Monday, November 17, 2014

Teaching about Bullies

Admit it: They're everywhere.  Mean people. Mean kids. We live in a mean world sometimes. 

That's why it's SO important to talk about them as teachers with your students.  Having these discussions opens many doors for kids who are being bullied, who bully, and who watch bullying happen.  

One of the best books I've ever read as a read aloud is Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  I read it every year with my kids and it is one of those stories that they beg me not to stop reading.  It's that good! It centers on a boy, August, who has severe facial deformities and how he mainstreams to a regular education school in New York.  It also switches perspectives of characters, so you get to see it from their eyes.  

Some of the bad parts, like when Auggie REALLY gets bullied, I just stop reading, and you could hear a pin drop in the room.  The kids immediately launch into heated discussion and defend Auggie. He becomes part of our classroom.  Everyone knows an Auggie, and this book leads itself to recognize the Auggie's in our world.  

I can't stress enough the greatness of this story!  

Another famous bully we read as part of our reading groups is Gilly from The Great Gilly Hopkins.  This Katherine Patterson great novel was written in the 70's, but deals with many behavior and tough issues that exist today.  Gilly is a foster child who longs to be with her mother.  She doesn't want to get close to any families because she is just used to rejection, which leads to mean behavior from her. Gilly crosses all lines: racism, bullying, fighting, language.  At the heart, she's just a little girl who wants her mom.  

This book is another staple in my room because it teaches the kids that behavior stems from something deeper within a person.  To understand the negative behavior, sometimes you need to peel away the layers to find the real source of hurt.  

Like August, Gilly becomes a character that stays with us for the entire year, and she and him get woven into discussions as we read other stories.  I have a unit available on Teachers Pay Teachers here for The Great Gilly Hopkins.  

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