit did not change. As always, we reviewed what the kids had learned in previous years and added fourth grade level content. (See the scope and sequence of our K-5 bullying prevention lessons in Spiraling Bullying Prevention). Lessons included read aloud, video clips, book studies, writing, and role playing. The kids took turns re-teaching concepts at the beginning of each class. At the conclusion of the unit the students shared what they had learned and I assessed it. But here’s what did change:
- The theme of the unit was built around a non-fiction text.
- Bullying prevention concepts were explored not only by talking, listening, reading, and writing, but also through acting, movement, music, and art.
- Students used technology to share information and advice about bullying prevention by using GlogsterEdu and creating videos with iPads.
- I used technology to assess their learning by reviewing their Glogs and videos, and by using a Google Forms survey and Wallwisher/Padlet.
The new unit included one informational lesson, five literature-based lessons, 3 technology-based classes, and an evaluative wrap-up session. Collaborative arts integration activities – a collage unit taught by the art teacher and an acting/movement/performance project directed by a classroom teacher – built on and expanded the counseling lessons.
There’s a LOT here – I decided to put it all together so those who were interested in the whole project wouldn’t have to click to a bunch of different posts – but if you’re interested in only the lessons, or the technology or arts integration, you can find what you want by looking at the headings. You’ll find the ASCA and Common Core State Standards that the unit addressed at the end of the post.
Lesson 1: Goal, Concepts, Challenge
I started the unit by introducing our essential question: “How can we work together to prevent and stop bullying?” and explaining that we would be discovering answers to this question as we worked to understand the problem in many different ways. We talked about the question and what we had learned so far at the beginning of each lesson. In the first lesson we reviewed and learned more about concepts that they had learned about in previous years:
- Bullying = Danger: You MUST tell an adult!
- Definition: Bullying is done on purpose to hurt, happens over and over, involves an imbalance of power, and is upsetting to the target.
- Four Types of Bullying: Verbal, Physical, Social, Intimidation.
- How to maintain or regain your power instead of giving it away to kids who are bullying.
- Ignoring the bully helps you keep your power, but you should never ignore the bullying.
To help them understand that kids can make a difference, we listened to the song “Stand” by Charleigh Gere. Not only does the song give advice about standing up, the very fact that Charleigh, who attends the middle school in our district, wrote it and was sharing it with kids around the world modeled how to do so. The lesson ended with a challenge – “Think about what YOU can do to stop bullying.” The kids begged to listen to this song in every subsequent class, and a few days later three girls handed me the lyrics to a song they had written! You can listen to or download “Stand” for free here:
Lessons 2 & 3: Goodbye Bully Machine
We spent the next two lessons reading Goodbye Bully Machine by Debbie Fox and Allan L. Beane. Why two lessons to read one short book? So that we would have plenty of time to fully explore and understand the information provided by the text and illustrations. This was important for addressing the Common Core standards around complex informational (non-fiction) text and visual literacy. (I’ll have more information about this in an upcoming post.) It also provided the foundation for the arts integration activities that were based on the book.
Goodbye Bully Machine is a must-have book and is appropriate for elementary, middle, and high school students.
Arts Integration: Theater and Movement
Before I brought Goodbye Bully Machine into the classes, I spoke with one of the fourth grade teachers; Lanni is new to our school this year, but I knew she had a background in theater. I wondered if she could help facilitate a machine-themed theater game in her class; if it wasn’t too complicated, maybe I would bring it to the other classes as well. All I was imagining was something simple with just her class, but you can see from the video below what we got! Wowzer! By the time we had read the first half of the book, Lanni had already come up with an artistic vision. The kids headed off to Library, Lanni and I took the idea to the other fourth grade teachers, and Boom! we had a plan for the whole fourth grade to perform in a staged version of the book. We used some of my class time for rehearsals. The fourth grade teachers miraculously found other common times for (the surprisingly few) rehearsals, which I attended when possible. The kids were so motivated to share their knowledge through movement and performance that they managed their behaviors really well.
The Goodbye Bully Machine performance not only reinforced what the actors were learning about bullying prevention, it helped the audience members learn too. All the other K-5 classes came to see it, and teachers reported that they had great conversations about bullying following the performance. When my counseling partner and I went into other grade levels to teach bullying prevention, kids were definitely drawing on understandings that had grown out of seeing the book brought to life. We were recently invited to a school in a nearby town to perform Goodbye Bully Machine for their students, so we’re going on the road – The Bully Prevention Road! The integration of theater into the bullying prevention unit was a happy surprise, but integrating art had been planned all along.
Arts Integration: Collage
Last spring, I showed our art teacher a copy of Goodbye Bully Machine and asked her if she would like to collaborate by doing a collage unit based on the book while I was teaching the bullying prevention unit. I sent her links to the free Leader’s Guide from Free Spirit Publishing. To sweeten the deal, I suggested that the project would be a great goal for her Professional Development and Evaluation Plan, and offered to help her write it up. She jumped right on board.
As we were reading and discussing the book and it’s concepts in our classroom counseling lessons, I told the kids that they would be making their own bully machine and bullying prevention collages, so they should think about what kinds of images and words they would want to include. The goal was for the kids to create bully machines and something that could counteract the bully machine, which ended up becoming the Bully Freedom Quilt. You will notice that these are not as well-conceived as the bully machines. They ran out of time in art class and had to move on to another unit, so they didn’t have enough conceptual time to fully develop their bully freedom ideas into cohesive visual themes, but you can see from the words they chose that they definitely had gained understanding of actions and attitudes that can prevent and stop bullying. Here is their work:
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The collage unit in art did not take much of my time. My lessons on the book served as pre-teaching for art class, but I would have been reading the book anyway. I went into art only one time with one of the classes to help them use the computers to create the words for their collages. This was mostly to help the art teacher feel comfortable with the technology; the kids already knew how to manipulate text fonts and sizes in Word.
Lesson 4: Understanding the Perspectives of Targets, Bystanders, and Kids Who Bully
Back in our counseling classes, we were exploring literature about bullying. For the fourth lesson, we used the books Weird, Dare, and Tough by Erin Frankel. I learned about these books from a review posted on Books That Heal Kids, and immediately bought them. The kids LOVED them, and they are at the top of my list of books about bullying, as in – If you only have enough money for three books about bullying, get these! (FreeSpirit, the publisher of Goodbye Bully Machine, does it again!) The books all tell the same story, but each one is from the perspective of either the target, the bystander, or the kid who is bullying. The stories are very true-to-life and the illustrations provide additional information not described in the text; both make it easy for kids to understand and empathize with the characters. Without explicitly saying so, the books echo the central concept of Goodbye Bully Machine – that everyone’s attitudes and actions/inactions contribute to bullying, and bystanders, targets, and bullies all need to make changes in order for it to stop.
Here’s how we used the books: I divided the class up into three groups, and had each group read one of the books. In one class I purposely didn’t tell the kids ahead of time that the books told the same story, so that they could have an “aha moment” when we discussed the books as a class. I did tell the second class ahead of time because I wanted to see if there would be any difference in their learning. Both worked well, but I chose to tell the third class ahead of time, because I thought it would work best for that particular group. (In the future I will use whichever way I think will work best for each class.) I directed the groups to read the book through, then refer back to the text while discussing and collecting information on the form I had given them. Then, as a whole group we discussed what it feels like to be a target, bystander, and bully; how each of the characters helped build the bully machine; and what they did to destroy the bully machine. The kids were so excited about these books and asked me to leave them in the classrooms when I wasn’t using them. Almost all of them read the two books they hadn’t read in class during silent reading time! (For more great lessons to use with these books, check out Savvy School Counselor.)
Lessons 5 & 6: Bullying Book Study
We had already read books as a whole class and in small groups. In this next lesson, kids worked individually on book studies, reading and reviewing bullying books. I brought a pile of bullying books at different reading levels with me to class. After I did a brief intro to each book, students selected and read their books, then filled out a report form on which they recorded the title and author, the type(s) of bullying that occurred, the actions that made the bullying stop, and why they would recommend the book. If they finished, they chose another book to read. For subsequent books they could decide whether or not they wanted to fill out a report form. During our 6th lesson, students presented information about their books and recommendations to the class. (For more info about book studies, check out Book Studies: They Learn, You Assess.) Here are the book study and other books we read during the unit:
Lessons 7, 8, &9: Integrating Technology
Whenever possible I like to provide a way for kids to share what they have learned; it helps their own learning and that of others, and gives me a means of assessment. In other years I’ve had the kids make posters, write, or present, but this year they each created a glog, an online poster through GlogsterEDU. The guidelines for the bullying prevention glogs were that they had to include:
- three pieces of bullying prevention information
- a book recommendation based on their book study
- a video of themselves giving bullying prevention advice
The kids had made one simple glog previously, so they were not starting from scratch, but I did need to provide a bit of help with some of the tech aspects of the project. What they didn’t need help with was the content, even though our glog-creating sessions happened in the new year, weeks after we had finished our lessons! Their learning was so phenomenal that I only needed to provide reminders to a few kids about making sure that the info they were including was fourth grade level and not just “don’t bully.” The glogs took anywhere from 2-3 class sessions, depending on the student. When they were finished they helped others with tech issues or looked at others’ completed glogs. (We definitely could have kept it to 2 sessions if the kids were more familiar with Glogster or if I had some more student helpers.) You can look at a couple of bullying prevention glog examples too, by clicking on the image below!
The kids made their bullying prevention advice videos by filming each other with my iPad. We did this whenever we could squeeze in the time: before school, at snack, during group, etc. They were all so knowledgeable about the topic that it took very little time: they decided on their audience and advice (usually while we were walking to our filming location), did a one-time run-through, and then filmed – they were totally unscripted! Here’s one of them:
I had planned for these to be used just in the kids’ glogs, but they are so wonderful that I’m working on getting parent permission to put them all together into kid-to-kid advice videos that I hope to share.
Lesson 10: Evaluation and Wrap-Up
To measure the impact of the bullying prevention unit and to get a sense of how the kids viewed each of the unit components, I had the kids complete a survey created in Google Drive and post to a Wallwisher/Padlet, which they loved. We also viewed their videos and they had some time to look at each others’ glogs. Click the Wallwisher image below to see feedback from one class about the activities we did:
Here are some of the results from the Google survey:
I was very pleased to see not only that 100% of the kids reported that they would take action to stop themselves and others from bullying, but also that they identified multiple strategies that they would use in a bullying situation. Here are the average number of strategies they would use to stop bullying:
- “If I was a target” – 2.44
- “If I was a bystander” – 3.99
- “If I was bullying” – 3.14
Of course, it’s helpful to ask the questions a different way. Here’s the data that I used to follow up individually or in small groups with the kids who, according to the data above, know what to do to stop bullying, but would be less likely to actually do it.
So was the bullying prevention unit successful? Well, I think so, and the SWiS data from our PBiS schoolwide behavioral program shows only one bullying incident since the unit began, and none since its conclusion. We didn’t have a huge bullying problem before the unit (we work on it all the time, every year) but the kids clearly indicated that at the very least, the unit helped everyone treat others more kindly:
One of my young friends, whose behavior towards others has much improved, told me, “I know how it all [bullying] works now. I understand how everyone feels, so I just stop myself.” I couldn’t ask for more!
If you survived reading this bullying prevention saga all the way through, give yourself a medal! If you’re still up for more, you can check out how the bullying prevention unit addressed the ASCA and Common Core State Standards. And if you were wondering why I hadn’t posted anything in a couple of weeks, now you know why. It feels like it took me almost as long to write about what we did as it took to actually do it!
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